In 2004 I had the distinct pleasure of helping the late Peter Camejo campaign for Vice President alongside Ralph Nader. Comrade Camejo combined a fierce intellect with a speaking style honed from decades of radical activism. After witnessing the Democratic Party give over a dozen standing ovations to George W. Bush during the State of the Union address, Camejo asked a simple question: what will it take for voters to break from that charade?
We can ask the same question in 2016, but with an added caveat of the Sanders run exposing the discontent many within the Democratic Party have with party orthodoxy. Sanders lost and made a decision to endorse Clinton – which many, including myself, predicted from day one. Sanders is indeed a sheepdog for the Democrats, attempting to herd people who might vote Green and break with the party once and for all.
Yet it remains to be seen when, or if, his supporters will break. Over the past week the Democratic Party platform committee has met to draft the document that Sanders has seen as a consolation prize: if not the presidency, at least the party’s defining document (regardless of its non-binding nature). Yet DNC Platform Committee members shot down proposed amendments to codify support for a living wage, to reject U.S. military intervention in Syria, and to call for an end to Israeli occupation of Palestine.
I don’t claim to be holding my breath to see a desertion en masse over this. Some will surely break – but at what point will the majority of Sanders supporters? False consciousness, as Marx understood nearly two centuries ago, is a powerful tool buttressing the rule of any class. The idea that the Democratic Party can be reformed has been a primary illusion on much of the U.S. reformist left since 1932. As other parties tear themselves apart across the world – just look at the decline of the European neoliberal parties calling themselves social democratic – will 2016 mark the rupture of the Democrats as well?
What, indeed, will it take?