The Democratic Party’s Anti-Bernie Elites Have a Huge Stake in Blaming Russia

After Hillary Clinton’s devastating loss nearly six months ago, her most powerful Democratic allies feared losing control of the party. Efforts to lip-synch economic populism while remaining closely tied to Wall Street had led to a catastrophic defeat. In the aftermath, the party’s progressive base – personified by Bernie Sanders – was in position to start flipping over the corporate game board.

Aligned with Clinton, the elites of the Democratic Party needed to change the subject. Clear assessments of the national ticket’s failures were hazardous to the status quo within the party. So were the groundswells of opposition to unfair economic privilege. So were the grassroots pressures for the party to become a genuine force for challenging big banks, Wall Street and overall corporate power.

In short, the Democratic Party’s anti-Bernie establishment needed to reframe the discourse in a hurry. And – in tandem with mass media – it did.

The reframing could be summed up in two words: Blame Russia.

By early winter, the public discourse was going sideways – much to the benefit of party elites. The meme of blaming Russia and Vladimir Putin for the election of Donald Trump effectively functioned to let the Wall Street-friendly leadership of the national Democratic Party off the hook. Meanwhile, serious attempts to focus on the ways that wounds to democracy in the United States have been self-inflicted – whether via the campaign finance system or the purging of minorities from voter rolls or any number of other systemic injustices – were largely set aside.

Fading from scrutiny was the establishment that continued to dominate the Democratic Party’s superstructure. At the same time, its devotion to economic elites was undiminished. As Bernie told a reporter on the last day of February: “Certainly there are some people in the Democratic Party who want to maintain the status quo. They would rather go down with the Titanic so long as they have first-class seats.”

Amid great luxury and looming catastrophe, the party’s current hierarchy has invested enormous political capital in depicting Vladimir Putin as an unmitigated arch villain. Relevant history was irrelevant, to be ignored or denied.

With dutiful conformity from most Democrats in Congress, the party elites doubled, tripled and quadrupled down on the emphatic claim that Moscow is the capital of, by any other name, an evil empire. Rather than just calling for what’s needed – a truly independent investigation into allegations that the Russian government interfered with the U.S. election – the party line became hyperbolic and unmoored from the available evidence.

Given their vehement political investment in demonizing Russia’s President Putin, Democratic leaders are oriented to seeing the potential of détente with Russia as counterproductive in terms of their electoral strategy for 2018 and 2020. It’s a calculus that boosts the risks of nuclear annihilation, given the very real dangers of escalating tensions between Washington and Moscow.

Along the way, top party officials seem bent on returning to a kind of pre-Bernie-campaign doldrums. The new chair of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez, can’t bring himself to say that the power of Wall Street is antithetical to the interests of working people. That reality came to painful light this week during a live appearance on national television.

During a 10-minute joint interview along with Bernie Sanders on Tuesday night, Perez was a font of exactly the kind of trite empty slogans and worn-out platitudes that oiled the engines of the dismal Clinton campaign.

While Sanders was forthright, Perez was evasive. While Sanders talked about systemic injustice, Perez fixated on Trump. While Sanders pointed to a way forward for realistic and far-reaching progressive change, Perez hung onto a rhetorical formula that expressed support for victims of the economic order without acknowledging the existence of victimizers.

In an incisive article published by The Nation magazine, Robert Borosage wrote last week: “For all the urgent pleas for unity in the face of Trump, the party establishment has always made it clear that they mean unity under their banner. That’s why they mobilized to keep the leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Representative Keith Ellison, from becoming head of the DNC. It’s why the knives are still out for Sanders and those who supported him.”

While Bernie is hardly a reliable opponent of U.S. war policies, he is significantly more critical of military intervention than the Democratic Party leaders who often champion it. Borosage noted that the party establishment is locked into militaristic orthodoxies that favor continuing to inflict the kind of disasters that the United States has brought to Iraq, Libya and other countries: “?Democrats are in the midst of a major struggle to decide what they stand for and who they represent. Part of that is the debate over a bipartisan interventionist foreign policy that has so abjectly failed.”

For the Democratic Party’s most hawkish wing – dominant from the top down and allied with Clinton’s de facto neocon approach to foreign policy – the US government’s April 6 cruise missile attack on a Syrian airfield was an indication of real leverage for more war. That attack on a close ally of Russia showed that incessant Russia-baiting of Trump can get gratifying military results for the Democratic elites who are undaunted in their advocacy of regime change in Syria and elsewhere.

The politically motivated missile attack on Syria showed just how dangerous it is to keep Russia-baiting Trump, giving him political incentive to prove how tough he is on Russia after all. What’s at stake includes the imperative of preventing a military clash between the world’s two nuclear superpowers. But the corporate hawks at the top of the national Democratic Party have other priorities.

Norman Solomon is co-founder of and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.

  • Short of Nuremburg 2.0 this Empire of Chaos simply will not be held accountable. Doesn’t matter whether Coke or Pepsi dropped the bomb/fired the missile/invaded and/or terrorized some poor country, and I doubt the dead would care. We just want to straight up take from people who have little capacity to fight back and we wish to destroy and humiliate them for having the temerity to ask for a fair deal.

    • Mikronos

      The next Market ‘adjustment’ could make all the malarkey moot.

      • ThorsteinVeblen2012

        Why did the last one change anything?

  • Bill In Montgomey

    The greatest moment of the “liberal Democratic left” was opposing the unnecessary wars of Vietnam (and to a lesser extent Iraq). The left also gets credit for supporting the protection of civil liberties and supporting dissidents like Martin Luther King who were fierce critics of a status quo that was oppressive.

    Today, the Democrats are cheerleaders for wars and regime change everywhere. I hear no defense of eroding civil liberties. I see no support of courageous whilestle blowers like Snowden and Assange.

    The press is the same. The Republicans are the same. Indeed, where’s the difference?

    Ron Paul? Yes, he has enthusiastic followers, but is ignored and ridiculed by the above.

    • Mikronos

      That, sadly, is history, For aside from some ‘traditional’ rhetoric, the Democratic party is now well to the right of where it used to be, both at home and, especially, abroad.

    • never_wore_zubaz

      LOL you actually pulled a RONPAUL

      • Bill In Montgomey

        What do you mean? How so? I will be eager to respond wihen you explain.

    • jamesgray8

      In fairness, the main reason Ron Paul is ridiculed is because he’s ridiculous.

      • Ten Count Toronto

        I used to give Paul a bit of a pass for never amassing a stronger movement because he’s simply too non-telegenic to have been a factor nationally in this age. But you could have said the same thing about Sanders and he did it. The problem is his domestic policy views don’t resonate with many people who’d back him n foreign policy.

        • jamesgray8

          You are optimistic and kind to Ron Paul, too. I like that positive spirit. But he’s a libertarian, and that’s why he’s ridiculous. I’d even say he’s corrupt because he spewed his mostly nonsensical policy views simply to get funding and re-elected again and again. Libertarianism simply can’t work for a civilization of this size. For proof, check out the entire world and the history of civilization. His supporters were typically either naive, young extremists who hadn’t thought enough about pragmatism and the realities of life; or “guvmint is always bad” dimwits. Either way, his jingoistic, quaint extremism was a lot easier for them to grasp than actual balanced solutions.

          • Bill In Montgomey

            More government please! More “interventions” and more expansion of the U.S. empire please!

            Someone pushes back against these ideas/policies and is labeled an “extremist.” Man.

            Our Founders had it right. Their greatest concern was an overly powerful central government. I allow that your position is the “mainstream” view. I also don’t think that Paul’s limited government, genuine free trade, “markets” not dominated by “cronies” has not really been implemented. These views were more accepted in, say, the first century of our nation. America DID become a “great nation” during this time span.

        • Bill In Montgomey

          I know. It is terribly sad that domestic policies that call for much smaller federal government, much lower taxes and regulations, no more debt creation for our children and grandchildren to pay off, dismantling the surveillance state and protecting civil liberties, demanding that the Fed conduct its affairs in a way that its actions can actually be reviewed by the public … have all become “radical” positions.

          In truth, these positions are not “radical” at all. The public has simply been told over and over that Paul is a “kook” and “isolationist” and thus he is dismissed. Which is the way the protectors of the “Status Quo” prefer it. Paul’s ideas – really the Founders’ ideas – are a grave threat to their power, wealth and prestige.

      • Bill In Montgomey

        Okay. Please be good enough to give us some specific examples of policies he supports that are “ridiulous?” He was against “nation-building, uneccessary” wars in the Mideast. Was this “ridiculous?” He says the “War on Drugs” is counterproductive. Is this “ridiculous?” It seems many more Americans are reaching this conclusion. He calls for transparency and an audit of the unelected Fed. Is this a “ridiculous” position? He worries about the erosion of civil liberties and the rise of a Surveillance State reminiscent of Orwell’s Big Brother. Is this a “ridiculous” concern? He is for limited government and maximum liberty to the people. Just like our Founders were. Is this ridiculous?

        In fact, Paul is simply labeled a “kook” or “ridiculous” with those doing the smearing not having the decency or intellectual honesty to point out how or why his views are so ridiculous.

        This, to me, is what’s ridiculous in our “national debates.” The people who are actually right get dismissed, ignored and smeared. The people who are/were wrong get even more influence.

  • Mikronos

    The Democrats won’t be much of a challenge to Trump on military because competence doesn’t count when the nation is under attack as much as not reducing expenses. Trump seems to be intent on maintaining his war machine and ‘trimming the fat’ from somebody else.

  • charles grinnell

    The democrats are a greater threat than republicans because they endlessly tell us and themselves how enlightened they are while supporting wars of aggression. They apparently have no knowledge or ignore Clintons interference in Boris Yeltins election and his expansion of NATO after his predecessor promised not to. Their xenophobic rants against Russia because their war criminal candidate lost are making the world a more dangerous place.

  • John_Smith001

    Yeah apparently everyone was in on it. Bernie, Jill Stein, Putin, all in cahoots to prevent the election of one of the most unpopular presidential candidates in the past 50 years.

    • jamesgray8

      Totally. She’s so unpopular that she won the popular vote. If so many Bernie bros hadn’t fallen for the Russian propaganda that tore Hillary down and created a false equivalency, we might not be dealing with the most incompetent President and administration in history. I liked Bernie’s utopian values and policies, too, but they would have never survived a general election.

      • Ten Count Toronto

        What propaganda is that? The Russians didn’t CREATE the Democrats e-mails. Nobody is even suggesting that any of the Wikileaks information is not true. And nobody really needed Wikileaks to tell them the Democratic primaries were rigged – the Super Delegates weighing in before the primaries played out was an outrage witnessed in broad daylight long before Wikileaks or Russia played any role and while it went largely unreported, Sanders supporters were VERY aware of it in real time.

        Hilary Clinton won the popular vote by the margin of a 4 million Latinos in California, she lost the rest of the country, due to Michigan Pennsylvania & Ohio because Trump was willing to tell those people what they wanted to hear on TRADE,

        • jamesgray8

          (1) It’s a known fact that Russia specifically targeted Sanders supporters with anti-Hillary stories generated by bots out of Eastern Europe. John Oliver covered this a few weeks ago after a bunch of other outlets brought it to light. (2) The fact that the super delegates calculated that a successful Secretary of State would have a better chance of winning than a independent socialist with a pie-in-the-sky plan to hand out free education to everyone was not an outrage — it was obvious, and in the best interests of Democrats. Don’t get me wrong — I loved Bernie’s idea and a lot of his values, but he would have been crucified as a socialist in a general election. Hell, I’d personally choose him — but I’m self-aware enough to know that I’m far left of most voters. He would have lost, badly. (3) Hillary Clinton was up on Trump by 11 points before the FBI trashed her campaign and took the attention off of Trump’s P-grabbing, which was killing him among educated whites in every state. Even if the polls were wrong by 5-6 points, Hillary had this wrapped up without the FBI. But with Russia and the FBI — and Bernie bros continuing to believe the lies spewed about Hillary from Russia (which Bernie supporters still don’t grasp) — she lost. (4) Finally, according to the Washington Post, Hillary lost by about 80,000 votes cast across three states, so don’t try to make it seem like it was only California that voted for her. I deeply appreciate your idealism in loving and supporting Bernie, but you’re playing a little loose with cause-and-effect here.

          • “Finally, according to the Washington Post, Hillary lost by about 80,000 votes cast across three states”

            Yes, she lost by about 80,000 votes in three Rust Belt states that she failed to mount a substantial campaign in even after it was obvious that Trump was targeting those states with promises to bring back industrial jobs.

            And ever since she lost by running a piss-poor campaign, it’s been nothing but excuses. It was Comey! It was the Russians! The dog ate my campaign! Everybody’s fault but mine! Why should I have to actually, you know, EARN votes? I’m Hillary Clinton and I should be president just because, dammit!

        • Bobs_Vendetta

          People like “jamesgray8” (below) are the obstacle, the challenge we face. These folks are spoon fed their worldview by the corporate mass media. They believe what they are told to believe. Breaking through the propaganda of the corporate mass media will be a challenge because of people like him.
          It doesn’t matter that they cannot delineate the specific propaganda Russia supposedly used to sway the “Bernie bros” against Clinton despite it being a “known fact.”
          (He pretends to be a Berner, but he gives himself away by calling us Bernie bros. In so doing, he shows us he is actually a Hillary bro, perhaps even one of David Brock’s paid online hitmen.)
          It doesn’t matter that supporters of Bernie Sanders were already against Clinton, and that widespread cheating in the primaries, and blatant hostility towards Bernie and his supporters from the Clinton campaign and the DNC, only increased their enmity towards Clinton.
          It doesn’t matter that the super delegates had never before piled on in favor of a particular candidate months before the voting even began. Or that the DNC and the mass media were also all in for Clinton at the very outset of the campaign.
          It doesn’t matter that EVERY poll, for months, showed Bernie defeating Donald Trump, while most polls showed Trump defeating Clinton. This Hillary bro even claims Clinton was up by 11 points late in the campaign. He must have gotten that lie from Rachel Maddow.
          It doesn’t matter that the FBI saved Clinton’s campaign by (1) not conducting an actual criminal investigation, which would have required subpoenas and search warrants, and (2) not indicting her on the violations of the law for which they had plenty of evidence even without an actual criminal investigation.
          Blame it all on the Bernie bros, the FBI, and the evil Putin. That’s what the corporate mass media tells people like “jamesgray8.” That is our challenge. Breaking through those layers of disinformation which fill the minds of people who lack critical thinking skills will be difficult.

  • Rob Durham

    “While Bernie is hardly a reliable opponent of U.S. war policies … ”

    The drive to war is a function of the economic and political establishment as such, not particular parties or persons. Those who expect any member or faction in this establishment, including Sanders, to take any meaningful action to actually stop the drive to war, will be disappointed.

  • market apartments

    This is tripe.

  • Ten Count Toronto

    I’m very unimpressed with Sanders continuing to serve the Democratic party and not calling them out on their “hacked election” bullshit. It may have been forgivable to support Clinton in the election in order to remove himself and others in the Real Left as the top scapegoats for Hillary’s loss, but now that it’s over, there is no excuse.

    Sanders ought to be hitting the Democrats over the head with their own failure to provide a meaningful alternative on something other than Gay marriage and Transgendered bathrooms, rather than lending tacit approval to their pathetic wallowing in self pity.