By Ernest A. Canning on 5/1/2015, 10:39am PT  

In anticipation of Thursday's formal announcement, the L.A. Times described the effort by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to secure the Democratic Party nomination for President of the United States as a "long shot."

That assessment is consistent with a recent ABC News/Washington Post Presidential Preference Poll finding that Hillary Clinton not only trounces any potential Democratic challenger but also showing her well ahead of specifically-named GOP candidates. It is also consistent with the MSM's past practice of immediately setting out to marginalize candidates who pose a threat to corporate wealth and power.

The "long shot" perception is both a reflection and product of what Prof. Noam Chomsky, in Failed States, described as the "democracy deficit" --- the significant gap between the policy positions of the electorate and their elected representatives. Long before the Supreme Court handed down its infamous Citizens United decision, Chomsky attributed the "democracy deficit" to the manner in which "elections are skillfully managed to avoid issues and marginalize the underlying population…freeing the elected leadership to serve the substantial people."

As reflected by this Washington Post headline from Chris Cillizza --- "Bernie Sanders isn’t going to be president. That’s not the point." --- the 2016 MSM marginalization strategy is already in play. Without waiting to see how the public, itself, would react to a Sanders/Clinton debate, or even see how they'll react to his policy positions when and if they get to hear them, the Post tells its readers to just forget about it.

Sanders countered Cillizza's contention during his April 30 news conference: "We're in this race to win." (See video below)

As Sanders, himself, appears to recognize, it is not Hillary Clinton, but the "democracy deficit," that is his true opponent. "Hillary Clinton is a remarkable woman with an extraordinary history of public service," Sanders said earlier this year, during an address at the National Press Club. "It would not be my job to run against her. It would be my job, if she ran and if I ran, to debate the serious issues facing our country."

In this age of deception, where the oligarchy's PR industry and corporate-owned MSM tirelessly strive for message control, Sanders' effort to bridge the "democracy deficit" by way of a campaign based on "serious issues" is a daunting task. But it's one that, if successful, could not only lead to a Sanders landslide but also to nothing less than a "democratic revolution"...

It's the policies, stupid!

In 2009, The BRAD BLOG addressed the "democracy deficit" in relation to healthcare reform. Although public opinion polls at the time revealed that two-thirds of Americans favored a single-payer ("Medicare for All") healthcare system, advocates for such a system of universal care were virtually shut out of the healthcare reform debate, not only within the Obama White House but throughout the corporate-owned, mainstream media. That, despite the fact that legislation for single-payer systems had been introduced both in the House by Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and John Conyers (D-MI), and in the Senate by Sanders.

In that article, we explained how, during the preceding 2008 election cycle, the corporate media deployed a variety of tactics to marginalize Kucinich, the only Democratic candidate who openly supported a single-payer system. MSM "coverage" was essentially confined to the two corporate-friendly candidates, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who were dubbed "front runners" from the outset --- a media-contrived, self-fulfilling prophesy that exalts personality and predicted outcomes over substance.

We then added:

If you looked only at the election results, you might assume that the vast majority of Democrats favored the Obama and Clinton policy positions; that the Kucinich policy positions had only nominal support. And you would be wrong.

In August 2007, some 67,000 voters took part in an internet "blind poll" survey which set forth the policy positions of Democratic candidates for President but did not include their names. Obama, the charismatic "change" candidate whose soaring rhetoric is second to none, received a meager 3%; Clinton, 3.6%. Kucinich was the choice of "a phenomenal 53%."

When given a choice on policy, the populist positions advanced both by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and by Sanders enjoy overwhelming support from the public. For example, in a recent YouGov poll, 94% of Americans agreed with "Warren's argument that our political system is rigged in favor of the rich and powerful;" nearly 9 in every ten Americans (94% of Democrats) agree that interest rates on student loans should be reduced; 80% want to expand Social Security; and 72% agree with raising the minimum wage. Similarly, 82% of Americans support Sanders' proposal for massive investments in infrastructure improvement.

Clinton's trade vulnerability

Hillary Clinton, despite a history of receiving significant campaign contributions from Wall Street and despite having, by 2006, become the number two recipient of health insurance industry monies, has room to maneuver on most issues. However, as recognized by The Atlantic's Ben Schreckinger, the pending effort by the Obama administration to ram the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement through Congress could well prove to be an especially troubling challenge for the former First Lady/Senator/Secretary of State.

Schreckinger suggests that a successful effort to ram TPP through on the "fast track", as now proposed, could allow Hillary Clinton to evade having "NAFTA --- and by extension inequality --- [hung] around her neck." It is doubtful, however, that Hillary can evade the issue, particularly in light of outspoken criticism from Sanders, Gov. Martin O'Malley (D-MD) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Hillary "has historically backed free-trade deals, and as secretary of state called the TPP 'the gold standard of trade agreements.'"

Sanders, by contrast, describes "disastrous free trade agreements which have sent millions of decent-paying jobs to China and other low-wage countries" as one "of the key reasons why the middle class in America continues to decline and the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider."

As The BRAD BLOG previously opined, the TPP represents nothing less than a "corporate global coup." Through the auspices of the TPP and the lesser-known Trans-Atlantic 'Free Trade' Agreement (TAFTA), giant multinational corporations --- through a secret negotiation process that they, not we, the people, have access to --- were working with the U.S. State Department and its trade partners to supplant the sovereignty of participating nation-states with a privately-controlled, all encompassing, corporate, global "investor state."

TAFTA and TPP would permit corporations to supplant the basic police powers of nation states. Instead of exercising the power to protect the health and safety of citizens and the environment in which they live, the trade-pact tribunals would allow for the imposition of monetary damages that make the cost of laws that shield citizens from corporate harm prohibitive, while seeking to override virtually every progressive law that both Obama and Hillary Clinton claim to support.

Revolutionary campaign?

An effective Sanders campaign has the potential to be transformative, not because, as the corporate media is quick to point out, he is a "self-described Democratic Socialist," but because it could entail a true exercise in bottom-up, grass-roots democracy.

During the filming of Sicko!, Michael Moore asked former British MP Tony Benn how the U.K. was able to create a national healthcare system in 1948?

"Democracy," Benn replied:

Before we had the vote, all power was in the hands of rich people….What democracy did was give the poor the vote, and it moved power from the market place to the polling station; from the wallet to the ballot, and what the people said was very simple….They said in the 1930s we had mass unemployment but we don't have any unemployment during the war….If you can find money to kill people, you can find money to help people.

Later, Benn added:

I think democracy is the most revolutionary thing in the world; more revolutionary than socialist ideas… have the power to use it to meet the needs of your community…If the poor in the US and Britain turned out to vote for people who represent their interests it would be a real democratic revolution…

A Sanders candidacy provides the great mass of the American people with the opportunity to vote for someone who has, consistently, for decades, represented their interests.


By running in the Democratic primaries, Sanders has already, smartly evaded the "lesser evil" paradigm occasioned by Ralph Nader's short-sighted, third party tactics.

Yet, there remain a multitude of hurdles responsible for the "democracy deficit" that must be overcome for Sanders to succeed.

Sanders long ago denounced "dialing for dollars" political campaigning as a principle source of our movement towards an oligarchic society.

Any effort by Sanders to now seek to compete via expensive, 30-second propaganda ads would not simply be hypocritical but a fool's errand. Neither Sanders, nor the Democratic Party as a whole, can hope to compete on a top-down, oligarchic, MSM-controlled playing field --- not when front groups backed by Charles and David Koch have already committed to spending $1 billion in the run-up to the 2016 campaign.

Because Sanders' strength is to be found in small "d" democracy, he alone cannot establish the effectiveness of his campaign. The interests of all American progressives would best be served by a united front strategy. Prominent progressives, like Sen. Warren, who has made clear that she will not run, and Gov. O'Malley, who is toying with the idea of jumping in to the Democratic nomination contest, would do well to endorse a Sanders candidacy. Those actions might serve to help curtail the MSM's ability to marginalize progressive issues during Democratic Presidential Debates, as had occurred when Kucinich ran in 2008.

However, the real power to turn a Sanders campaign into a transformative moment for democracy rests with an "informed" electorate. "Knowledge will forever govern ignorance," James Madison so presciently observed, "and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."

Sanders alone cannot bridge the "democracy deficit." In the final analysis, the question as to whether the 2016 election can arrest our rapid descent into oligarchy rests with "we, the people."

* * *

Sanders' "We're in this race to win" video follows...

Complete C-SPAN video of Sanders' formal announcement on 4/30/2015 follows below...

* * *
Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam Vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968). Follow him on Twitter: @cann4ing.

Share article...