Bernie Sanders Unites America With the Fight We All Have in Common: Economic Rights
As Bernie Sanders keeps on soaring in the polls and looking more and more like the only Democratic contender who can beat Trump, corporate media pundits and political talking heads have put forward all sorts of ideas about why he’s been so successful. This includes Mike Bloomberg’s recent comment that young people support Bernie because “they’re dumb.”
However, the true reason that Bernie Sanders is so successful is because he has made the core of his message what unites all Americans: economics, and economic rights.
Bernie’s message hits home because no matter our skin color, sexual orientation, gender identity, or opinions on abortion or gun control, the vast majority of Americans want to better our economic conditions and end the corporate hijacking of our democracy.
The fact that Bernie is now winning so hard is a sign that the American people are awakening to the true nature of the neoliberal coup being purpetrated on our democracy, including how even the Democratic party, supposedly the people’s party, has become a collaborator in it. The American people are seeing clearly that the only way out of this corporate coup is to elect someone who truly represents the people and has no connections to billionaire interests.
Trump Is Exactly the Alarm We Needed
Let’s face it, the neoliberal coup on democracy has been going on for a very long time now, since the Reagan years, at least. Yet Americans for the most part have remained blind to what’s being done to them, mostly because of the effectiveness with which politicians and corporate media have lulled them into a false sense of security, and distracted them with fights over social issues, rather than economic ones.
This is especially true on the left, where a warped faux-leftist ideology known as Progressive Neoliberalism was invented and launched in the Clinton years, and has since held a deceptive sway over the minds of most equality- and justice-minded, left-leaning, well-meaning Americans. In a nutshell, this involved the Democratic Party selling out to corporations on economics and foreign policy, in order to compete with Republicans for oligarch dollars, and instead focusing the left’s attention on domestic social justice initiatives, rather than economic justice.
The biggest mistake the left ever made was abandoning economic justice and hyper-focusing on social justice, because disagreements about social justice issues have divided the democratic constituency, while economic woes we all share go unaddressed.
For instance, the reason that the New Deal Coalition lost to Reagan was precisely because much of the democratic constituency still held somewhat racist and bigoted views, and had a negative reaction to the civil rights movement. But does that mean we shouldn’t have had a civil Rights movement, or various other social justice movements? Of course not. But doing so without putting economic rights for all people first is the ultimate mistake.
It’s a mistake which got us Trump, but in the end, perhaps Trump is exactly what we needed to see that continuing to support faux-left corporate Democrats will never work.
The Psychology of Fear
It’s critical here to understand the psychological motivations and factors which contribute to fear-based politics, and how best to overcome them. The greatest mistake that the left in America has made is in primarily taking the approach of shaming, accusation, and returning hatred with more hate, while neglecting to address the actual causes of that hate among conservatives.
Let’s ask ourselves bluntly: Why is it that poor and lower working class, rural people tend to take longer to progress in their inclusiveness and political views than urban populations?
Surely, part of it is simple lack of exposure. The average blue-collar rural person has not grown up being exposed to transsexuals, gay couples, and people of various races to the same extent as urban people have. Lower quality of education may also play a role. However, there is another major factor, which is hinted at by some findings in the field of Political Psychology, and which I believe is vital to understanding how progress in America must be made.
The Psychological Forces Behind Political Persuasion
These findings by neuroscientists plainly show correlations between conservatism and fear, and some have even proven that individuals of all political persuasions tend to lean conservative when they are made to feel afraid, and tend to lean further liberal when they are made to feel safe and comfortable. This is a revealing finding when you consider the right/left rural/urban divide. Over the past century or two, most lucrative work and jobs have been increasingly concentrated in urban centers, both during the industrial revolution, and in our transition to a service-based economy.
This has led to ever tougher economic times for rural populations, and harder economic times always mean greater fear, discomfort, and an increased likelihood to engage in scapegoating, or become susceptible to propaganda and manipulation. Meanwhile, you have another population living in cities, who are constantly exposed to diversity and live relatively comfortable lives (particularly the white ones), and you can see how this split can occur.
Add to that the invention of the internet and social media, which allows a clash of ideals about gender and social roles to occur, and you have a recipe for a very defensive, fearful, conservative population that will change at a snail’s pace, and an outraged urban liberal population endlessly frustrated with their rural neighbors’ backwards ways.
The Economics of Hate & Authoritarianism
This can be observed in a very clear pattern of the swinging political fulcrum of democracy and authoritarianism, as it relates to economic growth. Inevitably, when times become hard, particularly for rural populations, a general unrest grows and is usually channeled by clever billionaires and their puppets who know how to harness this force of unease. By blaming minorities and urban liberals, they are able to elect someone as absurdly unelectable as Donald Trump, or in the 1930s, to demonize the Jews and support people like the Nazi party.
Meanwhile, those same billionaire tricksters have learned how to manipulate urban liberals, as well. Because they are generally comfortable and less fearful, like the story of the princess and the pea, they must be directed to an obsession over ever-smaller “micro-aggressions” and narcissistic obsession with various experimental identities. If they can be made more fearful by a figure like Trump, all the better; fearful populations of whatever persuasion are always easier to control. Focus all the attention on the fight against Trump, and they can be made to forget about the economic problems and warfare they really should be outraged about.
We can observe an example of this pattern unfolding when the economic situation in the United States grew more tight in the economic crisis of the 1970s because of the Arab oil embargo, the removal of the gold standard for international trade by Nixon, and other factors. Many of the white working class and Southern rural democrats became hostile towards the civil Rights agenda, and in general, the level of focus on minority rights or welfare programs for the poor. This is why many of them supported Reagan and won him his elections, and it was all motivated by their own hard times, exacerbating their existing biases.
Of course, the true culprit which the working people should blame are the billionaire business owners refusing to raise their wages, while still raising prices and reducing benefits, as well as outsourcing jobs to neocolonial foreign slave plantation states, and getting us into economically motivated wars, all in the name of increasing their own profits. Thanks to propaganda created by those same billionaires and their corporate media, however, the working people don’t know who the real culprits are, so their frustration is easily channeled by bought politicians onto minorities, or the poor, or whatever groups can be made to blame.
Why the Sanders Approach is the Answer
In other words, the great mistake made by the left was to abandon the fight for economic rights, and particularly the needs of rural people, and to focus all of the energy onto social justice. It was a mistake because it overlooks the psychology of poverty, and how it leads to increased hatred and division. This Progressive Neoliberal strategy will always fail because the less the economic rights of working and rural people are supported, the more divided and less willing they will be to embrace social change, and unity.
This is not to say that we should abandon the fight for social rights like LGBTQ or women’s rights, obviously, but rather that the fight for social rights must absolutely be coupled with the fight for economic rights, if we are ever to make consistent progress. Economics are what unites the vast majority of us.
If we create an economic situation like the New Deal era, in which life is good, everyone has healthcare and access to quality education, and good paying jobs with benefits and time off are plentiful even in rural areas, then the population who are now resistant to change will be much more open and accepting of new ideas, and people who are different from them, because they won’t be feeling generally imperiled by their economic situation.
However, if we take the opposite approach, as we have for the past several decades since Clinton, ignoring working-class needs while labeling them “deplorables” and accusing them, well, we get a Trump presidency.
The Political Hierarchy of Needs Can’t Be Ignored
This United fight for both economic and social justice is what the New Deal Democrats previously stood for until the 1970s, and these are the roots Bernie Sanders is returning the Democratic party to. If the huge number of his supporters is any indication, it’s also what the Democratic constituency wants. This has only become more true since his first campaign in 2016, which changed the entire landscape of the Democratic party to serious discussion of things like Medicare for All, or a Green New Deal.
The willingness of working people to support him with millions of small donations only goes further to illustrate the fact that we are willing to pay for true Democratic representation if someone trustworthy is available to us, meaning that the Democratic party no longer needs to compete for billionaire dollars, which was their original motivation for selling out in the first place, in the 1980s.
If the Democratic Party ignores or misunderstands this trend, they do so at their own peril. We will have a people’s party which addresses economic rights, or we will have Trumpistan. It’s one or the other.