A New Mood in America
Right out of the gate I will assert my belief that no Republican can win the presidency this year. Bernie's presence in the race has assured that. His platform, together with his integrity and authenticity, have so energized a broad swath of Americans, and have released the pent-up initiative and yearning in those people, that a new z eitgeist has emerged. One that is incompatible with current Republican thinking. Facilitated by Sanders' formal affirmation, with the status of a presidential candidate, of the long-held grievances of American working families, the mood of the country has dramatically changed over the last nine months. Changed from despair to empowerment. From frustration to now seeing a way up and forward.
Not just a Politician
Further, Sanders is not just a candidate; he is a teacher who is raising the consciousness of the American people. Through speeches, interviews and social media Sanders is giving the public the civics lesson they no longer receive in public school. Or through the erstwhile news media. The upshot is that voter turnout is strong and, as Sanders often says, when Democrats turn out to vote in large number, Democrats win.
Sanders is also an organizer, clearly an untraditional role for a political candidate. An essential and overlooked or ignored element of his campaign, Sanders' call for people to mobilize into a movement for the long haul that will, like all previous successful social movements--worker/union rights, civil rights/black liberation,Vietnam, women's liberation, gay rights, fight for $15, legalizing marijuana and more--put steady and relentless pressure on the power structure to demand and force the required changes necessary to restore our democracy and social and economic justice to the 99%. Sanders' invitation to the public to join him in an historic effort to make the US government work for all citizens reveals his abiding faith in people to take control of their own destiny.
Contrary to media misinformation that Sanders is suggesting his proposed changes will be accomplished quickly, the candidate has a realistic grasp of the difficulty and length of the required struggle. Mobilizing the public is an incredibly powerful strategy that Sanders and no one else is cultivating. It is the comeback to the pundits' naive and/or cynical assertion--"There is no way that he can achieve his agenda." It is the not-so-secret weapon that will bring Sanders victory and also vindicate his plan to re-shape the nation with the cooperation of the people it serves.
Highlighting the Differences
The Clinton campaign and the supportive establishment media strive to negate the significant differences between the two campaigns. Hillary Clinton is a deeply embedded establishment politician.whose role in this election is to maintain the status quo. Sanders' plan to rein in Wall Street as president, break up the big banks, institute a tax on investment transactions, raise income tax on the wealthy, force corporations to pay their fair share of taxes, raise the income cap for Social Security tax, and reverse Citizens United by use of his "bully pulpit" and a mobilized populace is a powerful assault on the power that corporations, Wall Street and the hyper wealthy have over the American political and economic systems. Those forces will do anything to prevent Sanders from succeeding. They have too much at stake. So, despite the fact that Sanders is not calling for an end to capitalism but simply seeks to reinvigorate and expand on FDR's New Deal, the rich and powerful will not have it. His reform agenda is what makes Bernie Sanders and his Political Revolution both dangerous and wildly popular.
Over the course of the campaign, Clinton has variously claimed a moderate, liberal and progressive political alignment. As Sanders suggested to her at the 5th Democratic Debate on February 4, 2016, one cannot simultaneously hold more than one of those positions and be credible. Whatever the reason for Clinton's "flexibility", it gives her the appearance of attempting to be all things to all people. When confronted by Sanders' criticism of her apparent ideological instability, Clinton countered with "...I understand Senator Sanders really trying to distinguish himself... but at the same time let's not be making an attack about where I stand and about where I have always stood. It is fair to say, Senator, that in your definition, as you being the self-proclaimed gatekeeper for progressivism, I don't know anyone else who fits that definition...." I read that response as a dodge of the criticism, at the same time dancing around it while charging that Sanders has a private definition of progressivism that no one else shares, which then entitles Clinton to have her own.
Sanders' calls for significant reforms to our political and economic systems are met by Clinton with derision and skepticism. His plans are impractical, unattainable pie in the sky, says she. Curious, because it is common knowledge that when you are demanding something from power, negotiating from a one-down position, one always asks for more than one expects to receive, knowing that what you will actually get will still be an acceptable base for future negotiations. Sanders' bold demands are one of the things that marks him as a progressive. At the same time, Clinton's cautious, go slow, "practical" approach reveals, along with other positions, the liberalism in her. The labels do have meaning. She is no progressive.
Clinton's desire to leave Wall Street essentially as it is, not to reinstate Glass-Steagall, not to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour, not to seek free public university education for youth, not to seek universal health care and especially her embrace of the Obama administration, indicates that she intends to continue the present political and economic systems, hence extending the same grim conditions that working families endured for the last 40 years. As president, Clinton may tweak things around the edges to throw a bone to some constituencies, but she will do nothing bold that would markedly benefit the 99%.
Herein lies the essence of the epic battle I refer to. On the one hand, Sanders, who has no love for Wall Street or multinational corporations, seeks to significantly overhaul the institutions that determine the quality of life for ordinary Americans in such a way that would enable the restoration of the middle class, lift millions out of poverty, give everyone quality health coverage, rebuild American from its infrastructure up and restore our nation to one that makes things of use and value again, rather than just making money for the 1%.
On the other hand, Hillary Clinton, who has the financial backing of the very Wall Street and corporate CEOs that Bernie holds responsible for our dire straits, would simply be another in a line of presidents who have been little more than caretakers of the country on behalf of the monied elite. Under a Clinton presidency these oligarchs would continue to tighten their grip on the economy, sucking up whatever remaining wealth there is to be had because nothing would be done to prevent them.
Power to the People
Sanders has praised Barack Obama for his great success in mobilizing masses of people to put him in office in 2008. He went on to say that it was a grave error for Obama, once in office, to allow that organized force to disband while he took the helm from there. In Sanders' view, Obama should have put that force of people power to work supporting his policies. Bernie will not make that same mistake if elected. The key to the success of his agenda should he achieve the White House will lie in his ability to sustain the political revolution that he instigated.