Sunday, May 01, 2016

On Bernie Sanders' Success

Happy May Day! In past, I have used this as a chance to post musical videos and jokes about witches, communists and morris dancers, but this year, with Bernie Sanders, Socialist, running for president, and doing very well, thank you very much, I might try something more.

It seems, in the last couple weeks, that Sanders' campaign is starting to run down. He was never really going to win, I suppose - but he made a nice run of it, and has been relevant all along. The race has gotten uglier as it has gone along, but it's only May now, and there is plenty of time for the Democrats to get their act together and get on with the business of winning elections. The presidency, of course - though maybe just as important, maybe more, Senate and House races. The senate is in range - the house, probably not - but getting the Senate takes a lot of pressure off, allows a Democratic president to fill up the Supreme Court, move the country left (or at least, sane) there, generally force more stuff through. There is a lot of whining on the "left" about the horror or Hillary Clinton, neoliberal as the candidate, but I still hope that's just a fringe, dimwits looking for clicks, you know...

Because too much lamenting over Sanders' failure is not justified in the least. First - because he hardly failed. He didn't win the nomination, but it's hard to see how that was ever in the cards. But assuming he's smart enough to know that - he has succeeded brilliantly in getting his policies into the public eye. He has made Socialism respectable - made it possible to talk about socialism, socialist policies, and to call them socialist. (Even if most of them are just good liberal positions - tax the rich, help the poor, use government money to put people to work and keep the roads and trains and bridges functioning, don’t invade every country we disagree with, and pay for medical care and education for everyone.) He has gotten votes for those things - he has injected leftist ideas into the conversation - not the moronic kind of "conversation" dimwits like Walker Bragman (maybe the dumbest thing on the internet this week - which tells you how stupid some of the internet has become, if that's in question) babble about, but the actual things actual politicians actually talk about. We shall see how much of it makes it into the Democratic platform, and see how well Clinton (if she wins, which she should) sticks to them, either with some legislative support or without it, but it is there.

And this is the thing: Sanders likes to talk about revolutions, but that's just rhetoric, for all the Salon writers pretending to be confused. When he decided to run, as a Democrat, he made it clear that he is, in fact, smarter than that - revolution is for the choir; but better platforms, better down ticket candidates, more public pressure for liberal policies, that is where the action is. And for all the wailing and gnashing of teeth among the (alleged) Bernie true believers, all the Democrats in disarray nonsense being published - it's working. It's not just Bernie - in the past few years, we've seen the Occupy Wall Street movement, the election of people like Elizabeth Warren, Sharrod Brown and such, the emergence of Sanders himself as a national figure, the movement for a $15 minimum wage, along with a significant number of liberal social victories. Not much of this has made inroads as Federal law (since the Democrats lost the house in 2010 - before that, real progress was made), but it has made significant progress in states and cities. Minimum wages have gone up; tipped minimum wages have been eliminated; social policies have changed for the better in many cities, as well as Federally, thanks to the Supreme Court recognizing obvious truth. And it's important to remember that egregiously regressive laws, like North Carolina or Mississippi and so on, are, more often than not, defensive laws passed to try to hold back pressure from above and below. The Supreme court has joined the 21st century in some areas; and many cities, even in the Old Confederacy, are passing laws to raise minimum wages, to protect gay, lesbian, transgender rights - thus causing the states to try to reverse history again.

All of this makes it easy to get discouraged, I won't deny it. You look at Trump, running more or less explicitly as a fascist, certainly making white supremacy the one true issue of his campaign, and it is discouraging. Look at North Carolina (and a parade of other states) trying to stop their own cities from treating people decently, and it is easy to forget that these things come because their own cities are turning on them. But in the end, if change comes, it comes the way it always comes - by people voting for it. It's fun to talk about electing Bernie Sanders - but it's far more important to elect more liberal liberals to more offices. To take over city governments, state governments (though as always, the states are the most regressive forces in the country; you want a revolution? abolish states), get people into the house and the senate, and then you can change. And personally I think Bernie Sanders, running as he did, and succeeding as he did, has made it easier to do that - has legitimized the liberal side of Democratic politics, created an audience and a constituency for leftier politicians, policies and all the rest. Whining about how the establishment won again underestimates how much he has done to change the establishment - and underestimates by far the importance of simply voting to move the establishment.

Because when you get to the nitty gritty of it - if Democrats and liberals and progressives and socialists want to move the country (and the party) left, they do it by voting. Get 74% participations, and the Democrats will dominate government for the foreseeable future. Get that participation in every election, and it will move the Democratic party left as well. And moving the party is more important than electing one man. So - vote, people! Vote for Democrats! vote for the most liberal Democrat in the primary (if that's your thing), but for the love of god and the democracy, vote for the Democrat in the general. And if that means Hillary Clinton, well - that works for me. And anyway, the tea baggers all thing she's a communist anyway, so - who am I to doubt them?

All right. That said - may day is a day for jokes and music about commies, witches and morris dancers -and celebration of all things red. Not a good day on the soccer front, with Liverpool getting smoked - what can you do?

David Bowie singing Brecht?

Maybe Prince doing Red House with Maceo Parker (enjoy it while you can - Prince songs go fast off YouTube):

And don't forget Black Phillip, this may day!

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