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William Kaufman – The Sanders Paradox: a Brief for Bernie

In this presidential summer of our discontent, the radical left has been fighting hard—not chiefly against capitalism and its galloping calamities, it seems, but against . . . Bernie Sanders. Scarcely a day passes without an ominous recitation of Sanders’s manifold political shortcomings—Sanders exposés seem to have become a thriving cottage industry for the far-left commentariat.

It should come as a startling revelation to no one that Sanders is not and has never aspired to be the next Lenin or Trotsky or even Bob Avakian. We readily concede that his record will not pass every litmus test of anti-imperialist and revolutionary probity—no need to belabor this point any further. But then what are we to make of Syriza, Podemos, Jerry Corbyn, or even Jill Stein—and other assorted leftish flavors du jour—all of them seemingly quite palatable to these same ideological arbiters of the radical left? These other examples and Sanders are cut from essentially the same political cloth: left social democrats or democratic socialists inclined to challenge entrenched corporate interests through established political institutions rather than overthrowing them from without. Then why the radical cheers (however mixed and muted in some cases) for these other leftish types and the jeers for Sanders, even though they all represent essentially the same political impulse?