Must every historic whistleblower speaking truth to power suffer indictment, exile, or martyrdom? Not Bernie Sanders, the era’s most prominent progressive, whose meteoric consciousness- raising challenges Hillary’s status quo, a celebrity TV violence-inciter, and looming Cruz-Rubio extremism. Whether he wins or not, Sanders’ truth-telling has already won the Democratic Party “message wars,” considerably rebranding this party’s language and convention agenda.
As a legitimate, unassailable whistleblower, Sanders the reformer stands alone on the national stage, pushing positive, systemic change for huge majorities, decency for the middle and working classes, even restoration of American co-operative, collective, democratic values. Contrast Trump’s contrary mode as the con artist committed to anti-education, to distortions that grievously dumb down fearful audiences with less schooling and less political savvy. Triggering a needed, generation-long revolution, Sanders is kickstarting a mass insurgency against the unholy conspiracy of bad government in bed with predatory capitalism.
Like Snowden and Manning, Sanders the whistleblower doggedly exposes to a large audience ugly truths that power elites want hidden away forever. Anything but a single-issue candidate, Sanders exposes multiple abuses: 1) inequality of assets, income, taxation and opportunity (economic injustice), 2) the plunder of the working and middle class via outsourcing and criminal banking, and 3) direct linkages between irresponsible industrialism (mining, drilling, energy, unsustainable manufacturing and consumption) with looming climate change. Only an independent whistleblower like Sanders would unapologetically take on the world’s most powerful, best-funded, immoral enterprise: concentrated oligarchy owning more than half of all the world’s material goods.
Sanders, Polar Opposite to Trump
What’s amazing today is while Sanders successfully rails against rigged capitalism, the perfect exemplar of greedy, low-class, insatiable crony capitalism is ransacking the rightwing party. Is this not a symbolic opposition made in heaven? Trump forever proves, despite privately hustling alleged billions, he hasn’t a clue about emotional intelligence, compassion for the oppressed, or professionally running for the presidency. For how long will a power-mad, political lightweight get away with remaking politics as a pro wrestling TV extravaganza — actively instigating more blood and violence, then laughably blaming it on someone else’s “thugs”?
What a never-before-seen contrast! In this corner, an unassuming, compassionate, visionary/realist who supports multitudes redeemed from the bottom up vs. the crudest, least qualified WH candidate ever, a selfish billionaire forever bragging how well he manipulated the system with deal-making that bypassed any public good. Moral polar opposites, their visible campaigns put the lie to any superficial, pundit comparisons between Sanders the thoughtful adult vs Trump, the farcical PT Barnum/George Wallace rerun. That’s why a Sanders-Trump face-off, like none in American history, represents the best catharsis to clear today’s diseased air.
Facing the Three-headed Hydra
Like the best whistleblowers, Sanders stands against a three-part, political Hydra: Hillary’s status quo contingent, Trump the insurrectionist resetting the “bully” into bully-pulpit, and the gang of rightwing GOP dinosaurs. And curiously enough, Sanders has the character, money, career experience and high approval numbers, let alone fact-driven arguments, to promote widespread reform against his cash-laden “competition.”
Certainly, the only change the Donald offers is how much meaner-than-thou disinformation he can get away, playing the demonic messiah for all it’s worth (ca-ching, ca-ching)? Trump’s bizarre wall folly would literally cement the status quo immigration border. Ditto, his tax breaks for the rich, deregulation, reckless chauvinism abroad, even spurring more disturbing violence against minorities. His non-existent proposals for imaginary job growth are unmatched duplicity — unless dreary, minimum wage Trump hotel work fosters decent, family-values employment.
Sanders’ consciousness raising isn’t about promising the moon but triggering a movement pledging tectonic shifts in power, values, and direction. Win or lose, Sanders has already performed this epic task, unique in modern times: broadcasting to all how sustained gross inequality threatens America, democracy, even core economic growth. His mass education, most importantly, links economic cause and real-world effect without, like Trump, reducing complexity to smithereens. That Sanders doesn’t expose classified or secret information does not make him less of a whistleblower. Not getting arrested has its virtues, especially when you’re running for office and piloting an ice breaker.
Kickstarting, the Hardest Part
Thus, Senator Sanders’ discretion immunizes him from penalty when boldly decrying overweening US surveillance and militarism. He favors the wide view, like M. L. King’s monumental triad of moral and political menaces: racism, unemployment and militarism. And though not yet the compelling anti-war peacemaker, the best message from Sanders the democratic visionary is this: what we now endure, while corrupt, is not yet hopelessly lost. That full-fledged activism — grassroots organization, small fry donations, joining the movement, talking to neighbors and voting in the primary — is not wasted energy. Such modest optimism comes with substance and conviction way surpassing Obama’s now vanished campaign rhetoric.
Like other whistleblowers, Bernie Sanders delivers no solace for the 1% — except, as Obama boasted, keeping angry pitchforks out of billionaire behinds. Finally, par for an effective, credible whistleblower, Sanders tells the truth more often than any other candidate, trusting to boring stuff like reason, history, logic and evidence.
Fortunately, the New Progressive Movement does not depend on one personality, nor one election cycle. Nor did the first Progressive revolution well into the 20th C. Nor does moral progress demand winning a premature Nobel Peace Prize, even the big WH prize this year. Movements, after all, transcend all four-year circus elections and, not being persons, come without term limits or fixed shelf life. So too with the largest corporations, with seemingly endless life spans. No one said the fiercest opponents will wither or implode, though today’s Republican fiasco party is doing its share of self-destruction.
Sanders won’t likely see the finish line, but kudos to this heroic change agent — both for the courage and vision to define today’s starting line plus inspiring the next generation to join the race and advance the agenda. That would be quite a revolutionary shift from today’s grinding gridlock.