With the announcement this Thursday by Sen. Bernie Sanders that he will seek the office of President of the United States, there was a good deal of relief and hope injected into the hearts and minds of progressives everywhere. The simple fact that the media will be forced to report on his campaign and (at least to some extent) share his views with the rest of the country, on how the government should be serving the interests of the common men and women of this land, rather than the narrow interests of the rich and powerful, is indeed cause to celebrate. Throw into the mix a meaningful (even if not realistic, though who really knows...) challenge to the establishment forerunner, and the clouds of doom and gloom make way for a glimmer of light.
Nonetheless, the prevailing wisdom is saying that the most progressives can really hope for is for Sen. Sanders to force Hillary Clinton to embrace more progressive policy positions during the campaign. But, as has also already been pointed out, politicians are willing to say virtually anything during a campaign, and don't feel overly obliged to follow through once elected (click here
for a study of this phenomenon with regards to environmental policy). And HRC hasn't given any indication that she would be very different. Between corporate campaign donations and the presence of about 12,000 full-time registered lobbyists, having spent $3.25 billion in 2014 on their pet projects, it would seem even the most promising candidates tend to wither on the vine once faced with politics' harshest realities. After all, the elected representatives are often the only ones in Washington representing their constituents, and I imagine that can get awfully lonely...
But, let's think positive and assume that Sen. Sanders beats the odds and is washed into the Oval Office on a tsunami of grass roots support. Okay, great! We're in!!! And now Washington is in our... pocket? Well, the Republican House & Senate may very well still be there, and it's probably safe to assume that the lobbyists will be, too. And the media will probably open up a bit to all of that left-wing stuff since, after all, he got in, didn't he? But I bet it's also safe to assume that their sympathies (being essentially corporations themselves), will be rather limited. Any attempts at real, meaningful change, which would affect their own bottom line (i.e corporations' bottom lines) will be marginalized, distorted and be given the same treatment as before. The last I heard, more money is actually spent by the media on lobbying than any other single industry group, including insurance, energy or pharmaceuticals.
While this is fairly depressing for a "best case scenario", I think it's also fairly realistic. As the saying goes. "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised."
But it is also unacceptable. If this country continues on it's current course, it will be utterly (let's not mince words here...) destroyed and bring down much of the rest of the planet with it. But, I do believe there is one chance, at least this time around, and it is as follows: The support for Sen. Sanders would have to be at such a pitch, and so organized and so effective, that not only would he unmask the sham campaigns of his opponents, it would need to fundamentally change the very nature of political discourse in this country. By that, I mean- what is obvious to progressives would have to become, by general consensus "The New Standard", "The New Norm", "The New Age". A mere "mandate" wouldn't cut it. It would have to be so obvious to just about everyone, the media couldn't spin, ignore or distort it. Otherwise, how would anything have truly changed?
At the moment, this might seem like magical thinking, and it may very well be. But, statistically the numbers are with us. Despite all the talk about political polarities and "gridlock", most Americans (by significant margins), support an increased minimum wage, environmental protections, renewing the middle class, access to decent education and health care, reining in corporate power and all the rest. (I'm no scholar of Scandinavian socialism, but something happened over there...)
So, the big question is: could such a sea change actually occur, and if so how (and perhaps why) would it come it about, this election cycle?
As I said at the outset, this scenario is clearly a long shot (a very long shot.) And, quite frankly, personally I don't see it happening. But is there any other kind of scenario that anyone can envision which would allow for real, meaningful change this time around?
(Article changed on May 4, 2015 at 13:16)
Former small business owner now retired.