There is an understandable yearning for a progressive president. But like dreams of happily ever after endings, the fantasy is just that.
In 2015, Black Agenda Report co-founder Bruce Dixon coined the term “sheepdog” to describe the role that Bernie Sanders would play in the 2016 presidential campaign. Dixon presciently said, “Bernie’s job is to warm up the crowd for Hillary, herding activist energies and the disaffected left back into the Democratic fold one more time. Bernie aims to tie up activist energies and resources till the summer of 2016 when the only remaining choice will be the usual lesser of two evils.” The word stuck and since that time the question is rightly asked whether a particular Democratic challenger is serious about getting the nomination or is merely a sheepdog who will herd supporters back into the hands of their party’s oligarchy.
That question arises again now that Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has announced his presidential campaign. Kennedy obviously has the advantage of name recognition, and he isn’t shy about making frequent references to “my uncle” and “my father.” Yet he is attractive to leftists in the party because he is willing to take positions in opposition to its established orthodoxy. He does make the obligatory references to Russia’s “brutal invasion” of Ukraine but he also points out what no one in the Democratic Party will say, that the war was provoked by U.S. actions and he calls the billions of dollars in allocations to the Ukrainian government a “money laundering operation for the military industrial complex.”
Yet Kennedy also falls back into line if pressured. He said that the CIA assassinated his uncle John F. Kennedy, and he points out the many CIA interventions around the world as a practice he would end as president, but he backtracks if criticized, making a lie out of his pronouncements. “The majority of people working at the CIA are good, patriotic people committed to their missions and the law. My own daughter-in-law was a field agent, and she is among the bravest people I have known.”
He certainly got the Zionist message about Israel . Kennedy praised musician Roger Waters for his opposition to the war in Ukraine but then deleted his comment on twitter because Waters also opposes Israeli apartheid. For good measure he added meaningless blather about the “aspirations of the Palestinian people.” After being called out when he ran for cover, he then deleted his comments which rescinded his first comment.
There is another issue aside from Kennedy’s willingness to back pedal when criticized for taking the positions he claims to run against. Will his supporters end up like those who worked for Jesse Jackson, Dennis Kucinich, or Bernie Sanders, who believed in their candidate only to be told that they had to support Mondale or Dukakis or Kerry or Clinton or Biden? One must ask, what is the point of going out on a limb yet again when history gives a strong indication of how this campaign will end?
The selective amnesia of many Kennedy supporters indicates another problem with what passes for left politics in this country. People here have been so thoroughly indoctrinated about the value of electoral politics that they believe it is the only way to bring about the changes they want to see. The end result is the search for a savior, the belief that we can vote our way out of a situation created by the oligarchy which controls both wings of the duopoly. It is comforting to think that the right president would end capitalist exploitation and imperialism but such a belief, while understandable, doesn’t hold water.
Would the military industrial complex suddenly disappear if Kennedy were president? Would the Democrats and Republicans who are bought off by big oil, big pharma, big agriculture, big healthcare, and other powerful interests suddenly throw off the shackles they happily accepted? Would their patrons allow them to do so even if they were so inclined? The answer to all of these questions is a resounding, “No.” Both parties are run by capitalists who have not gone to a lot of trouble to maintain their hold on the system only to give it all up because some Democrats can’t end their habit of engaging in wishful thinking.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. takes positions that need to be heard. It is good that a presidential candidate opposes U.S. interventions around the world and pledges to end the censorship that the state and big tech carry out. But there’s no savior, just the hard work of mobilizing left movements. Kennedy speaks of the need for a “peaceful revolution.” It isn’t clear that revolutions can be peaceful, but they certainly won’t come from U.S. presidential politics.
The question is the same. It doesn’t change every four years. How do we mobilize against interests that won’t be placated, whose imperatives are antithetical to human needs? They don’t care if leftists want to believe that Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. can win the Democratic Party nomination and become president. They won’t be wished away.
-Margaret Kimberley is the author of Prejudential: Black America and the Presidents. You can support her work on Patreon and also find it on the Twitter and Telegram platforms. She can be reached via email at margaret.kimberley(@blackagendareport.