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Break Free and Lead, or Resign: A Letter to Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders speaking earlier this year. (Gage Skidmore / CC 2.0)
Yoav Litvin / Counterpunch

By Yoav Litvin / Counterpunch

Dear Bernie Sanders,

In our times of fear, growing bigotry and uncertainty, I feel obligated to appeal to you. As a former campaigner of yours, I write this letter with sadness, rage, disappointment, fatigue and fear, but also a hopeful look toward the future.

Disillusioned with Barack Obama, I supported Jill Stein for President in 2012. However, when this election cycle came along, I, like many others, decided to change my registration from “Independent” to “Democratic” in order to vote for you in the primaries. Fortified by knowledge of the dangers of a Clinton candidacy, I strongly felt you were our best hope for meaningful change and warding off the Republicans.

Bernie, you ran an impressive campaign that inspired millions. I remember standing on line for hours to see and hear you speak in the Bronx, only to be turned away due to overcrowding at the rally venue. Black, brown, yellow, red, white, young, old, gay, straight, what have you. Everyone was there, excited to hear you speak. People saw you as a progressive alternative to the status quo of corruption and injustice both here in the United States and abroad. You called out corporate tyranny, recognized many of the ills of our society, suggested constructive solutions to some of our biggest quagmires and even had the guts to openly declare yourself a socialist. In a landscape of fake, propped up, sell-out, hypocritical, cowardly, Teflon candidates- you projected integrity and strength. I felt that supporting you was important, even though your social and economic policies did not go far enough, and your foreign policy was a light version of the morally corrupt neoliberal imperialist agenda.

But then you buckled, sold out, betrayed many of your promises and obediently became the sheepdog of Hillary Clinton and the lords of the establishment you once stood against. Disappointed and disgusted, I and others jumped ship back to the Greens, with the hope that you would acknowledge the gross corruption of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party that unfolded via WikiLeaks and others on a daily basis, and join us toward a revolution of American politics.

Some have argued that the nomination was stolen from you by the Democratic National Committee with help from mainstream media. Others claim that it may have been a collaborative effort between Republicans and Democrats to elevate Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee, in which case Clinton was cast the role of useful idiot walking blindly toward her doom. Evidence from WikiLeaks’ Podesta emails indicates that there may have been some sort of “leverage” used against you. In any case, it is clear that you were played.

As you repeated many times during your speeches: enough is enough! Establishment politics and economics have brought us to the precipice. We face a form of neo-fascism that used to be dismissed as dystopic science fiction: a “deep state” so powerful it tramples the constitution. A collusion of money and power that creates a corporate stranglehold on workers, black and brown communities, immigrants, LGBTQ individuals, indigenous people and other minorities. The corporate state is only ratcheting up its violence and discrimination; see Standing Rock. Our new reality feels like helplessly watching impending doom in slow motion. To be clear, Trump’s modus operandi is obvious: when his supporters recognize his betrayal and place him on the spot, he will scapegoat easier, more vulnerable targets. Trump and his cronies have been preparing the ideological groundwork for this catastrophe.

Throughout this campaign cycle you projected two dialectically opposed personas. Doctor Jekyll was a unifier, a truly independent and courageous thinker and statesman with a selfless mission to better our country and world. Mister Hyde was an opportunistic and frightened tool who championed the working class and progressive/radical causes only when they aligned with his career objectives.

If you are the people’s champion you claimed to be throughout your campaign, it is past time to wash your hands clean of, and harshly condemn all things related to the Democratic Party. Democrats have learned nothing from their shameful failures and will create no meaningful opposition to the right-wing white supremacist agenda that will take hold of the United States in several weeks. Their impotence is evident, as further conveyed by the shameful non-response of the current Democratic administration to the legitimate protests in North Dakota. Any hopes for their reform are a complete waste of time we do not have.

The choice is clear, Bernie. Break free and lead, or resign. If you continue operating as the left flank of a broken system, you are part of the problem, not the solution.

Join or form a third party with a clear radical agenda that will truly combat the looming neo-fascism in government, on the streets, and in sites of struggle such as North Dakota, or do everybody, including yourself a favor and resign from political life. Whether you call yourself a Democrat or Independent let’s not kid ourselves, you are currently serving the establishment. Your continued support of a two-party system, a lesser-evil mentality and for the reform of a party that humiliated you and continues to shame your core constituency legitimizes the corruption in Washington and is highly detrimental to the causes you claim to champion.

Bernie, it is not too late. You still have the opportunity to shape a future and a commanding legacy of courage, struggle and solidarity. Seize it!

Yoav Litvin is a neuroscientist, photographer and award-winning author.

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