My problem with putting all of that faith into Bernie is that it requires him to be the One who requires no help from anyone. For all that I like his public positions on income equality, he’s a single man. The GOP controls the majority of the house and 60+% of governorships. And odds are that even if Democrats win big in November, Congress is going to be roughly split between the parties and most states will have Republican leadership.
So is Bernie going to make all of these things happen on his lonesome? No, the president isn’t that powerful. At best, the president is a cat herder that tries to move the conversation in fits and starts. Bernie would get shut down by both sides at every turn, because every Congressman is going to be fielding complaints from constituents left and right when their taxes go up and there are no immediate benefits.
Even when you’re trying to do the right thing for everybody, politics is the game of trying to get people to act in their own long term self interest. To accomplish what he wants to accomplish, Bernie needs an army. He needs partners from Congress through to city councils just to start affecting the kind of change he’s talking about. He doesn’t have that. He’s not trying to build that. He’s railing against “the man” and tilting at every structural windmill he can point his horse towards.
It’s great for pulling the Democratic party to the left, and it makes for an entertaining campaign. But it’s not how you create long term change. He’d build his new America on the smoking ashes of the Democratic party, and that means he’d have no allies to maintain it.
I want a more progressive America. I want changes to our economic policy and philosophy that guarantees a more equal income distribution, not just mandated by the government but embedded in the moral life of every American. I want equal access to healthcare, voting, education, marriage, adoption and a whole slew of other basic areas. And I want it to last.
Bernie isn’t a silver bullet that will solve all of the nations woes. We’ve got to focus on the long game. Vote for the down ticket progressives, because they’ll be running for higher office in 10 years. Write your Congressmen. Show up to town halls for your district whether it’s your local alderman hosting it or the President. Vote for people who’ve dedicated their lives to building partnerships and did’t join a political party just for the chance to win.
I think Bernie could be a great public advocate for a lot of causes in Congress, and I think his philosophical successors will have an important role to play in the future of progressive politics. But he isn’t the The One.