Unless someone new enters the race or one of the existing candidates is stricken on the road to Damascus, there will be no genuinely progressive foreign policy offered by either of the two major political parties in the 2020 presidential election.
Before we examine the “progressive” Democratic candidates, we should note in passing the likelihood that the Democratic nominee will face off against Donald Trump. Trump’s net approval rating is virtually indistinguishable from Obama’s at a similar point in his presidency , and his sycophancy towards Israel assures him of continued backing by big-money Zionists like Sheldon Adelson. That he can maintain his political base, whilst “draining the swamp” by awarding its most execrable denizens key posts in his administration (John Bolton, Elliott Abrams, et al.), is frankly astounding, but perhaps these partisans have been effectively mesmerized by the hopium of QAnon and other Trumpesque psyops.
It would be a waste of time to review the position of the corporatist Democratic candidates, many of whom can be expected soon to fall by the wayside, while one of the front-runners amongst them is likely to be chosen as the final nominee, assuring us of four more years of Trumpism one way or the other, give or take a few sops. However, one of these, Elizabeth Warren, has buffaloed her way into prominence with her pseudo populism, so we’ll mention her en passant:
Anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear recognizes Joe Biden as Bill Clinton redivivus. It doesn’t take much more political acuity to unmask Kamala Harris as a black Hillary Clinton. But because of her shrewd chameleon-like camouflage, some wannabe progressive Democrats do not yet perceive that Elizabeth Warren is, correspondingly, a white Barrack Obama.
Early on, she hopped aboard the increasingly popular Sanders Medicare-for-all train. Perhaps this was mere political opportunism on her part, but some suspect, and not without cause, that she has the tacit support of the DNC to take the wind out of Sanders’ sails, after which she will herself be summarily jettisoned unless the preferred corporatist candidates prove unviable. Her “economic patriotism” is nothing more than refried Trumpian economic nationalism (mercantilism) designed to appear attractive to and siphon off Trump’s Republican supporters, should push ever come to shove. But that old saw — that when the Democrats run a pseudo-Republican against a real one, the real one invariably wins the election — will undoubtedly apply.
Let’s turn, then, to the four candidates still in the race for the Democratic nod who are typically identified as “progressive” by pundits. We’ll compare three key foreign policy positions for each (the “special relationship” with Israel, Russiagate, and Venezuelan interventionism), with an especially close look at the domestic policy of one of them: Andrew Yang, vis-a -vis that of rival Bernie Sanders.
Marianne Williamson: Selective reparation?
We begin with a look at marginal candidate Marianne Williamson, who, unless her vaunted Course in Miracles has really equipped her to pull one off, stands hardly any chance in the race. Despite her ecumenical pretentions, she seems at heart a Zionist who has reportedly spent many a sojourn making aliyah in the Promised Land. She carefully calibrates her support for the human rights of the benighted Palestinians with pearl-clutching concern for the “security of Israel.”
She has taken the controversial view that American blacks who are descendants of slaves should be given reparations…to the tune of $2 billion. She recently corralled all the whites in a local church to publicly apologize to their black neighbors for the enslavement of their ancestors, which they dutifully did on the spot. Righting historical wrongs is certainly a progressive idea, but here’s the problem: the oppression and genocide of Palestinians are happening in real time. When Williamson shows this same chutzpah and has her fellow Jews in Israel apologize to their (Palestinian) neighbors, and return to them their homes and lands expropriated by Israeli state terrorism, then she can claim to be progressive with some integrity — in the meantime she appears more to be projecting Israel’s contemporary collective guilt onto American whites. Hasn’t America already done enough acting out for the Chosen People, with our lavish economic and military aid to Israel and our costly, bellicose, Israelocentric foreign military adventurism?
Foreign policy pronouncements are rarer for Williamson than for most other candidates. While she takes a boldly anti-interventionist line that supports self-determination for the people of Venezuela, she parrots the Democratic Party’s fabricated narrative about Russian intervention in U.S. elections, Ukraine, etc.
Bernie Sanders: Democratic? Socialist?
Bernie Sanders is considered by many the “progressive” Democrat most likely to succeed, at least at this juncture. True to form, this self-styled “democratic socialist” comes loaded with sops for the working class, from an increased minimum wage to Medicare for all. But what of his foreign policy? It is said that, until the most recent AUMF (Authorization for Use of Military Force), Senator Sanders never met a military spending bill he didn’t like. And here’s his official statement on Venezuela:
The Maduro government in Venezuela has been waging a violent crackdown on Venezuelan civil society, violated the constitution by dissolving the National Assembly and was re-elected last year in an election that many observers said was fraudulent. Further, the economy is a disaster and millions are migrating.”
To his credit, Sanders goes on to oppose U.S. intervention or coup support, but what are the crippling U.S. economic sanctions, to the point of pirating food-laden ships bound for Venezuela, if not intervention? Don’t they go far to explain the very economic crisis that Sanders here blames on its victims? Nary a word on this from the “Bern.”
Moreover, he also intones ad nauseam the Democratic Party Russiagate claptrap from start to finish. He’s another new Cold Warrior, which may — who knows? — ultimately endear him sufficiently to Democratic Party insiders, perhaps a calculated gambit on his part — hard to believe he really accepts such rubbish.
His statements about the Israel-Palestine situation have been mealy-mouthed, though he says he opposes “new settlements.” Big deal — there is hardly anywhere left in Occupied Palestine to create any. To his credit, Sanders is the only candidate who has ever suggested that U.S. aid to Israel might need to be reconsidered — not, to be clear, because of Israel’s genocidal war on Palestinians, but because of Netanyahu’s recent refusal to allow unconditional visits to Israeli-occupied territory by two sitting U.S. congresswomen, an ox gored much closer to home. In sum, while Sanders may be considered “progressive” in terms of his domestic agenda, his foreign policy fairly reeks of reaction.
Tulsi Gabbard: Islamophobe on a mission?
Then comes much-heralded Tulsi Gabbard. I admit having once been smitten by her seeming earnestness in opposing U.S. wars — until that is, she slavishly voted in favor of the anti-BDS resolution (HR 246), whereupon I took a deeper dive into her record. The scales soon fell from my eyes, though not unaccompanied by a few rueful tears. Tulsi, I discovered to my horror, is most likely a hawk in dove’s clothing. This is not to suggest that she is dishonest — a bit disingenuous, maybe, but not dishonest — no, far from it! She flatly says what she believes. And what exactly does she say?
Well, first of all, she says she is an ardent supporter of Israel. Anyone with any doubt about this should watch her stomach-churning speech at the Christians United for Israel conference in 2015. Were she nominated, Trump might find himself with a serious competitor for his deep-pocketed Zionist patrons!
Gabbard has been described by some credible commentators, like Kevin Barrett, as an “Islamophobe.” Given her religious background, this would not be surprising, no more than is her affinity for her fellow Hindu, the proto-fascist Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India.
When Gabbard says she is a “hawk in the war on terror” she should be taken at her word — she’s a true believer. She is as clueless that 9/11 was a false-flag operation to launch that murderous juggernaut as she is that the various permutations of Islamic terrorist groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda are just so many creatures of the Deep State to perpetuate that murderous rampage and pave the way for their (Zionist/neocon-induced) imperialist agenda.
When she says she’s “on a mission,” we would do well to take Major Gabbard literally. That she considers the regime-change wars a hindrance to her mission again demonstrates either abject stupidity on her part or, to be more charitable, extreme political naivete. The War on Terror is nothing but a pretext for Zionist-directed regime-change wars, for the successive (and largely successful) reduction of Israel’s regional competitors into failed states. This is by no means a diversion; rather, it clarifies the ulterior motive.
And this is not to suggest that Major Gabbard doesn’t really believe her own false narrative. Only by fully appreciating her laser focus on militarily defeating ISIS and “Islamo-terrorism” (which she continues to hold responsible for 9/11) can her more progressive stances on the other two foreign policy issues we are here examining be understood. She is consistent in opposing regime-change efforts in Venezuela, and seems committed to respecting Venezuelan self-determination — no Al Qaeda in Caracas! Uniquely among the “progressive” Democratic candidates, she wastes no ammunition on demonizing Russia. This, too, is consistent with her mission: Russia is clearly a valuable potential ally in the war against “Islamo-terrorism,” which it is her stated mission to fully vanquish.
It is a serious error to view Gabbard as an anti-interventionist or anti-militarist in principle — she is neither. That she opposes regime-change wars as inimical to her military objective is true enough, but for all intents and purposes, this puts her in the position of the deluded denizens of Plato’s allegorical cave, who see only the shadows cast on its walls, and never look behind to see the manipulators who create the spectacle. Because she is blind to the elephant in the room, and indeed has demonstrated characteristic sycophancy towards Zionist Israel, she cannot represent a truly progressive alternative, even in her stock-in-trade foreign policy arena. Nor, by the way, is her mission compatible with the DNC-controlled Democratic Party’s agenda — she can, therefore, expect only continued marginalization and resistance from that quarter.
Andrew Yang: A New New Deal?
This leaves us with the fourth of the “progressive” Democratic candidates, Andrew Yang, on whom the rest of this analysis will focus. Yang’s foreign policy is, sadly, no less reactionary than the rest of this rogues’ gallery’s — indeed, it is more deplorable in every respect. He carries water for the Democratic Party’s Russophobia like some latter-day Gunga Din, commits to protecting our relationship with Israel (reliable ally and the only democracy in the Middle East, etc.), and openly supports pretender-cum-imperial-stooge Juan Guaido in Venezuela. I would place him just to the left of John Bolton in terms of foreign policy, but not very far to the left. And I grant him this only because he wants to chip off about 10 percent of the military budget to fund domestic infrastructure projects — would that it were 90 percent!
But Yang’s claim to fame is not foreign, but domestic policy. His proposed universal basic income (UBI), dismissed by critics as a “gimmick,” is the most radical structural economic reform to come down the pike since the New Deal. It would not be hyperbole, in my opinion, to call it a “New New Deal.” Before proceeding with what I hope will prove a useful comparison between Sanders’ and Yang’s proposed economic reforms, it will be helpful to briefly rehearse the essential contradictions of capitalism that reformers Yang and Sanders seek to address with varying degrees of clarity:
The essential contradiction of capitalism is the constant aggregation of surplus value, in the form of “profit” in all its forms (interest, stock dividends, ground rent, etc.) to the owning class, and its relative diminution for the producing class, by far the majority of the consuming population. This leads to a chronic imbalance between productive capacity of capitalism and purchasing power of its working majority to consume it, leading to the recurrent “crises of capitalism,” (aka, the “business cycle” or boom-bust cycle). As Lenin explained in his classic work on the subject, this leads each capitalist country to seek foreign markets (and cheaper labor and resources) to pick up the slack, often to the point of military force — modern imperialism. An attendant contradiction of capitalism has to do with its innate drive to make capital more productive, which typically translates to a reduction of labor costs. This, in turn, drives the dynamic of automation of labor.
Andrew Yang, to his credit, quite openly recognizes this latter problem, and his UBI solution seeks to address it directly. He posits that automation is a social phenomenon, or a shared product or process of society as a whole — a part of the “commons” –and therefore that all citizens should share in its benefits. While classic socialism seeks to resolve capitalism’s contradictions through socialized ownership of the means of production, thus assuring that the full value of a socially useful product is returned to its actual producers (workers), Andrew Yang’s approach is, effectively, to socialize some of the surplus value itself.
Essentially, it is a profit-sharing scheme, in which all Americans would have an equal share. It is a clever approach insofar as it not only indemnifies workers, to some degree, against the job-displacing effects of automation, but it also helps readjust the disparity in consumer power between the owning and working classes, and thus extends capitalism’s lease on life by addressing to some extent its overarching contradiction of income disparity (see above).
Sanders’ economic proposals, in contrast, constitute damage control — palliatives for the destructive effects of capitalism on the livelihoods of working people: increasing minimum wage (which immediate gain would likely soon by swallowed up by inflationary increase in prices, as capitalists seek to recover profit margins) and universal health care (the quality of which remains to be seen). Some enlightened capitalists do grasp the ultimate benefit of offloading healthcare responsibility to the government and support this latter reform, so Sanders is not without inter-class support for this particular endeavor.
But Yang’s UBI likewise has its votaries among capitalists, particularly in the high-tech sector. Just as Henry Ford once recognized that only if he paid his workers a living wage could they afford to buy the Model-T’s they made, so today some high-tech-sector entrepreneurs realize that sacrificing a share of their profits to ensure a ready market for their product is in their long-term interest (as well as short-term interest, if predictions of a significant near-term recession are accurate). Yang, too, has a program that appeals across class lines.
Importantly, both Yang and Sanders speak approvingly of worker cooperatives. Sanders might call such reform “democratic socialism” whereas Yang would likely term it something like “people’s capitalism,” but a rose by any other name smells as sweet — and both candidates end up smelling like one in this vital area, because only such a radical restructuring of capitalism, from a corporatist to a worker-cooperative model, can ultimately resolve its aforementioned contradictions. For my money, Yang is even more enthusiastic on this score than Sanders, but judge for yourself.
Unfortunately, I believe, a Yang administration would likely be an LBJ redux: a genuinely progressive political economy coupled with an aggressive foreign policy — the old welfare-warfare state in a new guise.
Sadly, but not surprisingly, none of the existing Democratic Party presidential candidates, whether or not styled “progressive,” offers us any hope of a genuinely humane and pacific foreign policy. On the domestic front, Sanders offers the traditional social-democratic reforms to make life a bit more livable for the working people distressed by the contradictions of capitalism, whereas Yang offers genuine structural reform that would directly offset some of the income disparity between owning and working classes, incidentally ameliorating the mounting problem of homelessness and cushioning working people against the predictably deleterious effects of automation on their livelihoods.
In sum, unless someone new enters the race or one of the existing candidates is stricken on the road to Damascus, there will be no genuinely progressive foreign policy offered by either of the two major political parties in the 2020 presidential election. But who knows? Perhaps Andrew Yang will suddenly bolt from the Democratic Party, pair himself with someone who can complement his progressive economic platform with a genuinely progressive foreign policy — someone like, say, Cynthia McKinney — and the two of them, working in tandem, will offer Americans a brighter and morally satisfying future. We can always dream!
Feature photo | Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks to striking telecommunications workers on,Aug. 25, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. Sanders showed his support for the striking workers before attending a rally in the hometown of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Bruce Schreiner | AP
Ken Freeland is an independent political commentator and antiwar activist. He serves on the local station board of Pacifica station KPFT in Houston, and briefly served on its national board.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy.