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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 2/11/20

What Bernie Sanders Taught Us About the Essence of Spiritual Leadership This Week

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Sen. Bernie Sanders Captures Enthusiasm, Electricity Of NH | Morning Joe | MSNBC The panel discusses Sen. Sanders' rally Monday evening in Durham, NH and how he's currently the man of the moment in the Democratic field. Aired on ...
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The Iowa debacle stirred my worst political emotions. I can't really blame myself, because the sight of intentional chaos (what exactly was the point of releasing the images of the "abandoned" Iowa Democratic Party offices containing derelict boxes of ballots?) triggered memories of the 2000, 2004, and 2016 election fiascos. Sanders supporters had expected the DNC to attempt its savage trickery at a later date, perhaps at the convention if he didn't manage to acquire a majority of delegates, but the hit came right at the start, too early for me and my friends, and I suspect the bulk of Sanders supporters must have been emotionally unprepared for it. It looked like we had been cheated out of a clean strike right out of the gates, because for Sanders to have won both Iowa and New Hampshire would have effectively made him the nominee, and later contests, specifically on Super Tuesday, might well have become afterthoughts. No more hopes for an establishment savior like Michael Bloomberg, no more resuscitation for Warren, Biden, or Buttigieg. On Monday night we were all ready to celebrate, after five years of hard work and dedication. So the blow was real, and it hurt, and it was brutal.

The psychological warfare which culminated this week was being set up for at least a month, yet it was effective because it still represented a surprise in the way that the vote counting was brazenly interrupted (sub-Third World style, as I told friends). All month long liberal opinion-makers had been questioning the veracity and legitimacy of the Iowa caucuses (an idiosyncratic and unpredictable process I actually admire), the liberal establishment had been in full-scale meltdown at the imminence of a Sanders coronation, and finally the customary Des Moines Register poll on the eve of the caucuses was canceled. As soon as the vote counting stopped ominously on Monday evening, we knew something was up. Pete Buttigieg confidently declared victory without any official results being known, and very soon news came out about his personal and financial connections to the designers of the faulty app responsible for reporting precinct results to Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) headquarters. We understood that "quality control" (talk about psychological warfare!) meant selectively releasing partial results showing Buttigieg ahead when the near-final tally eventually showed Sanders with a lead in both first and second alignment votes, and parity in State Delegate Equivalents (SDEs),though even this seems rife with miscalculation.

It is to the credit of the Sanders campaign, after experiencing similar shenanigans by way of Hillary Clinton's managers in 2016, to have insisted on recording the raw vote counts at the first and second stages, and to have ensured that campaign representatives took pictures of the vote tallies at the different precincts. Otherwise, the outcome could have been even worse, and the Iowa caucuses would have been effectively nullified, as if the election had never taken place, which is what the DNC and the IDP very much seemed to want.

So the loss this week was considerable and undeniable. A decisive knockout blowa Sanders victory speech on Monday night would have made a big difference for New Hampshire momentumin the first two states would have ended the other candidacies, and the focus would soon have have shifted toward consolidation and expansion for the general election. The positive spin, which all week I've found myself both falling for and resisting, is that Biden's candidacy effectively ended in Iowa, Warren's third-place finish behind Buttigieg only confirmed her long-term problems in this cycle, Buttigieg is not designed to last beyond a short-term boost, and Michael Bloomberg a frequent Republican, and the best Hillary Clinton surrogate the party establishment was able to pick out at a late date cannot possibly be the Democratic nominee.

So we can view the egregious thievery at the Iowa caucuses, rather than later in Nevada or in California on Super Tuesday or at the convention as a sign of establishment recognition that the game was already lost and nothing was to be gained by waiting beyond Iowa. They played a full-spectrum game, trying to cause the maximum disorientation and despair, all throughout this week, as they tried to negate the meaning of the Iowa caucuses and to reset the table for New Hampshire, offering a second chance to failed candidacies.

Meanwhile, as this was playing out, millions of Sanders followers, like me, wondered what to do. My own abject personal anguish fell in the distinct minority, from what I can tell, whereas most others felt encouraged enough to double down and work even harder to ensure a New Hampshire victory volunteering more hours, donating more money, making more calls, doing everything possible to enhance the margin of victory.

But what about the DNC, the enemy within? What would they try to pull next, and where? Should we go back to the 2016 primaries and identify the weak spots in voting integrity that still remained in the 2020 cycle? What about manual backups where electronic voting was susceptible? Should there be legal action, and of what kind? Should Tom Perez be forced to resign? How hard should the DNC be pressed? How much resources and energy should be spent on Iowa, already a fait accompli, as opposed to looking to the future? If we moved on too quickly, would a second or third blow, of a parallel but different nature, lay waste to five years of organization and preparation?

These were and are difficult questions to answer, but as for myself I was helped by coming to a greater awareness of three things about the nature of the Sanders movement that hadn't been as clear to me before.

1) The Sanders movement is based on truth, which is its greatest strength.

At every stage in its progress the movement has shown a consistent antipathy to falsehood, which in today's media environment seems to self-destruct, and very quickly. In this sense, I needn't have worried too much (although the pessimist in me still wants to), because given enough time between the chicanery in Iowa and the primary in New Hampshire (a couple of weeks would have been ideal, but a week should probably be enough), the truth about the nature of the injustice will have become self-evident, and the assorted culprits will pay the price. I find it invigorating that it's ordinary people, empowered by normal conversations and interactions, who are taking the lead in distinguishing between truth and falsehood.

I don't want to shift the discussion to the spectacular deceit at the foundation of impeachment (and before that FaceBook, Russiagate and the Mueller investigation), but if you wonder why the party establishment followed such an audacious scenario of cheating, stopping the vote counting and refusing to accept personal and phone call reporting from precinct captains when the app was misreporting, not to mention the obvious financial connection between Buttigieg and shadowy Clinton operatives responsible for election security and the development of the app itself, part of the reason is that the falsehood needs to be outrageous to start with, not a subtle and nuanced fabrication. From the JFK assassination to the Florida hanging chads fiasco, conspiracies have lost the right to be called as such, because they are so much out in the open. In this sense, the kind of attempt to hide the trickery in Iowa, Nevada, and California during the 2016 Democratic primary was an anomaly, because the distance between Sanders as an icon of truth and valor, versus the corruption of the party establishment, was not yet as evident to the rank and file of voters.

But now, after four years of enlightenment, Sanders's policy positions with respect to democratic socialism (really just an update of FDR's New Deal democracy) are clear as day. He has been unambiguous all along about M4A (Medicare for All), cancelation of debt, free college, and a living wage, and everyone who has tried to offer a muddied position during the cycle has self-destructed. With a vision and persona so largeenhanced by the recent elaboration of the Green New Deal the opposing falsehood ("Bernie didn't win Iowa") has to be as spectacular and blatant in order to compete. This is true also of the increasingly ludicrous arguments about how we should all be terrified of Bernie ushering in a communist revolution that has overwhelmed the liberal commentariat's sense of rationality. They are panicking like mad people, and the Iowa heist was just an extension of this overt madness. In medical terms it might be called a violent schizophrenic episode, rather than the relatively muted OCD of constant lying (Angry White Bernie Bros! Angry White Bernie Bros!).

Whoever in this election cycle has stayed close to the truth, Yang and Gabbard, for example, has found their moral stature enhanced, while whoever has chosen deception has found themselves becoming irrelevant. Joe Biden's record on busing and desegregation was ripe for attack, but not by a harsh law-and-order prosecutor like Kamala Harris. Elizabeth Warren tried to get away with stealing some of Sanders's platform, weakened and diluted and yet presented as stronger than his for the alleged "details," and paid the price for this duplicity in quick implosion. A similar fate awaits Buttigieg, and Bloomberg when he gets on the debate stage, for trying to pilfer Bernie's morality without having any of his credibility.

Trump won in 2016 (although Sanders would have beaten him) because he pointed out some real truthsthe fake media, the deep state, the miserable economy, the endless wars, the plight of the inner citieswhile offering the wrong prescriptions. But the fact that he identified some manifest realities was enough to put him over the top.

Sanders is potent and unbeatable because not only does he identify the truth, he offers truthful ways forward as well. Anybody who has challenged this dual layer of truth (Buttigieg aspires to be the latest one), at both the diagnostic and prescriptive levels, has found themselves consigned to the ash heap. Universal health care, free college, relief from debt, affordable housing and a living wage are no longer wishful fantasies but have ascended to the level of truth. No competitor can deny these verities anymore, forced to contest on Sanders's chosen turf. Moreover, this truth, about the unreality of our "strong" economy which benefits only the few, has spread like wildfire in the last five years. Occupy was diffuse and leaderless, as was the anti-WTO movement a decade before that, but the addition of a focal leader like Sanders has put the movement for truth on an accelerated footing.

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Anis Shivani is a fiction writer, poet, and critic in Houston, Texas. His debut book, a short fiction collection called Anatolia and Other Stories, which included a Pushcart Special Mention story, was published in October 2009 by Black Lawrence (more...)
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