In spite of where we are now, we still retain one great power: the power of the vote. Yes, this power is being attacked and undermined as we speak, with Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United and a plethora of anti-democratic voting restrictions being instituted by the oligarchy’s Tea Party foot soldiers in state legislatures across the country. But for now we still retain that power, which, at least in theory, can change our destinies.
Enter Bernie Sanders. The self-described Social Democrat (or “Democratic Socialist”) has ‘berned’ through the 2016 presidential primaries with a highly focused message to the country: Wall Street is running the show. Government will continue working for the 1% — and will continue ignoring the rest of us — until we fundamentally change the system.
It’s the right message, and though I would not have believed it six months ago, I now feel it may be the right time, or close to it. The idea of a 74-year-old socialist, a secular Jew, a political outsider, an atheist whose only child was born out of wedlock, who honeymooned in Russia, who has praised Castro’s Cuba – the idea that this man could beat an establishment Republican in a general election heavily financed by the Koch machine? That’s a crazy idea.
But look over there! All of a sudden the GOP is imploding, rocked by a slow-motion civil war with its Tea Party wing and devolving at this moment into a chaotic brawl between the racist supporters of runaway front runner Donald Trump, who is channeling proto-fascist populism a la Vladimir Putin, and the party establishment. It appears very likely that the GOP will not have a “safe” candidate to run. They will have instead a racist, xenophobic, amoral blowhard fascist at the top of the ticket.
So the question now becomes a legitimate one: Can we actually transform this hijacked society into a social democracy? Can we quit shooting ourselves in the foot – quit starting oil wars for Wall Street, quit propping up oil-and-blood-soaked dictatorships, quit disparaging our own government as if it were our enemy, quit scaring everyone with exaggerated threats of “Islamist Terror” by Syrian war refugees, quit denigrating these same refugees for fleeing from real terror, quit the “unlimited guns and ammo for everyone” 2nd amendment fetishism, quit meddling in women’s private health care issues, quit bashing and hobbling the unions that built the middle class the oligarchy is trying to destroy, quit pretending taxation is evil and that opposing taxation is a legitimate reason to stick it to the poor and the elderly, quit gunning down unarmed African-American citizens in the streets with impunity – can we really quit all that nonsense and start to move forward?
Can we really be more like the smart countries?
It seems too good to be true. But because of this moment — the sheer unlikely madness of this moment — Bernie has crashed the national conversation and Social Democracy has entered the exciting realm of the possible. One is tempted to think that perhaps this moment is pre-ordained, as if the GOP’s distracting crisis were some kind of divine “opening” of the system’s seemingly monolithic barriers to fairness and equality, an opening that would allow us to infuse humanity and dignity into the political process and, like grown-ups, put an end to the endless era of so-called “partisan gridlock” (AKA planned government malfeasance engineered by the plutocrats who want it that way).
People are excited about this! – And especially about the Messenger, Bernie Sanders.
But we don’t need a “revolution” — whatever that means — we just need to get out, and vote, and win, for the principles that already bind us, for the values we obviously share and have for decades. This has nothing to do with the Democratic Party, and everything to do with government of the people, by the people, for the people – which truly is in peril of perishing from the earth.
Bernie alone cannot do it — as he says over and over, it’s not about him. It’s about us. Hopefully, a sizeable number of the young ‘Berners’ transform into political activists, willing to not only post memes on Facebook but to vote, then to stand up and fight for a government that truly works for the people, and to keep fighting when the oligarchs hit back with the usual scare tactics, patriarchal bluster, and anti-citizen legal maneuvers.
And by that I mean if Bernie does not win this primary — and it appears that he will not due to the vestiges of party influence and cold delegate math — giving up is not the way to go. To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld: our entrenched, co-opted political establishment is like a Coke machine — you don’t just walk up and tip it over, you’ve gotta rock that thing back and forth a few times.
If it’s Hillary, vote for Hillary. I don’t care how you feel about her, there is no way you will convince me that Trump is the preferable choice. No way in Hell. Do not even try. And definitely don’t tell me that if it can’t be Bernie, we need to elect Trump in order to create the “crisis” that will usher in the “revolution” – that’s Leninist bullshit. It didn’t work for social democrats in post-Weimar Germany, and it won’t work here. A sour grapes “none of the above” in November is also as good as a vote for President Trump. You know this. Let the Republicans stay home and nurse their embarrassment. Liberals need to get out there. A President Hillary can have coattails – a friendly Senate — with your help. She will choose at least one (and probably several) Supreme Court Justices. So if it goes that way hold your ego in check and help her out — help her help us continue down a progressive path rather than the path of cynical fascism and national ruin. We can get there eventually, but not if the president destroys the nation first.
Stick with your principles. Don’t give in to despair or jaded indifference or, worst of all, defeat. Use your vote, and your voice to tell your story, and keep telling it – why you object to the dismantling of your democratic government, the co-opting of politicians by the corporate oligarchy, why you deserve a voice and a share in the great promise of the American economy, why you will no longer stand for a government in the service of corporations rather than its own citizens.
You will be able to say it under Hillary, by the way, to hold her feet to the fire. You will be ignored, and will very likely land on an enemies list, or perhaps leave with a few bruises, or perhaps worse, saying that to a president Trump.
All of it needs to happen, and to be sustained by your millions of advertising-immune votes competing with billions of dollars in advertisements. We must wrest this nation away from those who seek only, as the GOP’s dictatorial “tax activist” Grover Norquist puts it, to shrink the federal government until it’s small enough and weak enough to “drown in the bathtub.”