THE BERNIE REVOLUTION PT 3: YOU JUST DON’T GET IT
Although I keep harping on about Bernie, I intend to put forth my definitive thing on Hillary during this cycle. Which, in a way, I’ve been trying to nail down since 2008. It’s a harder row to hoe for me coz it’s complicated set of feelings and thoughts. It’s complicated, ambivalent and nuanced.
Bernie is a fairly easy proposition for me. I categorically don’t buy into the view that his positions are impractical. I think they fit squarely into the Overton window of US political discourse. Once someone gets over dated Cold War branding and can process the basic proposition that:
1) socialism, per se, isn’t about Darth Vader vs John Wayne but rather just an idea about a mode of societal economic organisation; an idea just like other ideas on social economics that one can choose to adopt or reject, partially or fully or apply in some combination with other ideas; and
2) a democratic socialist isn’t a person who wants Stalinist-Leninist-Trotskyite death marches or dispossession but rather what those guys are doing in Paris, or Amsterdam or Copenhagen and all those cute places Americans love to visit where, in spirit and in fact, ‘freedom’ also reigns
then there’s nothing ‘exotic’ or strange about Bernie’s ideas. Single payer healthcare is a very practical idea — from a cost and process rationalisation perspective. Asking why the defense budget and strategic posture never reduces and always involves building bigger machines in a cyberwar and assymetric non-State actor age isn’t impractical — the iPhone size and cost has probably halved in 5 years while its functionality had doubled — so why not the F-35? Redefining what constitutes a basic education (and thus qualifying for State sponsored tuition) in a job market where you can’t be employed as a dog walker with a high school diploma seems plenty practical to me.
My break comes not on goals, but on methods. Just like 2008 (Yes, we can!!!), I feel like I’m in that camp of progressives that’s told that there will be a revolution that will blow away all that has existed before and will fix all. But when we ask for a few details or maybe a preview/trailer or have questions, we are told that we have a defect of vision and hope. When we suggest that maybe we should craft a backup plan to be able to work our mutual agenda through the legacy political structures in case something goes awry with the ‘revolution’, we are told that we are caught up in ‘old thinking’. When we point out that the ‘people driven popular revolution’ change thesis being advanced now is the same one advanced for Obama in 2008 and it ran aground in Month 1 in the face of Mitch McConnell, we’re told that Barack was just a flawed vessel, man, and Bernie is the real deal (maybe a long memory is a curse coz I just remember that EXACT same rejoinder…anyway, whatevs).
We ask: Bernie says the people will March on DC to ‘force change’ and Republican congressmen will pay a ‘political price’ etc etc. OK, when? February 2017? Why then? Why not now when a consequential Supreme Court vacancy is being stalled can we not start marching? The Bernie revolution was in full force in Wisconsin last week — fun and well-attended rainbow rally upon rally (hooray, beautiful) and what happened? A voter ID law was signed there and a horrid state supreme court Justice elected . You really can’t get a bigger disconnect between viral popular young liberal political fixations and the practical on the ground logistics of American politics. People may as well be voting in American Idol, for all the lack of relevance. I can see someone saying ‘we are focused on electing Bernie and after that we will handle the Supreme Court etc etc…’. It’s an asinine argument, but I wouldn’t spit out my tea. But if the opposition pulls a move that might exclude a hundred thousand of your crew from voting in a BATTLEGROUND STATE that will decide whether Bernie can even get elected the same week your are rallying in delirium a few blocks away and those two events don’t event converge — then what in holy hell is your ‘revolution’ about?
So you inspire a small-donor fundraising juggernaut that makes mince meat of Citizens United style mega donor campaign finance models (interestingly, not a new thing — cf. Obama ’08, Howard Dean ’04; but no matter, it’s impressive) — Awesome!!! There is no visible attempt to either expand that network to benefit down-ballot races on the same ticket Bernie would run on in November (because, small concern, I know, the US has distributed political power and the Prez is not the be-all/end-all) or no visible plans or strategy to keep that network activated beyond November (because, there’s tiny things called mid-term elections etc etc). You don’t ‘march on DC’ and replace congressmen. It. Doesn’t. Work. Like. That. You run campaigns. And vote — in midterm elections where there are no ‘sexy’ candidates. I know these things aren’t ‘fun’ but what ‘revolution’ are we talking about without addressing these things?
If one doesn’t care about organising and funding midterm elections (which also tend to impact redistricting, making the House inaccessible to Dems), doesn’t care about State legislature and supreme court elections and funding those, doesn’t care about funding and visibility for presidential initiatives once your candidate has been elected President, doesn’t care to be involved in Senate elections (the Bernie revolution whizzed thru Wisconsin with no focus in or effect on Republican Sen Ron Johnson, who should be a focus for Dems to defeating Nov) etc etc. If one only cares about that one shiny voice in the desert presidential candidate and couldn’t care less about the rest of the constitutional political set-up, what type of ‘revolution are we talking about? A coup d’etat?
So when the rest of us admit that ‘Yes, true, we really don’t get it and may you just explain a little bit to us, please’ we’re told that we just don’t get it…and the snake eats it’s own tail.