Citizen Action Monitor

Paul Jay and Chris Hedges go toe-to-toe in a verbal battle over the significance of Bernie’s campaign

In terms of building a movement, Hedges sees Sanders as an obstructive force; Jay counters that no one else has millions of followers.

No 1594 Posted by fw, February 12, 2016

As the exchange between TRNN’s Paul Jay and journalist Chris Hedges heats up, so do the number of cross-talking episodes. But by the closing, both have run out of steam — and talking points; Paul Jay ends by asking Chris how things are going with building a third party movement. Bernie Sanders campaign may be significant, but not in a way they can agree on. Hedges holds firm to his conviction that real change will never come from within the Democratic Party.

Watch an embedded 13-minute video of the encounter followed by my imperfect but good enough transcript. Or click on the following linked title to watch the video on The Real News Network website, without an accompanying transcript.


Can Change Come From Within the Democratic Party? by The Real News Network, February 11, 2016

TRNN’s Paul Jay and journalist Chris Hedges debate the significance of Bernie Sanders’ campaign in the 2016 presidential race

Chris Hedges, whose column is published Mondays on Truthdig, spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans.


Paul Jay begins the discussion by asking Chris Hedges to share his sense of what’s going on in New Hampshire.

CH – I’m a little distressed that so much of the electorate, including college-educated kids, are placing so much faith in Sanders. It shows a complete misunderstanding of where power lies. There are powerful institutions – security and surveillance, defence industry, corporations that profit off of war, fossil fuel industry, animal agriculture industry. These institutions have seized power. Whoever is in the White House is a public face of power that functions as a brand. We have to begin to strike at the real centers of power. Things are far more serious than they appear from the political carnival that’s taking place in New Hampshire. We’re not talking about where power lies.

PJ interrupts — Hang on. There are limits to Sander’s positions and policies. But he is talking about where power lies. [Hedges interrupts and PJ insists on finishing his point]. Sanders has been talking about a billionaire class. He has been talking about a political revolution from below. He’s been talking far more about movement building than just about electing him. Sanders’ supporters all see this as far more than about one candidate, Sanders. They all saw this as building a political movement that starts to question who has power. They don’t go to who owns stuff, and Sanders doesn’t go there, many supporters are conscious of the need for real democratization and are conscious of the limits of the Sanders’ campaign. [PJ thinks CH is underselling the people involved in Bernie’s campaign].

CH — The question is can that be accomplished by working within the parameters of the Democratic Party? I don’t think it can.

PJ – You don’t know what’s going to happen to the Democratic Party. The leaders on the Democratic Party are not going to let this happen easily. It’s very possible that the super delegates will try to kill the Sanders’ candidacy.

CH – That’s the conventional wisdom. If Hillary Clinton becomes the nominee, Sanders has said he would endorse her, but also campaign for her. At that point all this energy is funnelled back in the Democratic Party. Those of us who have been working very hard to build third party movements have always seen Sanders as an obstructive force. He has obstructed third party movements in Vermont and he is an honorary Democrat. This really comes down to the fundamental question – Are we going to build significant resistance inside or outside the formal mechanisms of power? The formal mechanisms of power are so corrupt, so hostile to the interests of the citizenry that we’re going to have to build third party movements.

PJ – the group I talked to said they would not vote for Clinton under any circumstances. If Sanders is not successful, they would go the Green party, a third party, or not vote at all.

CH – This is the fundamental question and it’s one I raised with Bernie and that is why be would not run as an independent. I would love to see Sanders beat Clinton. Let’s say Clinton becomes the nominee and then Bernie folds up his whole movement and directs his energy back into the Democratic Party. I find that absolutely counterproductive.

PJ – When I raised this exact question with Sanders’ small group of supporters they all said it’s really up to us to make sure this movement is beyond one candidate. This is part of movement building. It doesn’t end with Sanders.

CH – What movement are we building? Sanders is building the Democratic Party. He’s not building a movement. If he ran as an independent or on a third party ticket, he would be building a movement. What movement is he building?

PJ – I think that if his candidacy continues to gain steam, and if that is hijacked at a Democratic Party convention, then you could have a real split in the party. I don’t think the majority of Sanders’ supporters are simply going to fall into line behind Clinton. And there’s not a third party force in this country that’s talking to millions of people.

CH – That’s by design, Paul. They locked Nader out of the debates.

PJ – Of course it is, which is why various strategies need to be pursued. One of them where you can involve millions of young people in these kinds of… The fact is a lot of the young people are now breaking free of the sort of demonology of socialism from the Cold War. There’s a discussion taking place that wouldn’t ever have taken place if he hadn’t done this through a mainstream vehicle. He may fall into line, but there’s no reason why the movement, people in it, need to fall into line.

CH – But Paul, if Clinton becomes the nominee, and if Bernie Sanders campaigns for her, he going to be an obstructive force to building an alternative movement, isn’t he?

PJ – It’s possible. I don’t know how hard he’s going to campaign or even endorse… If this is stolen from him at a convention…

CH – You raised Henry Wallace….

PJ – And it was stolen from him at a convention.

CH – Yes it was. But he took on the military-industrial complex and American imperialism, which is why they destroyed him. And Sanders has not done that.

PJ – That’s true.

CH – He’s a very different figure from Wallace, and he’s even a very different figure from McGovern.

PJ – I agree with that. You started your statement today about being disappointed with the young people, and I don’t think one should underestimate them.

CH – I didn’t say I was disappointed with young people. Young people are leading the anti-fracking movement, the Black Lives Matter movement – none of these people have endorsed Bernie Sanders. We’re talking about white, college-educated who come out of the more elitist tier of the country, naively throwing their faith behind Bernie and the Democratic Party. I’m not talking about young people. There are people out there, Black Lives Matter, who have political maturity and understanding of systems of power, and they’re not falling for this.

PJ – Quite a few of the union locals in New Hampshire and a lot of young workers are working in the Sanders’ campaign. This is not just elite kids.

CH – We’re talking about Bernie’s core constituency who tend to be in college or college educated. They’re not coming out of Detroit and Flint and these kinds of places. Bernie has been kind of tone deaf towards the plight of African Americans in this country.

PJ – Well, we’ll see. He has to move into South Carolina. There’s a lot of people campaigning for him – Cornell West, Danny Glover. I think they also see the limits of Sanders’ politics and campaign. But they’ve seen the significance in the motion that’s developing around him. At this stage his candidacy is…

CH – I just wish that he had decided to run as an independent. He does not attack the Democratic Party. And the Democratic Party has been as complicit in the expansion of imperial wars, the evisceration of our civil liberties, the surrender to corporate powers as the Republican Party. But he won’t touch the Democrats and I think that that lie of omission is still a lie and it’s a big lie.

PJ – One can’t ague with that.

CH – He wants to empower the Saudis – I mean this is nuts.

PJ – Yeah, it makes no sense.

CH – And he’s in the pocket of AIPAC on Israel.

PJ – In terms of developing a more independent… and third party politics, where is that at?

CH – I’ve been working on that for a long time. It’s what I’ll continue to work for. I work very closely with Nader. I understand all of the roadblocks that the Democratic Party throws up in front of independence but I think that is our only hope. I really don’t think that working within the confines of the Democratic Party is a smart idea. That’s what I told Sanders and he said I don’t want to end up like Ralph Nader. Which means, I don’t want to lose my Senate seat, I don’t want to become a Pariah, I don’t want to lose my seniority in the Democratic caucus. That’s his decision. It would not be mine.


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