I sat on a 5 hour bus ride from Richmond, VA to Philadelphia, to stand in a 5 hour line to attend a Bernie Sander’ rally at Temple University. It was cold, I was tired, my muscles were sore – but if you asked me would I go again tomorrow, with all I know of Sanders’ chances: “Yes!”. A thousand times so. The carpers whining for Bernie to leave the race are getting a bit ridiculous. “Why is he in the race!?” “He doesn’t stand a chance.” And my personal favorite. “He’s hurting Hillary by repeating her record to people.” I’ll answer them. First, mathematically he does still have a chance. Granted, it’s a difficult climb, but the delegate lead is not insurmountable. Second, Bernie is powered by the American public – literally. We get a voice; and for as long as Bernie Sanders can represent that voice to attain the presidency, he has a mandate from millions of people to try.
I am one of those people. I sat in the stadium at the rally, and felt a pure ideological resonance with over ten thousand other people that bordered on spiritual. As Bernie Sanders spoke, the things that tumbled from his lips rang collectively true in a profoundly obvious, and more consequentially, often moral way. The rally was a hair less consciously immense than seeing the Pope give a sermon at the Vatican. I saw the phrase somewhere, “We choose love. We choose Bernie Sanders”. It’s apt; that is the experience.
Senator Sanders campaign transcends politics to the level of glimpsing humanity, and formalizing our responsibility to one another. His goal is to win the presidency of course, but there are two other objectives. One, change the Overton window of national dialogue on a range of policy positions involving: money, taxation, health care, education, environment, gross militarism, and poverty. Two, and more importantly, he sought to forcibly re-ensoul the Democratic Party; imbuing it’s existence with certain responsibilities. Authentically taking action on universal heath care, public colleges, a green energy revolution, scraping these disastrous trade deals, publicly fund elections, etc.
His momentum is powered by the angst at the priorities of the current Democratic Party, and the hopes of not just the Democratic base and independents; but also previously apolitical people. He’s pulled them into the political process in droves. With the wind at our backs, the public primed for a change across the political spectrum, and every poll out there showing Hillary Clinton as the most flawed, distrusted, and disliked candidate under Federal Criminal Investigation the Democratic Party has ever supported for the general election; the Democratic Establishment has slanted this race to choose Hillary Clinton to wield Dumbledore’s Elder Wand to slaw the beast in November. . . . .No.
I get the cynical political calculation. The Democratic Party realizes that over 90% of seats in congressional races go to the side with the most money. Also, Hillary wants 2 billion dollars for the upcoming election. In order to get all of that money, they need to move to the right on positions that will make them favorable to corporate interest and the very wealthy. They’ll still couch their language in ‘progressive rhetoric’ with some touchstone relevancy to reality, but the effective agenda is what 40 years ago would’ve been considered a Republican.
It’s phone booth progressivism. The Democratic candidate can only step as far as the public interest does not supersede donor interest. Culture war issues are fair game, but genuinely stepping out of the phone booth is something other than “incrementalism” and is impossible … we’re told anyway. At the exact same time the party realizes that a substantial part of the base votes Democrat obligatorily. Not because who they’re running authentically has an agenda, but largely because of who they’re not. Essentially, “the other guy’s worst. You got my vote.” That is a dysfunctional relationship that should’ve ended the moment the Clinton administration sold the soul of the Democratic Party to their wealthy donors.
The repeated short term prevent defense Progressives have played has dragged the country to the right for 30 years. Senator Sanders is the line in the sand. If any chance exist for him to win the nomination, he has a mandate by America to try. If with sword in hand, he falls; Progressives need to invest their energies into strengthening the Green Party to help establish it as a viable 3rd party option. Simultaneously, we must be willing to reject a democratic candidate if they’re record and policies are unacceptable. Votes are not perfunctory. They are will and intention politically manifest, and were never meant to be so casually given away.