The Billionaires Are Against Bernie — and the Rest of Us

Bernie Sanders just released a list of all the billionaires and plutocrats who can’t hide their hatred for him. The “anti-endorsements” underscore his campaign’s core message: it’s the oligarchs versus the rest of us.

Bernie Sanders speaks during a rally at the Fairfield Arts and Convention Center on April 6, 2019 in Fairfield, Iowa. (Scott Olson / Getty Images)

Earlier this week, the Bernie Sanders campaign debuted a webpage quoting condemnations from twelve “anti-endorsers” that included the following words from right-wing plutocrat Haim Saban:

We love all 23 candidates. No, minus one. I profoundly dislike Bernie Sanders. He thinks every billionaire is a crook. He calls us “the billionaire class.” And he attacks us indiscriminately.

It’s difficult to imagine even an actual endorsement so effectively boosting the Sanders’s core message. A loathsome oligarch (and Democratic mega donor, no less) whining about being called a billionaire while singling out the only candidate that genuinely makes him nervous? The ads practically write themselves.

A veritable rogue’s gallery of corporatist malefactors, the list also includes the likes of Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase; Jeffrey Immelt, former CEO of General Electric; Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve; and Jon Cowan, president of the Democratic establishment think tank Third Way, among others. Variously opposed to raising the minimum wage, pro-sweatshop, supportive of deep cuts to Medicare and Social Security, every man named is both exorbitantly wealthy and visibly terrified of Bernie Sanders.

Throughout his career, the Vermont senator has regularly proven willing to buck convention and call out the rich and powerful by name — a tendency that has long separated him from the Democratic mainstream. Since the collapse of New Deal liberalism in the 1970s and ’80s, material and social inequality have become increasingly nebulous concepts for many liberals. By becoming an explicit vehicle for finance capital during the near-wholesale transformation that consolidated during the Clinton era, Democrats in effect underwent a merger with corporate America — radically narrowing their political horizons and the scope of their ambitions in the process.

Instead of promoting equality as such, many retreated to more abstract ground, preferring to advance innocuous and market-friendly conceits like “opportunity” that ultimately reproduce rather than challenge social or class hierarchies. As a consequence, some now seem unable to deal in the language of conflict at all: expressing only vague social concern while blaming acrimony rather than injustice for the nation’s ills.

For a recent example of this in action, look no further than Joe Biden’s quixotic pursuit of a frictionless class harmony where nothing needs to change, nobody (especially your friendly neighborhood billionaire) has to be “demonized,” and the rich are “just as patriotic” as the poor. This is where a politics that jettisons the very idea of conflict inevitably ends up: on an arid terrain without villains, exploiters, or malefactors of any kind.

Sanders, in contrast to Biden, isn’t just rejecting this phony politics of unity: he’s calling out his foes by name and openly broadcasting their hatred for his candidacy and the vision of equality it represents.

It’s hard to think of a better endorsement than that.