"Disqualifying" change by "disqualifying" Bernie Sanders
Okay, we are coming to the end of the presidential primaries, at least the major primaries, so I will make one last comment on them. I think I've mentioned them twice and this will likely be the last.
I want to do this because I want to focus on something that has not gotten enough attention because it's not about the horserace aspects of the whole thing; it's not about who's ahead or behind or whatever.
Start by going back to the beginning of April and the fact that Hillary Clinton was widely predicted to win the Wisconsin primary. Nate Silver of 538.com said there was something like a 98% or 99% probability of a Clinton win. That turned out to be one of a string of bad predictions he's made this year: Sanders not only won, he won in a romp, winning by 13.5 percentage points.
In the wake of that primary, the Clinton campaign realized it could not ignore Bernie Sanders. It had tried to ignore him, brushing him aside, dismissing his policies, overall treating him as minor point. Now it was clear that wasn't going to work.
So the campaign developed a three-point strategy before the New York primary: "Disqualify him, defeat him, and unify the party later."
What I want to emphasize is the first part of that, a part that has mostly been ignored: "Disqualify him." For the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party establishment it represents, it's not enough to defeat Bernie Sanders, they want to "disqualify" him. It's not enough to win, they want to destroy his candidacy. They want to turn him into an irrelevancy, as someone not only shouldn't be taken seriously as a presidential candidate, but who doesn't deserve to be taken seriously as one.
Because in Sanders' calls for a "political revolution," they saw - correctly - a challenge to their control, a challenge to their power, a challenge to their privilege. And they want to crush that challenge, just as they have crushed previous such challenges.
As I noted a few weeks ago, Bernie Sanders has said far more than once that his political revolution is not about him. It's about changing the nature and the structure of political, social, and economic power in our country, in our society. It's about going outside the political establishment to bring pressure to bear to make that establishment do what it otherwise will not.
Bernie Sanders is not the source or the purpose of that revolution, but right now he is the biggest symbol of it, a political epicenter of the hope, the fight, the drive, for justice and a just society. And by crushing - "disqualifying" - his candidacy, that Democratic political establishment, that part of our economic, social, and political elite, hopes to "disqualify" the movement he represents.
Oh, but they couldn't do that openly, of course, oh no, not after Wisconsin showed that movement's potential and not when they hope to get the support of Sanders' voters in the general election and especially not when, reports have it, the DNC is drooling over the notion of getting access to Sanders' list of contributors. So instead, they whined and groused and grumped about his "tone," about how his "tone," about how "the behavior of him and his campaign," has been "destructive," about how they wouldn't debate him unless he changed his "tone," and about how, if he didn't "tone it down," well, then, in the words of some anonymous Clinton senior aide, "fuck him."
And as if you haven't figured it out already, what was wrong with his "tone" was that he was criticizing Clinton.
Which means, in turn, that officially they were quite content to have Sanders continue to campaign right to the convention - leaving to their surrogates and supporters all the sneering and screeching and sniping about how he's a loser who should, as I said a few weeks ago, just give up, concede, withdraw, kiss the ring, and on bended knee pledge fealty to all things Clinton, forgetting all this "political revolution" crap and devoting himself to upholding the status quo. But officially they are fine with it so long as he watches his "tone" - that is, if he avoids criticizing Clinton, if he allows her to skate into the nomination without further opposition, if he allows her to treat him as a cute irrelevancy and to assume that in the general election every Sanders voter is hers by right rather than something she has to earn. In other words, so long as he doesn't impact the power and position of the political establishment.
Meanwhile, the attacks on Sanders - and here's something: A lot of the faux-outrage about Sanders' "tone" has been along the lines of "He's attacking Clinton's character! These are character attacks!" But if the Sanders campaign - or any of its supporters - point out the troubling fact that 80% of the $76 million her Super-PAC has raised has come from just 20 donors, that, the Clinonistas say, is a character attack.
If the Sanders campaign refers to the reality that the so-called "Hillary Victory Fund" has acted essentially as a money-laundering scheme to get around limits on campaign contributions, it's accused of a character attack.
If the Sanders campaign notes how her campaign is openly coordinating with the so-called Correct the Record Super-PAC, coordination which is supposed to be illegal but is enabled by a flat-out underhanded, and quite possibly bogus interpretation of the law coupled with the fact that the Federal Election Commission is incapable of enforcing the law because of a paralyzing partisan divide among its members, note that and it's a character attack.
Mention that she has made millions of dollars giving speeches to big banks and Wall Street and she has not released the transcripts even as her absurd conditions for doing so have been met, and you'll get told that's a character attack.
Bull. Those aren't character attacks, those are objective facts. You want character attacks? How about when Sanders was labeled a racist because he noted that no Democratic candidate was likely to carry the South? How about when he was declared a sexist because he said "Let me finish" to Clinton during a debate after she kept interrupting him?
Want a more recent example of what actually is a character attack? Here's one:
In the May 24 edition of "The Hill," Markos Moulitsas, director of the big-time website DailyKos, called Sanders a "hypocrite" and an "old-school autocrat" for trying to win the support of superdelegates at the Democratic convention. He called the effort "a socialist coup" driven by "white privilege" - an elegant way of calling it racist - marked by "astonishing arrogance" and "lack of awareness" that was "an attempt to disenfranchise the party's voters" and suggested that Sanders was threatening to destroy the party if he doesn't get his way.
And it's not just Sanders, his supporters are getting the same treatment. Consider that last week a writer named Rebecca Bohanan essentially argued that support for Bernie Sanders is due to sexism, that his support is among straight white males and they support him because they can't stomach the idea of supporting a woman.
Her argument was summed up early in the piece when she asked "Do you personally know even one straight white man backing Clinton in this election?"
Well, actually, yeah, I do. But leave that aside because what is more important is that women supporting Sanders, people of color supporting Sanders, LGBTQ people supporting Sanders, all are rendered invisible in Rebecca Bohanan's world. Even the fact that the one clear divide between Clinton and Sanders supporters is not gender or even race but age is wished out of existence. Indeed, so desperate is she to uphold this nonsense that she even says Gloria Steinham was right when she said that young women are only supporting Sanders because - and this is a quote - "that's where the boys are."
Wait, I have to be fair: She admits that In the 2008 primaries, Clinton won white men by double digits over Obama. Oh, no, never mind; according to Bohanan, that just means those white men who supported Clinton in 2008 were racists. Apparently they were just even more racist than they were sexist. So if you support Sanders, you're either a straight white male and therefore a sexist and probably a racist or both or a young woman too immature or too stupid to recognize sexism even when it smacks you in the face. Period.
Getting back to Markos Moulitsas, in that same piece sliming Sanders he brings up the bullcrap about what happened at the Nevada convention. According to Moulitsas, Sanders' delegates "nearly rioted in anger" because they were "thwarted" in their attempts to get more delegates than they deserved. According to the conventional wisdom of the event, which he eagerly cites and parrots, those supporters rushed the stage, chairs were thrown, there was utter chaos, and Sen. Barbara Boxer said she feared for her safety - which in some reports got escalated to feared for her life. And Sanders, we were told, shrugged it all off.
What's most important here is that Moulitsas was writing days after that conventional wisdom was shown to be bullcrap. In hours of video from multiple sources, there is not a shred of evidence of what has been claimed. There was a lot of shouting and there was some name calling, but there was no violence. There were no chairs thrown. There was no rushing of the stage. And Barbara Boxer was so worried about her safety that she is seen taunting the angry people in the crowd by blowing phony kisses their way as she left. None of that, it seems, was of concern to Markos Moulitsas, apparently because it didn't serve the end of disqualifying Sanders by disqualifying his supporters.
Which brings me back to the original point: This isn't about defeating Sanders, especially not because, to hear the Clintonites say it, he has already been defeated, she's already won. And yet the very personal attacks on Sanders and his supporters continue to escalate. Which only serve to prove the point: This isn't about winning the nomination, it's about "disqualifying" Bernie Sanders, disqualifying him, disqualifying his supporters, and, behind it all, disqualifying the political revolution he has hoped to build.
That's what this is about and we must never forget it. This "revolution" we talk about is not about Bernie Sanders, it's about change. It's about peace. It's about justice. And the reaction we're seeing now from the elites is not about Bernie Sanders, it's about undermining that drive for change. So come what may, we have to keep on.
In that piece a few weeks ago I said that in fighting for this revolution, we have to be loud, noisy, disruptive, but most of all creative; we have to be impolite, rude, to power; and we have to not care what they call us because they will call us all sorts of things - and I would add now, they have already started doing it.
To which there should be only one answer: Carry it on.
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