“Let us go forward together. The struggle continues” — maybe Bernie has done the right thing at last?

Apr 10th, 2020 | By | Category: In Brief

[UPDATED APRIL 11, 14]. The news that Bernie Sanders has gracefully conceded to Joe Biden in the US Democratic presidential race, while still working hard to keep faith with his “revolutionary” progressive movement, would be welcome just for bringing something fresh to the relentless (albeit important) current media focus on COVID-19.

Beyond this far from negligible virtue, however, the more I learn about the deed from my stay-at-home outpost in We the North next door, the more it seems that Bernie may also have done what he had to in (maybe) a way that could keep much of his movement at least enthusiastic enough about actually turning out to beat Trump like a drum on November 3.

As initial evidence I’d submit a few quotations from both men on April 8, 2020.

Starting with Bernie : “Today I congratulate Joe Biden, a very decent man, who I will work with to move our progressive ideas forward” ; “I will stay on the ballot in all remaining states … We must continue working to assemble as many delegates as possible at the Democratic Convention where we will be able to exert significant influence over the party platform.” ; “Let us go forward together. The struggle continues.”

And then moving on to Joe : “Bernie has done something rare in politics. He hasn’t just run a political campaign; he’s created a movement” ; Bernie “didn’t just run a political campaign. He created a movement and that’s a good thing for the nation and for our future” ; “We can’t just return to an unfair, unequal economy that’s stacked against American workers.”

For whatever they may or may not be worth, I just have two further notes on this broader subject for the time being.

Hohenzollern controversy over the monarchical heritage in today’s democratic Germany

Adolf Hitler and ‘Crown Prince’ Wilhelm, March 21, 1933. PHOTO : Georg Pahl/German Federal Archive, New York Review of Books.

As still further evidence that the current great political clash in the USA also reflects broader trends throughout the same global village in which COVID-19 is causing so much trouble, I’ve enjoyed an article on recent efforts by the old German royal family of the Hohenzollerns to reclaim some of their former monarchical privilege in the free and democratic Germany of today.

The article is called “What Do the Hohenzollerns Deserve?” It appears in the March 26, 2020 issue of the New York Review of Books (which has apparently now closed down its Hudson Street office in NY City and is more or less operating from various homes). And it’s by the London School of Economics (LSE) professor and Berlin Institute fellow, David Motadel.

One intriguing and no doubt important feature of this piece is how it documents a clash of sorts between professional historians over, eg, the connection between the Hohenzollern “Crown Prince” of the 1930s and the rise of Adolf Hitler and his party.

“4 Weimar Girls” by Michael Seward, April 2020.

David Motadel summarizes the debate going on in at least some parts of present-day German society in his conclusion :

“The Hohenzollern controversy is not only about the long shadows cast by the Nazi period, but also about the place of the monarchical heritage in today’s democratic Germany.”

Some further debate and discussion appears in “Helping Hitler: An Exchange” in the April 9, 2020 issue of the New York Review of Books.

Would it be useful for 2020 US Democrats to see Donald Trump as someone trying to revive the monarchical heritage in today’s democratic America?

(And note how Bernie Sanders’s movement in 2020 has things in common with Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s crusade against what he called “economic royalists” in the 1930s.)

Harry Truman on what Republicans really mean when they rant about “socialism”

Harry Truman, who won the 1948 US election in his own right, despite many predictions and some contrary early media reports!

Whatever else, if any gurgling Biden-Sanders rapprochement is going to carry over to November 3, the Biden moderates will have to give something to the Sanders revolutionaries at the Democratic Convention in Milwaukee — now moved from mid July to mid August.

And this raises an early 1950s quotation from FDR’s Vice-President (and then US President in his own right 1945–1953), Harry Truman — an authentic figure from this world of ordinary people who became (and for a time remained) a retrospectively quite good American president, more or less by accident.

Nancy Pelosi and Ayanna Pressley at Tufts University in Boston, May 2019. PHOTO ; Anna Miller.

I bumped into this Harry Truman quotation from a reputable source on Twitter. But from professional habit I wanted to check its authenticity myself before passing it along. From this quest it has become altogether undeniable that on October 10, 1952, as part of that year’s US presidential campaign, Harry Truman did say, near the railway station at Syracuse, New York :

Some Republicans “have explained that the great issue in this campaign is ‘creeping socialism.’ Now that is the patented trademark of the special interest lobbies. Socialism is a scare word they have hurled at every advance the people have made in the last 20 years

“Socialism is what they called public power … Socialism is what they called social security … Socialism is what they called farm price supports … Socialism is what they called bank deposit insurance … Socialism is what they called the growth of free and independent labor organizations.

“Socialism is their name for almost anything that helps all the people …”

“Photograph by Olivier Douliery / Bloomberg / Getty.”

Joe Biden of course will never qualify as any kind of “socialist” like Bernie Sanders, in some vague American sense. But in the immediate wake of Bernie’s graceful Democratic primary concession Joe has already declared : “We can’t just return to an unfair, unequal economy that’s stacked against American workers.”

Barack Obama has recently declared as well that Elizabeth Warren “as she often does … provides a cogent summary of how federal policymakers should be thinking about the [COVID-19] pandemic in the coming months.” And the latest Quinnipiac general election poll shows Biden 49% to Trump’s 41%. Absolutely nothing is certain in these strange times, no doubt. Yet with an eye on November 3, 2020 things are far from hopeless for the likes of we Canadians, who as an old quip has it “almost always vote Democratic in American elections.”

UPDATE APRIL 11 : I have just now got around to reading Fintan O’Toole’s retrospective on Bernie Sanders, also in the April 9 issue of the New York Review of Books (“An Outside Chance”).

As explained by the NYRB, ”Fintan O’Toole is a columnist with The Irish Times and the Parnell Fellow at Magdalene College, Cambridge.” I delayed reading his piece on Bernie in the April 9 NYRB issue because I wondered how much someone with his background could really tell me about Senator Sanders that I didn’t already know.

“Bernie Sanders; drawing by Anders Nilsen” (New York Review of Books).

I can now report that my wondering was quite misplaced. I have learned a number of things I did not know from “An Outside Chance.” Its date of delivery to the NYRB is “March 12, 2020” (some time before Bernie officially conceded to Joe Biden). And its last paragraph is prescient as well as instructive (and interesting) :

In 1996 Bill Clinton was running for reelection. Sanders disliked him and was strongly hostile to his politics of ideological triangulation. Sanders was asked to endorse the Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, whom he considered ‘a personal friend and an exemplary progressive.’ He and Nader agreed on almost everything. But Sanders didn’t endorse Nader. Albeit ‘without enthusiasm,’ he made public his intention to vote for Bill Clinton instead. He did it for the most obvious reason: Clinton could beat the Republican candidate, Bob Dole, and Nader couldn’t. Sanders cares about winning and knows as well as anyone that, when the cost of defeat is so high, the choices about how best to avoid it must be made ruthlessly.”

“Interstellar Calculations” by Michael Seward, April 2020.

UPDATE APRIL 14 : As explained by an Associated Press report posted on the CBC News site : “Bernie Sanders endorsed his former rival Joe Biden for US president on Monday [April 13] in a joint online appearance … ‘I am asking all Americans, I’m asking every Democrat, I’m asking every independent, I’m asking a lot of Republicans, to come together in this campaign to support your candidacy, which I endorse,’ Sanders said … Sanders did not immediately address Monday whether he would continue to fight for delegates at state conventions around the country or whether he’d simply use his new-found alliance with Biden to influence the nominee and the policy slate that he will present voters … But he cited ongoing work between the two camps on several policy matters as a reason for the endorsement. And he said the biggest priority was defeating Trump.” This strikes me as the ultimate icing on the cake. (O and btw this just in as well : “Barack Obama endorses Joe Biden for U.S. president.”)

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