The 2016 Democratic presidential race is not a normal one, and should not be treated as such. Any election pitting Bernie Sanders against Hillary Clinton is a watershed one, and as a progressive whose heart leaped up on learning of Bernie's forthcoming announcement, I wanted to share my passionate perceptions of what's at stake. Not because my personal feelings and perceptions are especially important, but because I sense sharing a common grasp of events--a common optic--with an important bloc of progressive voters, one more keenly attuned to current realities than most others. And one the Democratic Party ignores at its extreme peril.
Senator Sanders will run for President--like Rolaids for progressives.
(Image by John Pemble) Permission Details DMCA
So, my words here are written with the conscious aim of finding that bloc of voters, in a sense creating it by getting its latent members, who tacitly share so much common ground, to acknowledge themselves as part of a voting bloc--indeed, of a latent political movement. For that latent movement's biggest enemies--to its left and to its right--are those who shrug off the 2016 race and Bernie's watershed candidacy as "business as usual." Like the "inevitable" mass genocide of climate change, the 2016 presidential race need be "business as usual" only if we passively accept it as such. To stave off that miasmic self-fulfilling prophecy, progressives who share the sentiments about Sanders and Clinton invoked in this article's title need only self-identify as a voting bloc and organize on that basis.
These are not normal times, and everything I write here is premised on the stark abnormality of our era. Indeed, "stark raving abnormality" would have been better wording, for there's a genuine madness about a political era in which the seriously abnormal--in the sense of dysfunctional or diseased--is blandly accepted as the norm. And in which Democrats using Orwellian language--on Facebook pages where their own aims should be anathema--can blithely castigate defenders of the pages' own express aims as "trolls."
Such, for example, is my recent experience on an Occupy page--not in any obvious way a false-flag one--where I was branded a troll for my biting criticisms of Obama over TPP. As if Occupy's formation had not been strongly catalyzed by disgust at Obama's bank bailouts sans reform, and as if the Trans-Pacific Partnership were not the exact sort of malign, corporate-bonanza coup against "the 99%" Occupy was organized to fight. And as if, worst of all, Obama's executive-branch DHS and FBI had not played a central role in the fusion centers used to crush Occupy, almost surely with his knowledge and consent, and quite plausibly at his direction. Notoriously unfocused and all-embracing as Occupy is, no fighting political movement can tolerate such infiltrating trolls (or off-the-charts cases of Stockholm syndrome!) and expect to survive. Yet the establishment Democrat troll in question scarcely batted an eyelash in branding me the same.
I digress, but do so for sake of a crucial aim. See, knowing the progressive voter bloc I court to be active in social media, I suspect I relate an all-too-common experience. Indeed, such Orwellian distortion is no isolated personal Facebook incident at all, but the absurdist nature of today's establishment or "centrist" Democrats--the sort represented by Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee--writ large. For, as Orwell noted, where planned policy is rationally indefensible, representing merely the aims of the powerful (and in our case their power is due to money), the language used to defend it must become correspondingly distorted and absurd. Hence, the mere candidacy of Hillary Clinton must be one long exercise in absurdity, since it's hard to imagine more irrational policy than electing a president committed to taking $2.5 billion in campaign donations when, by popular and scholarly consensus, Big Money's influence on policy is deemed to be the root of our political evils.
And inevitably, critics of such absurd Democratic policy (and its twisted, indefensible linguistic rationale), must be subject to censorship and caustic verbal abuse, since the full-dress fascist solutions of imprisonment, exile, or execution would destroy the legitimacy of a purported progressive party and are, in any case, not yet generally available. Hence, citing Facebook again, progressives' frequent experience of being banned as "too liberal for liberal pages" (liberal, as opposed to progressive, being the term more frequently associated with Democrats who've given up fighting economic inequality). Or, to cite a Hillary-specific case--in terms precisely mirroring Adolph Reed's case (just linked to) of liberals sacrificing economic to identity politics--there's the draconian censorship of HRC Super Volunteers, Hillary's self-appointed language Stasi, who seek to ban the most common, anodyne (and generally true) criticisms of Clinton as "sexist." (Deeply offended by Super Volunteers' attempted gag order, I couldn't resist a very un-PC belly laugh at a conservative's malicious send-up of Hillary as "Ovary;" don't language-Stasi identity liberals know they invite such malice?) Or lastly--in a case that out-Orwells Orwell--there's Barack Obama's nasty pooh-poohing of progressives opposing TPP as Sarah Palin airheads fretting over "death panels," when he well knows that beyond such progressive political stalwarts as Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Sherrod Brown, opponents include such intellectual heavy hitters as Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, Robert Reich, William Black, Ralph Nader, Chris Hedges, and Naomi Klein.
The shamelessness of "centrist" Democrats
Into this mephitic, nauseating morass of Orwellian language defending vile Democratic policy--one's reminded of Big Daddy's speech from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof about the "powerful and obnoxious odor of mendacity"--walks independent, blunt-spoken outsider Bernie Sanders. Who, miracle of miracles, will actually run as a Democrat. Unfunded by Big Money, and therefore free of the stifling, obnoxious constraints on speech and behavior such money brings. Not running as a hapless third-party candidate, excluded from nationally televised debates, but as a high-visibility candidate in a major "duopoly" party capable of winning national elections. For progressives who feel, like veteran Democratic operative Bill Curry that the Democratic Party has lost its soul, Bernie's candidacy seems the creation of a fresh party life, where an actual, uncorrupted soul is created afresh with that life. Not paradise itself--the obstacles to Bernie winning are humungous--but a culminating event in a surging wave of populism that has included Occupy Wall Street, Fight for 15, the Black Lives Matter protests, and the rise of Democrats' "Warren wing." As many progressives are already saying, "At last, a candidate who represents us!"
Many progressives are, in short, feeling deeply passionate about a Sanders candidacy, sensing a hope we've long been denied--and Democrats had better take notice. See, such a breath of fresh air is Bernie, such a stark contrast to the "odor of mendacity" reeking from the party's Obamas and Clintons, that even a Bernie loss to Hillary is unlikely to be "business as usual." My own sense is that for progressives, voting for Hillary in the general election after supporting Bernie in the primaries won't feel like "holding your nose and voting for Hillary," but rather like "choking back your vomit and voting for Hillary"--or even "gouging out your eye and voting for Hillary," given the sheer amount of dubious policy history and oligarch-donor baggage we'll be forced to overlook. Especially with Bernie as contrast.
Consequently, Democrats should expect that a Sanders loss to Clinton will not entail "business as usual" lesser-evil voting. Already, many progressives are pledged never to vote for Clinton under any circumstances. For me, living in a red state (Georgia) that Clinton can't conceivably win, I'll have zero qualms of conscience about keeping that pledge; given the sheer, evil craziness of today's Republicans--which "centrist," corporatist, warmongering Democrats sleazily use as cover--I waffle over whether progressives in swing states should be held to that pledge. But I'd recommend that progressives in red states vote for Jill Stein in the likely event Hillary's nominated; progressives have everything to gain--in this era of burgeoning populism--by registering our disgust with Hillary Clinton.
So, in conclusion, I hope progressives who feel as I do--passionately excited by Bernie's candidacy, and ready to vomit at the thought of Clinton as president--will unite and self-identify as a voting bloc. I strongly suspect participants in Pitchforks Against Plutocracy, a burgeoning electoral movement I co-founded, will respond to this appeal; nonparticipants who share that feeling might wish to join. But in any case, joining a group with similar aims is a very smart idea; many decent ones exist. For only by recognizing ourselves as a voting bloc and strategizing together will pro-Bernie, anti-Hillary progressives obtain something genuinely new from his unprecedented candidacy and stave off the deadly, planet-destroying miasma of "business as usual."