In a highly popular, two-part OpEdNews article (see here and here), I argued that the real path forward for political revolution is to correctly identify progressives’ real political enemies – neoliberals of both parties – and form a movement hunting them to political extinction.
Luckily, there was no need to launch our new progressive movement from scratch. The Bernie or Bust movement, which Victor Tiffany and I co-founded, has name recognition, having drawn the (not necessarily favorable) attention of celebrities like Bill Maher, Paul Krugman, Susan Sarandon, and Lee Camp. What’s more, Progressive or Bust can build on a network of contacts (over 100,000 Bernie or Bust pledge-takers and countless more sympathizers) most young movements would sacrifice limbs for.
But above all, Progressive or Bust has the political logic – the same stance on political revolution – that garnered such passionate support for Bernie or Bust. Once BoB supporters grasp how consistently and rigorously we apply the political logic of Bernie or Bust, they’re likely to view Progressive or Bust as their beloved movement’s rightful successor. The last thing we wish is for them to view our use of “Progressive or Bust” as a conscious link to the former movement as a sacrilege. That BoB co-founders Victor Tiffany and I are firm supporters of Progressive or Bust (even if Victor’s personal circumstances now limit his active involvement) should assure “Busters” that Progressive or Bust is the real deal.
We’ve compromised on nothing; we’ve simply generalized our strategy from Bernie vs. Hillary to progressives vs. neoliberals – the same neoliberals who brought themselves out of the political closest by knifing Bernie. We refuse to let them crawl back in: by hammering the message that we, and not they, are the only movement principled enough to form the legitimate resistance to Trump. A certainly revolutionary named Jesus memorably argued that you can’t cast out demons by invoking Beelzebub; neoliberal Democrats are simply possessed by too many of the same demons as Trump Republicans – political money, and corporate and Deep State agendas – to offer anything but token resistance to the orange-skinned monster. As progressives who define “progressive” in its historically correct way – as staunch opposition to corrupting money, plutocratic agendas, and sinister entrenched bureaucrats – we have the needed political purity to “fight the good fight.”
In building on Bernie or Bust’s solid foundations, we feel we are, in Sir Isaac Newton’s iconic phrase, “standing on the shoulders of giants.” But we have an additional advantage – a potential strong appeal to third-party leftists and political independents who, utterly repudiating Democrats, had seen nothing “colossal” in our strategic support for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Well, we feel that in crushing Bernie’s candidacy, the Democratic Party exposed its true neoliberal character and, with no Democrat Bernie to strategically support, we can reveal ourselves from the get-go as a transpartisan movement deeply skeptical of all inside attempts to reform such a starkly neoliberal party.
With all the advantages our Bernie or Bust roots give us – plus the additional “trump card” of an open skepticism toward Democrats far more attractive to the harder left – we feel fully justified in describing the Progressive or Bust movement as “Bernie or Bust on steroids.” That phrase is blazoned in our Facebook group’s self-description; expect to hear it frequently as we promote our new movement.
Our revolutionary take on Trump’s “swamp metaphor”
Now, given the overwhelming, toxic grip of corporatist neoliberals on U.S. politics, any movement describing its mission as “hunting neoliberals to political extinction” is obviously a movement of vast and vaulting ambition. Well, Progressive or Bust simply responds, “Guilty as charged,” only adding in our defense that the mammoth scope of our ambitions is perfectly suited to what are, in reality, these apocalyptic times. While it’s likely a myth that Mandarin Chinese speakers and writers express “crisis” by combining the symbols for “danger” and “opportunity” (see here and here, for example), it’s not a myth if we forgot the superficial popular meaning of “myth” as an outright lie and embrace the deeper literary and psychological sense in which a myth is a story that, while not literally true, conveys important human truth. Whatever the linguistic verdict of Mandarin experts, the reign of Trump is certainly a crisis that bears seeds of almost unprecedented danger and opportunity.
For sure, independent journalist Caitlin Johnstone has rightly pointed how panic fear of Trump is daily exploited by establishment Democrats, with Trump’s most insubstantial recent Tweet cited as occasion for mass hysteria. Being so naturally on Johnstone’s page (she was a huge Bernie or Bust fan), I feel uniquely qualified to elaborate on the establishment – a.k.a. neoliberal – Democrat agenda underpinning this deliberate incitement of mass anti-Trump hysteria. As Johnstone insightfully stresses, the effect of mass hysteria, as opposed to healthy fear, is to shut down reason and induce paralysis; in Johnstone’s own words, “It makes us stupid, irrational and forgetful, which are also the first three adjectives I’d use to describe the current state of the political left in its response to Donald J. Trump.”
Now, it should be obvious to Johnstone’s fans, and to Bernie or Bust fans too, that what she stigmatizes here as “the political left” has nothing to do with our real political left. And likewise, that their frenzied “chicken with its head cut off” reaction to Trump has nothing to do with our sober assessment that we’re now living in apocalyptic times – times of unprecedented danger and opportunity. Rather, Johnstone is referring to the liberal noise machine that passes for the political left in corporate-controlled mainstream media, the same liberal noise machine that provides constant propaganda cover for the neoliberal policies of supposedly “liberal” Democrat politicians. (See my own scathing analysis in the “Scratch a Liberal, Find a Neoliberal” section of the OpEdNews essay earlier cited.)
It’s actually quite easy to grasp the motives neoliberal Democrat politicians have for inducing rationality-killing, paralysis-inducing hysteria in blind, tribally loyal rank-and-file Democrats: as beneficiaries of a lethal status quo, they, in fact, want nothing analyzed and nothing changed. No one does a better job than Johnstone of arguing a point numerous real leftists, myself included, have made: that there’s nothing centrist about “centrist” Democrats, whose sole interest lies in perpetuating a form of normalized extremism. An extremism whereby the voting public, like the proverbial boiled frog, slowly, insidiously grows accustomed to abnormally extreme temperatures that spell its own death. For those who grasp the reality of climate science – and the phony climate response of neoliberal Democrats – the boiled-frog metaphor couldn’t possibly have greater point.
Our boiled-frog image brings us back, appropriately enough, to Progressive or Bust’s revolutionary twist on Trump’s dismally trite metaphor of “draining the political swamp.” As Naomi Klein forcefully argued in This Changes Everything, the last thing we need now is incremental tinkering with an extremist, anti-climate status quo. Rather, we need a political revolution against a toxic form of global neoliberal capitalism – practiced by both major U.S. parties – that’s diametrically opposed to the vastly more peaceful, democratic, egalitarian, and climate-conscious policies needed to stave off climate Armageddon. The required revolution will much more closely resemble evolving from a swamp – as a new, dramatically improved human species – than it will merely draining it.
One crucial feature of progressives who evolve from that swamp will be our astonishing transformation from spineless liberal invertebrates to upright progressives with spines. Both toxic neoliberals and their spineless liberal abettors approach Trump with mere opportunism, simply seeking to restore their own regressive way of living in the swamp. Real progressives, by contrast, view his blatant misrule as a unique historic opportunity: we can rapidly evolve into a dramatically improved species by principled resistance to Trump.
If you believe real progressives hold the keys to both staving off climate apocalypse and creating a new, improved breed of humanity – evolved beyond the swamp and possessing robust political spines – come join Progressive or Bust.