I’m an oft-time admirer of the words of Robert Reich, and never more strongly than recently. As one of the most vocal advocates for Bernie, Reich has become one of the most sensible advocates for rallying behind Hillary. In this shift, he is clearly right. The “Bernie or bust” [BOB] movement is anger. It is not an idea.
Believe me, I get the anger. I’ve felt some frustration myself about the way the DNC mucked about with this primary. But we are facing the most terrifying election in America’s history. And it is not the time to divide us, or to sit this one out. “I’m not going to vote for the lesser of two evils” seemed stupid in 2000. It was tragic after Florida was called for Bush. But George Bush was a million times better than Donald Trump. There’s a time to fight to reform the DNC. It is not in the middle of a struggle for the Republic.
But the stronger bit in Reich’s latest (Does Hillary Get It?) is about Hillary, not the BOB movement. As he wrote,
The most powerful force in American politics today is anti-establishment fury at a system rigged by big corporations, Wall Street, and the super-wealthy.
This is a big reason why Donald Trump won the Republican nomination. It’s also why Bernie Sanders took 22 states in the Democratic primaries, including a majority of Democratic primary voters under age 45.
There are no longer “moderates.” There’s no longer a “center.” There’s authoritarian populism (Trump) or democratic populism (which had been Bernie’s “political revolution,” and is now up for grabs). …
If Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party don’t recognize this realignment, they’re in for a rude shock — as, I’m afraid, is the nation. Because Donald Trump does recognize it. His authoritarian (“I’ am your voice”) populism is premised on it.
This is the crucial point, and similar to a point I made in The USA is Lesterland (2014) (“But the interesting division in American politics today is not between the left side and the right side, but between the inside and the outside. The inside is the politics of D.C., the life within the Beltway; and the outside is the politics of the rest of the country, and the life of the rest of the country.”) But when I started saying stuff like that, I had no idea of how explosive it would become, or how potentially devastating it could be.
Now we can see its potential quite clearly: Clinton cannot win if she ignores it. If she does not make changing this corrupt system fundamental to her campaign, she will simply play into this populist fury. She will stand for all that is wrong in American politics — fairly or not. And a vast majority of America believes something is fundamentally wrong. I fear it’s Marcia Clark (OJ) all over again, as we watch another tidal wave swell.
The good news is that Clinton is so damn close to doing exactly what she needs to do. She has already said she would make fundamental reform a priority — including the only real reform that could matter: changing the way campaigns are funded. Democrats have begun to talk about a fundamental package of reform — including gerrymandering reform, equal freedom to vote, and changing the way campaigns are funded. The particulars are not perfect. There is tons in the details that needs to be improved. But if we could start talking about the package of change we need to get a democracy again, we could begin to give people hope that real change if possible.
If Clinton could just say this —
“Give me a Democratic Congress, and I promise you, in the first 100 days, we will pass fundamental reform of this corrupt system.”
— she would give voice to these frustrated millions on both sides of the political divide, and give the rest of us a reason to try to rally them back to the polls.
Trump has no effective comeback to this promise. He’s offered not a single idea for fixing this corrupt system—save electing billionaires, literally the one idea we fought a revolution against. He has riled up America, and Bernie has riled up a different part of America. But this fury gives Hillary her chance: make a promise that we know she cannot break, and she’ll give America something more than fear to fight against. She’ll give us hope to fight for.
Please, Secretary Clinton. Have the courage to surprise us, and you’ll have millions working with you to get us our democracy back.