Friday, July 29, 2016

Bernie Sanders' Revolution

Before we get started today, let me urge you to click on this link right here. It is post I wrote in August of last year. Before the first debate, before the first vote was cast, Bernie Sanders was lighting a fire under the Democratic electorate.

A year later, where are we now? 

Yesterday, the Democratic National Convention for 2016 came to a close. Over the course of the week, a lot of people raged in the cages of their dissatisfaction. A lot of people growled as they pulled on the chains of their frustration. They shook their fists at the unyielding wall of a system that defied their hopes and aspirations.

They were the supporters of Bernie Sanders, a man who gave voice to their pain, to their anger. A man who spoke the unvarnished truth about the source of power in this country, in this world and how it must be fought against. A man who spoke to fevered dreams of young people who face an uncertain future, that he would help make that future more certain, more prosperous for all people, not just a few.

In the end, Bernie Sanders was defeated in his quest. He ultimately accepted that defeat and vowed to turn his efforts to supporting his rival towards victory over Donald Trump. His followers, however, were not all prepared to make the journey with him.

In the end, Bernie Sanders could not contain the fire he started.

Of course the leak of the DNC emails and the revelations of the party's considerable bias against Bernie Sanders' campaign for the presidency stoked a lot of anger at the start of the convention. But that scandal was merely fuel. The fire was already burning before that story broke.

When Bernie Sanders entered the race for President in 2015, he was decidedly the odd man out. The cranky old dude in the rumpled suit and even more rumpled white hair, no one gave him a chance. By the time the primary season was over, he had won 22 contests. Over the course of that time, Bernie drew larger and larger crowds of people, young people, passionate and energized.

What was Bernie's appeal to this galvanized group of supporters?

Let's start with that unquiet dread that lurks in the backs of our minds, that the world is spinning out of our control and that more and more power is being held by fewer and fewer hands. We're told by politicians, cookie cutter copies in black suits and manicured hair that they can make things better. And then they don't.

Bernie did not look like those other guys and certainly didn't talk like them either. He gave voice to that communal dread but he also spoke to the power to stand up to those forces that would take our country, our world away from the people for the sake of the super wealthy and their corporations.

Older voters knew Bernie was speaking the truth but heard no solid, sustainable plans to shift the balance of power. Bernie was basically about breaking up the banks and paying for everyone to go to college. It sounds good but how can you make that happen without serious consequences to the stability of our economy and our government?

Younger voters knew Bernie was speaking the truth but didn't care about the details. Boom! Break up the banks! Boom! Free college! Boom! Everything's fixed! It seems simple! Let's go do that!

Bernie Sanders' mixture of rage against the system and pipe dreams for the future was a potent combination and it sustained Bernie's campaign for President far longer than anyone had ever imagined possible. To his credit, Sanders energized a block of voters that otherwise would've sat on the sidelines. The problem was when it was time to go, Sanders could not direct them to willingly support Hillary Clinton.

For Sanders supporters, Hillary Clinton was seen as part of the system and thus part of the problem. Hillary wants to be President for the sake of being President. She can't be trusted. 

Early on, Bernie Sanders mostly eschewed negative, personal attacks on Hillary Clinton. But as the campaign wore on, Bernie began questioning Hillary's experience and her integrity, her ability to actually serve as President. It was hard to watch. Bernie Sanders started a revolution for something, to make the lives of Americans better. By the end, he was leading a revolt against Hillary Clinton and the rest of the Democratic Party. 

It was a hard time for Clinton and the party. On the other side of the hedge, the Republicans began the campaign season with a crowed field of also rans and nobodies. Oh and Donald Trump but nobody was taking him seriously. The GOP was a fractured mess. The rivals for the Democratic nomination were by comparison the grown ups in the room, holding debates on actual policy issues as opposed to discussions of penis size.

But faster than anyone anticipated, the GOP contenders all fell way and only Donald Trump was left standing. Truly a nightmare scenario if there ever was one. But just when Clinton expected to be wrapping things up and could turn her focus on Trump, Bernie Sanders was still stirring the pot, turning up the heat. 

It has been said that Bernie Sanders did Hillary Clinton a favor by running such a brisk and energetic campaign, forcing her to improve her game and not fall into complacency. But Bernie wasn't running to give Hillary a work out. He was running because he believed in his revolution. The big mistake came when he came to believe he and he alone could lead it. 

Because in any campaign, someone must win which means by default someone must lose whether its by a lot or a little. The numbers ultimately fell short for Bernie but he wouldn't concede defeat for himself because he couldn't concede defeat for his revolution.

But what hope is there for the ideals of that revolution? If Hillary Clinton came out of the fire he created more cracked than tempered, what chances do the ideals of Bernie Sanders and his followers have under a Trump Presidency?

November will tell the tale if Bernie Sanders was a worthy opponent of Hillary Clinton who furthered the just and righteous cause of giving power back to the people. Or if Bernie was the one who lit the match that burned the whole damn thing to the ground.

Tomorrow, more political fun than you can stick a shake at.

Until then, remember to be good to one another.  

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