I’m beginning to wonder if Democrats’ vaunted “Warren wing” is full of bullshit. Or of whatever else issues from Hillary Clinton’s malodorous pie hole during her increasingly hollow attempts to “play a progressive on TV.”
Perhaps that sounds overly harsh. I mean, of course, toward the Warren wing; few real progressives will find unduly harsh any castigation of Clinton’s hypocrisy and outright lies. But therein lies my main point. Given progressives’ dream-versus-nightmare sense of how sharply Sanders differs from Clinton, we detect a form of bullshit—a frankly sinister one—in Democrats’ much-ballyhooed progressives, the Warren wing, hesitating so much to endorse him. Ourselves convinced of “the fierce urgency of Bernie,” the grassroots revolutionaries at Revolt Against Plutocracy have launched a petition, and plan to announce a “Show Me the Bernie” campaign, making public endorsement of Bernie for president the unforgiving test of Warren-wing Democrats’ progressive legitimacy.
“The fierce urgency of Bernie” slogan is of course modeled on Martin Luther King’s eternal words “the fierce urgency of now,” a hallowed phrase Clinton herself blasphemed by mouthing. But applied to Bernie Sanders, from early youth a civil rights activist who marched with King, the words are no blasphemy, reflecting both men’s heroic response to public crises that brooked no further delay. A response that amounted, in both cases, not merely to speaking truth to power, but to speaking truth to bullshit. In King’s case, to the bullshit that our nation stood for the liberties expressed in its founding documents when it excluded people of color from those same liberties. In Bernie’s case, to the bullshit that a political system hijacked by plutocrats can offer a decent life to its citizens, let alone tackle the global emergency of climate change. The encroaching catastrophe of climate change adds an extra note of urgency to Bernie’s “now.”
Naomi Klein, now echoed by Pope Francis, has splendidly framed the context that makes Bernie’s candidacy so urgent. Delineating a climate-justice vision where global peace and equitable distribution of resources are the essential prerequisites for securing the vast global cooperation mankind needs to avert climate catastrophe, both Klein and Pope Francis emphasize how perversely out of synch reigning neoliberal ideologies and governance are with urgent human needs. In times when plutocrats and global corporations most need reining in, they have essentially been handed the reins—a fact never more evident than in U.S. Congress’s inconceivably perverse decision to fast-track the Trans-Pacific Partnership, along with a host of other sovereignty-killing trade agreements. When sovereign citizens need their policy-making potency at its absolute max, they instead risk utter castration by artificial “corporate citizens”.
And in the United States, the perverse “disconnect” between policy-making interests and citizens’ policy needs is worse than even Klein and Pope Francis sketch. For beyond the sheer malign influence of plutocrats and corporations, we have an unacknowledged combine of powerful entrenched interests, collectively termed the “Deep State,” that for its own sake exercises a potent, unacknowledged veto over the common good. One egregious example of a Deep State interest is the military-industrial-surveillance complex, whose concerns for self-maintenance, expansion, and profitability simply rule out all rational policy considerations. Here, as in almost every crucial policy question, Hillary Clinton finds herself on the wrong side of human history. On her watch, the State Department approved weapons sales to nations that were notorious human rights violators, for no defensible public-policy reason, but simply because the U.S. arms business, like the proverbial “show,” must go on. Or not simply, because Clinton herself had a very plausible, if not exactly public-spirited motive, since those nations had just made sizable donations to the Clinton Foundation. Here, Clinton’s sin against history is double: not only did she perversely side with the Deep State, but she did so under the influence of donor money, broadly acknowledged as the root evil thwarting rational governance.
And Clinton’s perverse fealty to both Deep State interests and donor money is evident elsewhere too, as in her harshness against heroic whistleblower Edward Snowden (whom Bernie defended) or in her efforts to push global fracking, making her State Department a virtual Department of Frack. Little matter that world-renowned climate blogger Joe Romm—as part of Think Progress, a leading Democrat well-known to Clinton—has described fracked natural gas as a “bridge to nowhere” fossil fuel. Little wonder that when The Nation magazine and 350 Action asked candidates to pledge to take no campaign money from fossils fuel companies, Sanders readily agreed whereas Clinton has yet to be heard from.
Reverting to the topic of bullshit, there’s a very telling parallel between national politicians’ ardent but covert service of the Deep State and the Warren wing’s suspect hesitation to make the “no brainer” decision of endorsing Sanders over Clinton. In both cases, either the lamest of arguments, but generally no arguments at all, are offered to support choices that have nothing to do with reason and everything to do with powerful, unavowed special interests. In the case of the Deep State, I’ve referred to this silence over motives—as if unjustifiable decisions were purely natural—as “Deep State bullshit,” and I suspect something intimately related is entailed in the Warren wing’s unexplained hesitation to support Sanders.
For reasons amply documented above, there’s no intellectually or morally defensible reason for any sincere progressive hesitating between Sanders and Clinton. Bernie is on the right side of history on virtually every pressing progressive issue, while Hillary, faking progressive discourse unconvincingly, practically spits in history’s face. So clearly, just as in the case of U.S. government’s “inexplicably” irrational Deep State policy (inexplicable only if you’re ignorant of the Deep State), something important and unavowable is occurring “offstage” in the Warren wing’s hesitation to make the “no brainer” decision to support Bernie, who exemplifies Warren-wing values even better than they do. The unacknowledged “elephant in the room” is clearly intimidation—by the same plutocratic and Deep State interests that dominate the leadership of both major parties. So powerful is that intimidation that the only realistic way to combat it is some counter-intimidation by the grassroots.
With the Warren wing having just gravely failed us on TPP fast track, the moment for politically intimidating them could not be riper. Allow me to explain.
Now for sure, Warren and company “bravely” stood their ground, duly speaking and voting against the hideous bill. But was that really so brave when virtually their entire progressive base was ready to turn electoral lynch mob if they hadn’t? Where the real act of courage was needed—warning Hillary Clinton she could forget their support if failing to oppose fast track—they utterly stiffed us. Given Clinton’s political clout—especially with Democrats’ corporate wing—her outspoken opposition could have jammed the brakes shut on fast track. Her despicable fence-sitting has instead greased the rails for passing not just the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but of a whole host of sinister, sovereignty-killing trade agreements.
Considering the gravity of what was at stake, the Warren wing is deeply to blame for not applying the ultimate tool of leverage to Hillary Clinton. But in their guilt lies a unique opportunity for Bernie Sanders’ revolutionaries—provided we’re smart enough to seize it.
See, there’s a very respectable school of progressive thought, represented by Chris Hedges among others, that already finds the Democratic Party a lost cause and, whatever Warren’s or Sanders’ individual merits, thinks plutocratic and corporate interests already own the party. So all Warren and Sanders in effect do, willingly or not, is lend Democrats an undeserved air of legitimacy. Now frankly, there’s much that’s attractive about that view, and the Warren wing’s dismal failure to stymie fast track does suggest it’s a “paper tiger” with virtually no clout in affecting policy. And given Clinton’s donors, her interest in governing, upon being elected, would clearly lie in keeping these paper tigers at bay. So we’re positioned to say to the Warren wing, “You failed us on TPP fast track, since, in your intimidation by the Clintonite leadership, you refused to threaten her candidacy, despite having the best reasons in the world. If you don’t endorse arch-progressive Bernie Sanders, rather than Clinton, who’s pledged to stifle you, we’ll simply believe you lack the political courage to fight for progressive change against your party’s corporate-corrupted leadership. Endorsing Bernie is the last straw, or we’ll join Chris Hedges in abandoning the Democratic Party, seeing only perennial betrayal there.”
Anyway, that’s the underlying logic behind Revolt Against Plutocracy’s projected “Show Us the Bernie” campaign. Believing in the “fierce urgency of Bernie,” and seeing solely party intimidation behind the Warren wing’s irrational refusal to endorse him, we feel no qualms about using a little intimidation of our own, which, after all, is what even peaceful revolutions do. But before escalating conflict to that level, our first assault is our Change.org petition, forcefully making the case that, for Warren and the Congressional Progressive Caucus, openly endorsing Bernie is the only justifiable progressive course. If you sense with us “the fierce urgency of Bernie”—the only candidate seriously attacking the root evil of plutocracy—and agree endorsing him should be the litmus test defining real progressives, we beg you to sign our petition.