Thursday, April 09, 2020

Thoughts on Bernie's withdrawal

[A significant part of what follows is drawn from some things I have written before. I brought them together to express my feelings at this moment.]

The man himself
So just three days after I wrote that Bernie Sanders should not drop out, he did. And so it goes.

Actually, what he did was pretty similar to what I was thinking I would do, having accepting the reality that the nomination was beyond reach: suspend the campaign, continue with the primaries, continue to gather delegates, and use that to exercise some power in the Platform Committee and use that in turn to move the Party and how it approaches the people.  The difference is that while I would have stopped campaigning, I just wouldn't have announced I was doing it, answering any "dropping out" questions with some version of "My intent is to continue to address the issues I have addressed all along and we'll see what happens."

The truth is, although I have long acknowledged that my political heart is more in "on the streets" action than electoral campaigns, his withdrawal still hurts. It's a sad moment, especially because there was a time not that long ago, just a touch over six weeks ago, in fact, when it seemed possible he could get the nomination. So yeah, even though I knew that was no longer in reach, a formal end to the campaign still makes me blue.

But. That just raises the question I touched on in that previous post: What now? Because let it be clear that as I said then, this is not the end. It must not be the end. As someone notable said in 1980 at the end of a different presidential campaign,
For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.
Because as he himself has said, this is not about Bernie Sanders. Even his own campaign slogan declared it: "Not me. Us." This is about, again in his phrase, political revolution.

This is about change. This is about changing the nature and the structure of political, social, and economic power in our country, in our society.

It is about racial, ethnic, gender, and sexual equality and freedom. It is about the economy, about an economy for the many, not the few, for the workers, not the bosses, banks, and billionaires. It is about education. It is about health care. It is about housing. It is about the environment and the climate. It is about peace.

It is about justice.

Justice, as I put it nearly 40 years ago, in its truest sense: economic, social, and political. It is about a justice that rejects the ascendancy of bombs over bread, of private greed over public good, of profits over people. It is about a justice that centers on the preciousness of life and will fight to maintain and even expand that preciousness. It is about a justice that affirms and embraces the right of every human being to a decent life free of hunger, fear, and oppression.

It is about, in the end, revolution.

So while his quitting the race is a real loss, especially when early on it looked truly possible, it's not about Bernie Sanders and it's also in exactly the same sense not about elections. It's not even about voting. It's about the process of change. Voting is a part of that process, which is why, in a sense, for the moment, it was about Bernie Sanders because he has been the vehicle, using electoral politics, to push for that change.

But now, at this point, how do we proceed from here? I have to tell you something: Tweets and Facebook posts and the rest are not gonna cut it. Period. Oh, they can be great for circulating ideas, for passing on information, for keeping each others' spirits up, for organizing, but they themselves will not change anything. Oh, sure, they can affect little bits here and there; they can embarrass a restaurant into changing a policy or an individual store into apologizing for something, and I'm sure someone could come up with some more significant example of a more significant effect, but change the fundamental nature of power in the US? Not a chance.

Way, way, back in the dreaded '60s, I said something along the lines of "the system can withstand any number of people just saying 'No' to that system. That won't change anything. We have to do "No," we have to act on our beliefs."

It's still true. We need to act on our beliefs. If we are going to see the kind of change we talk about, if we are going to see that political revolution, if we are going to change the nature of power in this country, we have to act. We can't just talk - have to act. And we can't just vote - we have to act. We can't even just campaign for a favored candidate, even though, yes, that is a form of action, but it is not near enough. We have to act outside of and beyond electoral politics. We have to be in public, in the streets, even filling the streets, in the jails, even filling the jails.

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 - but keep on going anyway.

I know I haven't offered any concrete proposals, proposed any specific actions, which is because I don't have any to offer. What I want to press home is, the whole point of this is to press home, that if we actually believe in this political revolution, if we actually want to see, in that wonderful Biblical phrase that Martin Luther King quoted in his I Have a Dream speech, if we want to see "justice rolling down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream," if we actually believe what we say, then now is the time, now is the moment, to look beyond the primaries, beyond the convention, beyond November, beyond political candidates, beyond voting, and ask ourselves "What now? And what then?"

Sunday, April 05, 2020

WaPo says Sanders may quit - he shouldn't

Follow me on Twitter: @LarryEr94572822

So there's a story being pushed by the Washington Post that some people around Bernie Sanders are urging him to drop out of the presidential race and that he's considering doing so if he's dealt a significant defeat in Tuesday's Wisconsin primary, one which Joe Blahden is predicted to win. This according to what the paper calls “two people with knowledge of the situation.”

Personally, I'm suspicious of the story. But before I get to that, take a moment to look at that election itself.

There are only two reasons it is taking place. One is that the GOPpers in the Wisconsin legislature are balking at cooperating on a delay or alternatives such as mail-in ballots. Y'see, they have a candidate for state Supreme Court up for election to a full term that day and they want to be sure he is firmly in place in time to support their measures to limit ballot access in the fall.

But the other is that the Democratic Party establishment in general and Bladen in particular want the in-person primary to take place without delay because they figure that a big victory will put Bernie away once and for all, the risks to public health be damned.

Which relates to why, getting back to the WaPo story, I'm suspicious: It sounds a lot like a deliberate leak, a strategic leak, intended to push Sanders into withdrawing by creating an expectation that he will.

As the article itself notes:
Advisers with stronger ties to the Democratic Party have been more vocal in urging him to contemplate a withdrawal, while independent activists have been pushing for Sanders to remain in the race.
In other words, the closer they are to the party establishment, an establishment that from the very beginning has sought to dismiss and demean the "political revolution" Sanders hoped to build, the more eager they are to see Bernie just give up. This doesn't mean they never supported his run, but it does mean that those connections to the party establishment diluted their commitment to the sort of basic changes we need.

Bernie Sanders
That desire to dismiss and demean, one which extends far beyond the inner workings of the party, was reflected on Twitter comments on the article, comments I said revealed "utter glee" at the prospect of Sanders' withdrawal, "glee that goes well beyond a natural pleasure in seeing your preferred candidate win" to a "sneering dismissal that doesn't seek unity from Sanders' supporters but craven capitulation."

Which frankly is exactly why Sanders shouldn't quit. Yes, yes, I know he isn't going to get the nomination. But his very campaign slogan tells why he should continue: "Not me. Us." The whole point is that the campaign is not about him, it's about the issues, about the proposals, about, ultimately, significantly changing the nature and structure of political, social, and economic power in our country, in our society.

And you know damn well - or you damn well should know - that if he drops out, his policy proposals, including the now-utterly-relevant Medicare for All, will instantly vanish from our political discourse, eagerly and happily disappeared by a political and media establishment that never wanted to have to deal with them in the first place. It's important for those proposals to be part of the public conversation as long as possible.

Which is why the fight must go on, right through to - assuming it can happen - the convention. Then at the convention, take the fight to the rules committee, take it to the platform committee, take it to the floor, even to having to go through the actual roll call and no, if Blahden gets a majority in that roll call, do not agree to a measure to make it unanimous.*

Let the convention, however it is worked out to conduct it, be contentious. Let it be chaotic. But let it be clear that this is not the end. Let it be clear that as he himself has said, this is not about Bernie Sanders. This is about change. This is about, again, political revolution.


Which for Sanders supporters, still leaves one question: What now? For my part, I simply cannot get excited about Joe "Nothing will fundamentally change" Blahden, as you might guess from the name I've given him. And I do have serious doubts that he can beat Tweetie-pie even apart from the wild card of COVID-19: It's unclear if that will that lead to people going "200,000 dead? 20% unemployment? Throw the bum out!" or to "Rally around the president in a time of crisis!"

For me personally, in terms of the election, my first concern is that it happens. I can't countenance the notion of Tweetie-pie announcing a "postponement" or even worse "a postponement until the crisis is over," a declaration that is ridiculously beyond his Constitutional powers but which I fear would be passively accepted by far too many unless things have significantly improved by then. Tweetie-pie already dreams of dictatorial rule and if he thought he could get away with it - and frankly I fear that he could - he would cancel the election outright.

But let's assume for the moment that that won't happen, that the election will come off as usual - "as usual," of course, including various right-wing schemes at voter suppression. I live in a safe state, safe enough that I don't even need to pay attention to the presidential race. This time around, I think the Senate is actually more important and I will be paying most of my attention (and giving any donations) to those races.

*OTOH, if Blahden fails to get a majority but does have a significant plurality, Bernie should be true to his word and withdraw at that point, as I'm sure he will if it works out that way.

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