Is not the first obstacle, for any “radical” underdog in quest of primary election upsets, to expose the “safe” frontrunner as anything but? Not just as misguided, dishonest, and packed with infamous backers, but a loser against a rightwing clown so bizarre there’d be nostalgia for Dubya. Well, not quite. Thus, the first array of trials for upstart Bernie Sanders: roil the field, dislodge the fat cat favorite, then plunge into the mayhem of the miraculous.
Just like Obama did in the ’08 primary, arguably his greatest single feat. What if by 2050 Obama’s notoriety has nothing to do with his perverse presidential loyalty to the status quo but the shocking triumph six months before his first election? What if this first Hillary slayer, stopping cold an even more regressive reign, is his great historic marker? What if the future plays up Obama’s role as the David who vetoed eight years of Clinton Plutocracy 101, run by a gang of her Foundation Goliaths? Obama’s betrayals aside, one may still dread worse loomed (and looms) on the horizon. Apparently, this Goliath returns from the dead, mandating another slingshot of stones.
Okay, Obama the phony “systemic reformer” morphed into Hillary-ite, even a Dubya clone, one of history’s nasty little jokes. Yet, who doubts any Second Clinton Coming won’t prove more hawkish and more Wall Street-friendly than Clinton I or Obama? Give the smaller devil his due, trumping the Clinton juggernaut from handing off the baton from the husband who triangulated our politics, pushing NAFTA and banishing Glass-Steagall. Would not this legacy match the horrors of Papa Bush doing the same, first to the older dimwit, now to Jeb, so far a political halfwit? Thank God when that lineage dries up.
Thus, my not so modest, opening gambit for Bernie Sanders: duplicate Obama, exile the bad queen, open the floodgates. That alone won’t redeem painful progressive defeats, but counting our blessings beats enduring more disasters. If he does nothing else (hardly my projection), an empowered Sanders postpones the spiritual death of the Democratic Party some four or eight years. Not enough for you? Hardship and desperation make for appreciation of the plausibly positive.
The Anti-Sanders Brigade
In those terms, I defy Chris Hedges’ logic that scoffs at any “energy invested in these elections, including championing Bernie Sanders’ ill-advised decision to validate the Democratic Party” as an unequivocal “waste of time.” No movement that reduces the widespread cynical malaise from elections, beyond any current third party leverage, and sends a sleazy dinosaur packing refutes Hedges’ overstated “electoral farce.” Offsetting the smash mouth bloodsport that is American politics (Trump, Paul, Cruz, Clinton), any leading light who dispatches Hillary, more dangerous than Obama as a gnarled Washington denizen, deserves support.
That doesn’t deny Hedges’ more pertinent observations, “The specter of meaningless presidential elections caters” to “the idiocy” of personality soap operas, the production of media- and billionaire-run parades. That’s exactly why Sanders is gaining traction, as his gritty, anti-plutocracy, anti-inequality and anti-corruption manifesto spotlights outmoded, bipartisan idiocy. Just saying No to the “inevitable” winner awards Sanders even greater importance than Obama’s ’08 upset. That final exile dramatizes the majority judgment HC should not run (I mean, ruin) anything beyond the (indictable) family Foundation.
Further, spoiler role aside, Sanders’ role as breakthrough political educator for the uninvolved or uninformed will transform mindsets and the national debate. He will certainly renew that lost ’60’s commitment to justice for all across real-world politics and government. If the pendulum is ever to reverse, Sanders looks today to be our best engine. What more independent or forthright figure provides to the distressed a vision, if not an agenda that things can be different, if not better? What other “radical socialist” defines a populist platform that might eventually revitalize the stagnating role of third parties to push reform based on civilized goals?
Winning Isn’t Everything
In short, Sanders offers progressives the best way not to “waste time” this season. And that doesn’t depend on his winning the nomination or the White House but 1) derailing the Clinton train (and WH train wreck), 2) dramatizing the unspeakably expensive “costs” to everything and everybody to sustain income and asset inequality (the issue of this era), and 3) countering voter cynicism, on the left and right, about campaigns, elections, politics, and government. Who else comes close? What other option is there?
In this context, I anticipate historians to come will excoriate Obama not only for his rightwing agenda but setting up, then squandering for a generation chances for a New New Deal. It was Obama’s bait-and-switch hustle (powered by admittedly brilliant campaigns) that played on, then dashed reform hopes on the stultifying, status quo rocks. Sanders offers respite from this shipwreck.
Finally, that returns us to Hedges’ still tenuous optimism, “There is, however, a new, emergent consciousness. It has not reached the majority. But it has reached enough of the minority to make resistance possible.” That most visible minority now stands with Bernie, and whether we’re talking resistance or evolution or revolution remains to be seen. If successful, the Sanders’ movement can mortify HC across NY, CA, IL, OR, WA, VT, and MA, among others. There’s no evidence yet Sanders will automatically “sheepdog” Democratic voters into Clinton’s camp or the craven corporatism party leaders represent. Unintended, complex consequences still rule the day.
Bernie the Giant Slayer
“Bernie the Giant Slayer” is good enough to justify rallying armies of protest, reinforced by his humane and moral notions of justice, reviving our true national “exceptionalism.” There is nothing “idiotic” about deposing a bad queen (linked to a suspect king) so we endure no further plutocratic entrenchment. If Sanders’ earnest, self-effacing honesty can topple Hillary, shoving this Humpty-Dumpty off the wall, that glorious disruption invites more Black Swans. A bank of Black Swans could feel dispel rows of arrogant, disgraced WS bankers, even beyond the $30 billion in fines and penalties paid in the last two years. And the Koch Bros. conspiracy.
Why, Sanders could even corral Hedge’s “emergent consciousness” and turn it into something far more potent, visible and publicly decisive. And combining resistance with disobedience could all help incite the progressive movement — one that outlives Bernie Sanders, but not without gratitude for courage to confront and define, even threaten the dark forces of American politics and crony capitalism. For me it’s never “idiotic” or a waste of time to openly and repeatedly reprimand the 1% for acting as if it owns everything, like every election. Not quite yet.