Bernie Sanders on American Democracy

Eric Zuesse

On March 10th, Bernie Sanders was interviewed by Britain’s Guardian, headlining “Sanders on Trump and the challenge for the left”, and he said (and this is just a small sampling):

The bad news, the very bad news is that we have a president who is a pathological liar. I say that not in a partisan way because I have many conservative friends who I disagree with on every issue who are not liars, they believe what they believe. But Trump lies all of the time and I think that is not an accident, there is a reason for that.

He lies in order to undermine the foundations of American democracy. One of the concerns that I have is … his efforts to undermine American democracy in the sense of making wild attacks against the media, that virtually everything that mainstream media says is a lie. And we have reached the stage where a United States congressman named Lamar Smith from Texas – and I’m paraphrasing him but you can look up the quote – said ‘Well, if you want to know the truth the only way you can really get the truth in America is directly from the president.’ …

So what you have is a president who says that what you read and see is fraudulent, that judges are not real judges if they offer an opinion different than him, and that elections are not based on real vote counts but are also fraudulent. You have all that and more going on, which leads to only one conclusion: and that is that the only person in America who stands for the American people, the only person in America who is telling the truth, the only person in America who gets it right is the President of the United States, Donald Trump. And that is unprecedented in American history. George Bush was a very conservative president, I opposed him every single day. But George Bush did not operate outside of mainstream American political values….

When the president of the United States says that 3-5 million people voted illegally in the last election, when one of his spokesmen says that busloads of people came from Massachusetts to go into New Hampshire in that election to vote illegally this is 100% totally delusional and lies. But what it does do, and it’s important to understand what his goal is, it sends a message to Republican reactionary governors around the country to go forward and expand their efforts to suppress the vote.  …

We know to be a fact … that Russia played a very heavy role in attempting – successfully, I think – to impact our election. That is unacceptable. The evidence is that they have done it before and they will do it again. For all democracies around the world it is not acceptable that democratic institutions are being undermined by an authoritarian government and we ought to figure out how we deal with that – how we protect our democracies and at the same time make certain that Russia stop doing what it is doing. It is absolutely unacceptable. I think probably Obama was not as strong as he should have been in getting that message out to Putin.

So that’s Number One: There’s no question but they did do that. They had many many, hundreds and hundreds of paid employees. What the exact mechanism is, who paid them may not be clear, but there were people working with the approval of the Russian government trying to undermine American democracy.

Number Two: What we don’t know and what absolutely needs to be investigated is whether or not there was direct collusion between the Trump campaign and these Russians.

Number Three: What we need to know is what kind of influence the Russian oligarchy has over Trump. Many people are kind of astounded. Here he is seemingly in strong disagreement with Australia, with Mexico, with long-term allies but he has nothing but positive things to say about Mr Putin who is an authoritarian leader, who is every day undermining democracy in Russia. …

What has happened is that for many people in the Democratic party they said, ‘Well, I believe in women’s rights, I believe in civil rights, I believe in immigration reform, criminal justice reform,’ and that has been the emphasis at the expense of the needs of a shrinking middle class and massive levels of income and wealth inequality. The truth is we can and should do both, it’s not an either/or, it is both. …

The proof (to answer “Has the Democratic party done enough to search its soul about why Clinton lost, and what to do about it?”) will be in the pudding, according to how Tom Perez [the newly elected chair of the DNC] and how he ends up leading the party. I supported Keith Ellison for that role because Keith is in his heart of hearts a grassroots organizer who believes in grassroots politics. He believes in the need as I do to fundamentally transform the Democratic party from a top-down party to a bottom-up party. Tom Perez said during his campaign to become chair that he agreed with Keith that there was no space between them in that view. But the proof will be in the pudding in the direction that Tom takes the Democratic party. …

Keith Ellison did lose the effort to become chair, but running within the heart of the Democratic establishment. If this had been an election where Democrats all over this country could have voted, Keith would have won by a landslide. Keith had some 700,000 signatures on a petition supporting him to become chair of the DNC. This was an election that took place among 450 Democratic insiders and Keith almost won that. …

I endorse Tulsi Gabbard for the U.S. Presidency in 2020, regardless of her Party, and have explained why, on January 31st, under the headline “The U.S. Politician Who Could Become Second Abraham Lincoln”. The neoconservative The Atlantic had headlined twelve days earlier, “The GOP’s Favorite Democrat Goes to Syria”, but I have never been a Republican and never would be (for some of the same reasons that Sanders himself routinely states), and Tulsi Gabbard gave the unenthusiastic nominating speech for Bernie Sanders at the Democratic National Convention and clearly never would be a Republican, either (regardless of what neoconservatives might allege about her). The real question is not whether she is a Republican, but whether anyone, regardless of how good, can any longer reverse America’s deeper and deeper slide into dictatorship, which has been happening for a long time now. Someone is needed to fill a particular function, which requires enormous courage. In 1860 Lincoln did it. Maybe in 2020 Gabbard will. I can’t think of anyone else who might be able and willing to do that kind of job, which now is tragically needed, yet again. And Sanders’s blaming Putin is a cheap shot, which steeply lowers my opinion of Sanders, in any case. He lacks the courage that Gabbard has; and it’s going to be necessary, in order to be able to do what must be done.


Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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  • kimyo

    either he’s mr magoo or he’s just another talking head in the employ of the deep state apparatus.

    fractional black box voting is not a conspiracy theory. the nyt/wapo lie daily about the events in syria/russia/the ukraine and beyond. nsa/cia capturing trump/flynn phone calls is not a conspiracy theory. the dnc emails were leaked, by an insider, not hacked by boris and natasha.

    how can he fail to comprehend that obamacare was written by a cohort of lawyers working for bigpharma and the insurers and by design could never benefit the american people (who need healthcare, not health insurance. why is healthcare unaffordable? because of health insurance, just as college has become unaffordable as a result of student loans.)

    when he says ‘trump lies to undermine american democracy’ he fails to recognize that we don’t have one to undermine. what we have is an oligarchy.

    what a complete tool.

    don’t forget about this podesta email re: sanders released by wikileaks

    podesta: This isn’t in keeping w the agreement. Since we clearly have some leverage, would be good to flag this for him. I could send a signal via Welch–or did you establish a direct line w him?

  • Jill

    I’m very disturbed that Sanders keeps being held up as some kind of sage. He has a record as a war monger and he betrayed his voters by supporting a war criminal for president. I’m not certain how he stays credible to anyone after these actions.

    Here is simply repeating talking points. I will point out an especially egregious statement: “But George Bush did not operate outside of mainstream American political values….” Oh really? A million dead people in Iraq? Torture, black sites, Gitmo, mass surveillance? These may be Bernays’ idea of mainstream political values but they are not mine. (I certainly understand the USGinc. has engaged in these “values” for a long while but they were not put forward as mainstream until Obama got through “mainstreaming” them.

    Bernays’ is himself a pathological liar. He is making tired claims about Russia’s interference in the election and trying to convince people that we aren’t being lied to by the press. There is no evidence for the first and plenty of evidence of the latter.

    Really, I am sick of B.S. We need people who have integrity to criticize Trump. People who need to lie to other citizens to try to convince them that Trump is doing harmful things are not seeking justice. They are simply seeking to retain power. B.S. does not deserve my respect, nor will I give that to him.

    • paul

      The statement about Bush is itself enough to make me despise Sanders forever. The fact that the Dems are the ones rehabilitating Bush now is so insane – bringing back Mcarthyism too – so insane…

      • Jill


        It is really terrible that Democrats are rehabbing Bush and going for McCarthyism. Here’s something else I noticed happening lately. Until Trump was in office, Bush was still considered to be a very bad man by Democrats. This belief, by itself, was bizarre because Obama was doing the same things (and even worse) than Bush. So why they objected to Bush but not to Obama even though both men had engaged in the same types of horrific, illegal and immoral actions just seemed mystifying. From what I could see this appeared to result from Democrats not having an underlying intellectual/ethical value system. Without that, they were easily manipulated to ignore Obama’s war crimes while condemning Bush’s. (Note that this applies to most Democrats, not all.)

        Now USGINC. propaganda has moved in on Democrats another way. As it became helpful to enlist Bush against Trump, Democrats embraced (literally in some cases!), Bush. This propaganda took only two months to implement. Back in January most Democrats still hated Bush. Now, in early March they love him! That is really creepy and shows both how powerful and effective propaganda is.

        I notice also that Bernays is all over the political landscape. He is for many a hero, a savior, a wise elder who will save his people. This despite the fact that he has been a war monger for a long time, utterly betrayed his own voters who were denied the counting of their vote and his own embrace of a known war criminal. He is being rehabbed just like Bush. The power of propaganda is dangerous and amazing.

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    • jadan

      Bernie sounds like he’s writing an episode of “The Americans”. ” They had many many, hundreds and hundreds of paid employees. What the exact mechanism is, who paid them may not be clear, but there were people working with the approval of the Russian
      government trying to undermine American democracy.” Seriously?

      First of all, there is no democracy in America. It is just a facon de parler, as the French say. The elections are cleverly rigged and vote counts cannot be trusted.

      Secondly, the Russian oligarchs look a lot like the American oligarchs, and Bernie is parodying the one true party line which is the glue that holds the duopoly together: trust the NATIONAL SECURITY STATE (“deep state”) and make believe we live in a democracy. He represents the kinder, gentler face of the oligarchy.

      Thirdly, Trump is no worse a liar than Bernie, who declared his desire for political revolution and then threw all his support behind the notorious political whore, Hillary.

      The truth is out there. Our political saviors do exist and are living incognito. Tulsi Gabbard is surely one of them.


    Bernie Sanders had the Democratic Primary stolen from him. Nothing happened. American history is a history of should have beens cheated by criminals who go on to represent us.

  • paul

    What a disgusting pile of lies from Sanders, who shows once again that he was never a sincere candidate, just an establishment shill in (sometimes) lefty clothing

  • Carl_Herman

    Sanders lies in omission to cover the rogue state empire from criminal prosecution:
    1. Wikileaks documented extraordinary spying on Americans.
    2. Sanders was/is criminally complicit in election fraud to surrender the primary to Clinton.
    3. Trump is no more a liar than Obama and Bush for ongoing lie-started and illegal Wars of Aggression.

    I could go on.

    Sanders distracts from the facts of .01% crimes yearly killing millions, harming billions, and looting trillions in order to keep partisan arguing about Trump’s personality, and that somehow these illegal policies are “views” rather than crimes.

    Eric, you might want to provide some analysis of the lies of Sanders to ignore the ongoing empire.

  • Sarastro92

    Hey Bernie, grow a pair and start a new Party. Otherwise, this is all empty bloviation.

  • bondo

    hey, sell-out bernie, the media are constant 100% liars.
    and so are you.
    go to your 600 thou new home. beach or lake?
    jill the whore, bernie the deceiver

  • NOS

    Sanders is senile.
    Why would somebody even listen to what he says.
    He’s being hired by the deep state to help the oligarchs topple Trump.
    He even pretends that the US is a democracy – which is 100% false. The US is an oligarchy run by the deep state.

  • cstahnke

    I liked Sanders because he articulated a set of concerns that were not seen in American politics since WWII. For that we all ought to be grateful. I objected to his critics on the (real) left who described him exactly as he turned out to be. I still think he did us a service but he turns out to be a player after all. And has, like so many politicians, left us in the lurch. As Hedges says, change only come from social movements that force politicians to act–I don’t know where we’re going but we have to resist the mainstream Narrative that Sanders supplied us with in this interview and move from there. Sanders defense of the mainstream media is an insult to those of us who supported him and leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

    • Army of Addicts

      A social movement by those who live from hand to mouth? A social movement but those with a good sized carrot(real or imaginary) out in front of their noses?

      They have us sufficiently divided already. Only with the onslaught of mass destitution will people realize what’s happening here and who is responsible, and only then with a great deal of luck.

  • LostInTheStars

    To avoid confusion the lengthy group of Sanders quotes should be indented, in italics, or both.
    Otherwise – right on, as usual.
    Tulsi Gabbard 2020.

  • ICFubar

    Bernie Sanders is a careerist and a very creepy guy. His number one concern is himself. Enough said….

  • Joze

    Sanders: “For all democracies around the world it is not
    acceptable that democratic institutions are being undermined by an
    authoritarian government”
    … while it is being perfectly acceptable that any form of government is being undermined by the One True Democratic one?

  • Tyler

    Really a shame to see so many right-wing fucks comment at this website. The presidency of George W. Bush should have ended rightism forever, but I guess there’s no limit to stupidity.

  • Gary Youree

    I too am disappointed in Sanders following the lie of Russia and Putin tried to affect the American election. Sanders needs to go even farther than he has. We are on the brink of extinction and it will take every truth to be exposed if we are to change from within – from the people themselves by some huge majority vote in every area and put the divides behind us. Tulsi Gabbard has said some very brave and truthful things about this country.
    Unfortunatly a total collapse is inevitable for there to be a paradigm shift away from the maturing affects of capitalism and continued growth in the way we preceive growth on a finite planet.
    It will take a world effort – as if we were at war from an outside force – for that is what is happening. We are being attacked by the psychopath elite – the heads of the corporate state which is no longer part of the US or any country.