It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic and subatomic and galactic structure of things today! And YOU have meddled with the primal forces of nature, and YOU WILL ATONE!
— Ned Beatty as Arthur Jensen,
berating Peter Finch as Howard Beale, in the movie Network
The Democratic Party has declared war on Bernie Sanders. Now we hear a carefully orchestrated funeral dirge, the Black vote is Sanders’ fatal weakness, and he should “suspend” his campaign, concede defeat, and make good on his pledge to support the party’s nominee, even before Hillary Clinton is actually the party’s nominee. They want Sanders to hit the Kill Switch on his own campaign, save them the trouble. But as the Empire Strikes Back, their every move blows up like an exploding cigar, and feeds ammunition to the growing Sanders army. It is time for the Political Revolution that Sanders and his supporters are fighting for to stand on its own feet.
When Sanders crushed Hillary in New Hampshire, he became a mortal threat to be the Democratic Party and its anointed nominee. Time to recall Arthur Jensen’s rant about “the primal forces of nature,” our “holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multi-variate, multi-national dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, Reichmarks, rins, rubles, pounds and shekels” are getting “meddled with” big time. The Political Revolution, once brushed off as a catchy campaign slogan, has begun to strike both hope and fear (depending on where you sit) in the hearts of millions and millionaires alike.
The rule is “don’t let them see you sweat!” You could see it start dripping in the weeks leading up to Iowa and New Hampshire. In a February 6 interview on CNN, renowned liberal journalist Carl Bernstein gave us his pre-New Hampshire take on the party’s growing unease:
“They are horrified at how Hillary Clinton is blowing up her own campaign. They’re worried that the Democrats could blow — they are horrified that the whole business of the [illegal e-mail server] transcripts, accepting the money [at $225,000 a pop for talking to the likes of Goldman Sachs], that she could blow the Democrats’ chance for White House. They want her to win. Obama wants her to win. … These ethical lapses have tied the White House up in knots. They don’t know what to do.”
The attacks on Sanders started going off the rails, from the Steinem/Albright feminist debacle, to accusing Sanders of being racist for not officially supporting reparations, to Chelsea Clinton propped up on the ramparts to lie about Sanders’ healthcare plans, to some good old-fashioned red-baiting (“It’s not that I personally have anything bad to say about socialism, but …”), to lecture after lecture on the merits of pragmatism, to warnings about the Second Coming of Satan as they evoked the specter of 2000 and the Green Party’s Ralph Nader. (“Yes, Virginia, Ralph Nader is worse than Hitler.”)
All to no avail. Even the toothless poodle press was calling Iowa a tie (“a wins is [not] a win”) and New Hampshire left them writhing in angst.
The pundits were stunned. They wailed about how Hillary had been over-confident. Hadn’t attacked Sanders early enough. They suddenly discovered that the American people were actually angry over the destruction of their lives and of their country. The pundits didn’t know who to fear most, Sanders or Trump.
What to do? Crank the volume up to 11. The February 13 Washington Post expressed a strange ambivalence:
“Democrats backing Clinton say she must sharpen her pitch to compete with Sanders”
Even as these Democrats remain committed to Clinton and express confidence that ultimately she will secure her party’s presidential nomination, many also say that Clinton’s near-loss in Iowa and drubbing in New Hampshire exposed weaknesses in her candidacy … “All of this stuff is going to be a distant memory by the time we get to April,” said Texas Democratic Party chairman Gilberto Hinojosa. “So it’ll hurt for a little while but she has an enormous ability to rebound and reestablish her position as a leader. I’m not very concerned that that’s going to be a big problem.”
The dissonance is glaring. Clinton is a lousy candidate, but all will be well, honest. Their salvation will come from the Black and Latino communities. Black deliverance equals Hillary Clinton.
But who’s going to pay for all this?
The barrage against Sanders, post-Nevada, is reaching new heights — or is that depths? Which is more dire? That Sanders would wreck the country, or Sanders would wreck the Democratic Party? There is now a carefully orchestrated campaign to actually drive Sanders out of the race, spook him to voluntarily “suspend” his campaign for the good of the party and all humanity. Drive off his supporters in despair.
The Friday, February 12 Washington Post reported that Priorities USA Action, the main super PAC supporting Clinton, was about to spend $500,000 to launch a radio ad campaign in South Carolina, and that the Democratic National Committee had rolled back restrictions that banned donations from federal lobbyists and political action committees. Yet every move Hillary makes throws more gasoline on the fire. The Post goes on to lament:
Actions by two Democratic groups could mean huge financial benefit for Clinton
[T]he steps taken by the DNC and the main super PAC supporting her could also backfire, giving rival Bernie Sanders fresh fodder to highlight her relationship with Wall Street and other special interests at a time when the two candidates are locked in an intense nomination fight.
Indeed, that is their bind. Still, Wall Street is what they have.
Enter the Congressional Black Caucus, stage right.
South Carolina is supposed to be the death blow. Right on cue, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) makes its move. They endorsed Hillary through their PAC, which includes Purdue Pharma, maker of the highly addictive OxyContin, cigarette giant Philip Morris, and Hillary’s own Wal-Mart, the largest gun distributor in America. Add on to that lobbyists for Navient, and Vic Fazio, who served for years as a lobbyist for the Corrections Corporation of America, the largest private prison-for-profit operation in the country. The CBC had been coasting on its reputation as some kind of progressive group. That reputation is finished.
Charles Blow, in the February 10 New York Times, uses the opportunistic catch-all that Sanders shouldn’t even be talking to the Black community:
“Tucked among all this Bernie-splaining by some supporters, it appears to me, is a not-so-subtle, not-so-innocuous savior syndrome and paternalistic patronage that I find so grossly offensive that it boggles the mind that such language should emanate from the mouths — or keyboards — of supposed progressives. But then I am reminded that the idea that black folks are infantile and must be told what to do and what to think is not confined by ideological barriers.”
Blow gives it away, however, when he declares, “Black folks don’t want to be ‘betrayed by too much hoping.’ ”
The Black community is charmingly called Hillary’s “firewall,” and it is the duty of hacks like Blow and the CBC to man that firewall. What the pundits are pointedly ignoring is that Hillary is starting to slip in the Black community, particularly the youth, and slipping very badly among working-class whites. The future is ours.
We are not horses.
The war is intensifying on several levels, but the media, as usual, frames it as some kind of game. Everything is the horserace, the polls, “gotcha” politics. The race has indeed heated up. Sanders himself has heated up. His troops are being radicalized in ways not seen since the 60’s.
To the media, everything is about the candidate.
In the campaign’s early days, Sanders had been quite the gentleman. The word came down, lay off Hillary, accentuate the positive. His volunteers by-and-large toed the line. Sanders took quite a hammering in the media, “Socialist! Socialist! Socialist!” Finally, he started to cut loose, hammering back with “Wall Street! Wall Street! Wall Street!” Sanders turned out to be quite the street fighter.
In the course of the Democratic debates, Sanders himself was initially ambiguous about the Political Revolution, like it was “millions of people begin[ning] to come together and stand up and say: Our government is going to work for all of us, not just a handful of billionaires.” (October) “What my campaign is about is a political revolution. Millions of people standing up,” etc. (November and December)
Then at the January 17 debate, the formulation changed ever so slightly. Slightly, but significantly.
“Nothing real will happen. Unless we have a political revolution. Where millions of people finally stand up.”
Do you catch the difference? Subtle but significant. The campaign and the revolution are no longer synonymous. Winning some reforms is not itself the revolution. Rather, we have to have the Political Revolution IN ORDER TO win our reforms. In the early stages, he was reassuring the party that he was committed to supporting Hillary Clinton should he not win the nomination. Now, when asked the same question, he brushes the question off by stating that he is going to win. The bottom line, though, is that he is making no public commitment to fall in line behind Hillary.
The troops, bravely enduring the torrents of abuse, were ready to make the shift to the left. The Political Revolution began to move to the fore.
Political Revolution perhaps started out as a catchy campaign slogan. After all, a new brand of toothpaste is revolutionary. Hair systems (razors) are revolutionary. Shoes are revolutionary. When I first started asking “What’s this Political Revolution” thing, the answers were along the modest lines of getting a big voter turnout,” or better yet, “implementing Bernie’s platform.” Such was the revolution to the extent that the R word was mentioned at all. Now people are learning.
One quick example. Hillary smugly bragged about her warm relationship with Henry Kissinger, how she relied so heavily on his foreign policy advice, who per the Intercept “enabled dictators, extended the Vietnam War, laid the path to the Khmer Rouge killing fields, stage-managed a genocide in East Timor, overthrew the democratically elected left-wing government in Chile, and encouraged Nixon to wiretap his political adversaries.” Millions of young people had had no idea who Henry Kissinger. Now they know.
For its supporters who are new to politics, the Sanders campaign is worth a couple of college degrees in what the system of capitalism is, and how it works. These radical, “leftist” notions went mainstream.
the ABC’s of how the capitalism system works;
the ABC’s of how the Democratic Party works;
the exposure of past heroes and progressive icons (Gloria Steinem, Paul Krugman) as political whores;
supposedly progressive organizations like NOW, SEIU and Planned Parenthood selling out their members in hopes of seats at Hillary’s table after the election.
I needn’t elaborate further.
Not me. Us!
With Political Revolution increasingly on the tongues of the troops, we are coming to terms with what we are up against. What is at stake. That winning entails an entire complex, hard-fought revolutionary process. Nobody now thinks that Bernie taking up residence in the White House would be a revolution, would constitute the overthrow of corporate rule. You can’t have a revolution without an “overthrow.” We are only beginning, taking a stand at our 21st century Lexington and Concord.
This new thinking is embodied in the campaign’s new slogan, “Not me, US!”
We hear over and over people saying that, if Sanders doesn’t win the nomination, they won’t be voting for Hillary under any circumstances. A new slogan is starting to pop up, “This is our last chance to make a peaceful revolution.” The interplay is complex. Sanders is growing more militant, moving his base left. And the growing anger of his troops is further driving Sanders himself.
So one of the chief criticisms of Sanders coming from the left had been that at the start of his run, Sanders had vowed that he would graciously support the Democratic presidential nominee should it not be him. Don’t worry about anything independent. Now the February 18, 2016 edition of The Hill, headlines, “Sanders: Two-party system holds back competition.”
“Sanders on Thursday called it ‘wrong’ that America’s two-party system shuts out other parties from elections. ‘I chose to run proudly in the Democratic primary and caucus and look forward to winning that process. But clearly, as a nation, I think we flourish when there are different ideas out there,’ Sanders said during MSNBC’s Democratic presidential candidate forum in Nevada on Thursday. ‘Sometimes the two-party system makes it very, very difficult to get on the ballot if you are a third party, and I think that’s wrong. I think we should welcome competition.’ “
Sanders has not threatened to run independent himself should he fail to get the nod, but that pledge not to has disappeared from his repertoire. Now he ducks the question by saying that he is going to win. Period. But the above statements — so it would seem — are at least a wink and a nod to his supporters that he would not be horrified at the prospects of his troops pulling the lever for the Green Party’s Jill Stein. The Green Party itself is coming apart over the Sanders campaign, some condemning it in the most strident terms. But Stein herself has been openly courting Sanders’ troops should Hillary become the Democratic standard-bearer for 2016:
The Kill Switch
Wikipedia: “A kill switch, also known as an emergency stop or e-stop, is a safety mechanism used to shut off a device in an emergency situation in which it cannot be shut down in the usual manner. Unlike a normal shut-down switch/procedure, which shuts down all systems in an orderly fashion and turns the machine off without damaging it, a kill switch is designed and configured to completely and as quickly as possible abort the operation (even if this damages equipment).”
“even if this damages equipment.” See, to them, we’re just the “equipment.” We cannot stand in the way of “the primal forces of nature.”
Let’s look back. Way back.
In the Russian Revolution, the Russian people held the streets, stormed the Winter Palace, and all that. But they were woefully unprepared for the shit-storm that was about to befall them. Out of necessity, they recruited the best of the Czar’s former generals and put them to work building the Red Army. The relationship was sometimes deadly between the commissars and the generals, but they won that civil war by making such accommodations.
So it is with the Sanders campaign. To operate as a serious contender at the national level, to have come so far so quickly, the Sanders campaign has had to make use of trained professionals bred and raised in Democratic campaigns of all sorts. Some of these professionals saw it as just another gig. Others (the majority) have taken it to heart. We saw the success of this in New Hampshire. But in the early stages of the Sanders run, even with the fundraising based on millions of ordinary people, the campaign had a very traditional tone in how it organized. Such is the price of playing in the big leagues.
The Political Revolution, stage center.
Here’s what we have to get. The Political Revolution is not, as Samuel L. Jackson put it in Pulp Fiction, “a cold-blooded thing to say to a motherfucker before I popped a cap in his ass.” It is not identical to the Sanders campaign. This got muddled in the early stages, because the call for Political Revolution emerged OUT OF the Sanders campaign. But the movement for the Political Revolution, inchoate as it was, not yet named, pre-existed the Sanders campaign. What I would call Sanders’ genius was that he saw that movement, that anger, that social movement, early on, and saw that a Political Revolution provided the FOUNDATION for a left presidential run.
In hindsight, we can better understand the distinction that the Sanders campaign is PART OF the Political Revolution, and the Political Revolution will exist long after the Sanders campaign. Certainly the Establishment has a dull awareness of this, and it has them losing sleep.
But how will that solidify, how will that continue and grow? It seems highly unlikely that the Sanders operation itself will become the new revolutionary party. The Sanders campaign isn’t structured that way, it is part of a non-revolutionary party that will never itself become a revolutionary party. As noted above, it is an amalgam of developing revolutionaries, well-meaning traditional liberals, and a few not-so-well-meaning Democratic Party operatives. This provides grist for the “Sanders is doomed!” people, who want his capitulation to Hillary to come sooner rather than later. There are those whose hands are already twitching to reach for the Kill Switch, some who are completely cynical, some who are merely faint-hearted.
Consider this. It has been reported that in South Carolina, canvassers are being paid $15/hour to canvass the Black community door-to-door. That is a good thing, albeit a bit late in the process. But where do those people go the day after the primary, when their paychecks are cut off?
Some will soldier on. Others won’t.
Consider this. The Sanders campaign did a massive phone operation for Iowa and especially New Hampshire. Sanders’ troops were mobilized from all around the country to pull this off. It worked. But come the South Carolina primary, well …
Establishment arithmetic vs. Revolutionary arithmetic.
The pundits keep talking about the arithmetic. They’re counting electoral votes from South Carolina and the Super Tuesday states, and calling for the mortician. I don’t know how Sanders will do on Super Tuesday, but that’s beside the point. I am raising the vulnerability of the TYPE of campaign he is forced to wage. So his phone operation for Iowa and New Hampshire was largely (of necessity) a top-down affair. When I asked Sanders national operative Corbin Trent what the campaign planned to do to organize the Black community in Florida, his answer was that we had to make a lot of calls to Iowa and New Hampshire, and victory there would somehow translate into winning the Black vote in Florida, with Sanders’ Florida campaign hardly needing to set foot in Florida’s Black communities. When I tried to raise the issue in St. Petersburg back in November, said that we had to be looking toward the March 15 Florida primary, I was told that March 15 , was a long way off. It’s not such a “long way off” now, is it? For some folks, it’s conveniently too early to be talking about all sorts of stuff, like it’s too soon to be talking about this Political Revolution. Fact is, to some people it’s always too early.
The point is that the switch is all too easy to pull.
But to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, “You go to war with the campaign you have, not the campaign you might want or wish you had at a later time.”
At this point, our choices are limited. The population of the Super Tuesday states outnumbers Iowa and New Hampshire by nearly 77 to 1. If Sanders wants to be competitive, he has to cut all sorts of corners, raise money, and pray that that money — in terms of buying TV time — wins over a large electorate. There just isn’t time for building solid local infrastructure. It is significant that Sanders’ money is coming from the grassroots, while Hillary’s is coming from Wall Street and Big Pharma and the Prison-Industrial Complex. But it is also significant that the two campaigns are using that money in similar ways, buying canvassers and media buys and professional staff. The game is to make headlines, project strength, and count on people’s anger powering the Sanders campaign to a big win. Will that be enough?
Accepting that this is the campaign we have, it only further underlines why it’s critical that the Political Revolution that Sanders inspired not be synonymous with that campaign.
For the souls of the working class: Sanders vs. Trump.
Another fight is running parallel to and overlapping this electoral campaign, much bigger than just Sanders vs. Hillary. In Weimar Germany in the 1920’s, there was a battle for the hearts of the working class, between the socialists and communists versus Hitler and the Nazis. The working class was suffering from massive inflation and unemployment. Would they support the socialists in their fight against capital, or would they support Hitler in scapegoating the Jews and embracing militarism? The progressive side lost. Only dimly noted is the fact that a similar fight is being waged today for the hearts and minds and soul of the working class (just substitute Muslims for Jews). That fight is reflected in the one between Sanders and Trump, and it seems that Sanders is winning so far. Hillary’s base is primarily upper-income whites along with the Black establishment, and should she succeed in throwing Sanders under the bus, leaving the working-class field to Trump, the possible consequences are terrible to contemplate.
Ironically, Hillary attacks Sanders on the grounds that he might ensure a win for Donald Trump. But Glen Greenwald writes in “With Trump Looming, Should Dems Take a Huge Electability Gamble by Nominating Hillary Clinton?” that in fact Sanders, in every poll, is by far the most electable candidate against every Republican, including Trump. Greenwald asks, “But given the lurking possibility of a Trump presidency, is now really the time to gamble on such a risky General Election candidate as Hillary Clinton?”
One can only speculate that the Democratic Party power brokers would rather throw the election to Trump than to lose control of the Democratic Party, like they did to George McGovern against Richard Nixon in 1972.
The Bloody Morning After.
In traditional terms (“horserace”), we may or may not be winning. In Revolutionary terms, we are winning. We have to let that in. We’ve come a long way in a short time, and our morale must be iron-clad.
I’ve worked with and around Democratic Party professionals over the years. One thing I’ve learned is that they try to manipulate it so that their volunteers drop dead (usually figuratively) from exhaustion at the end of Election Day. The professionals, however, are most focused on the day after the election — the Bloody Morning After, when whatever they’ve organized gets consolidated, and when the goodies are passed out.
With our campaign, at some point, canvassers will be laid off. Many of the professionals in different states will start looking for their next gig. Media coverage will move on to the next primary. Such is the Kill Switch in action. Even if Sanders makes it to the White House, the Kill Switch is ready to flick, just like after Obama’s victory in 2008. And what becomes of the Political Revolution?
Should Sanders fail to become the Democratic Party standard-bearer, there is still one obvious move to make that lets us tell the world that the Political Revolution is still alive. That is to vote for the Green Party’s Jill Stein. The Green Party may be a dubious long-term vehicle for continuing our Revolution, but it nonetheless offers us the opportunity to make a strong statement. We can no longer afford lesser-evil politics, whether independent or Democratic. The Establishment’s rules have gotten us into this mess that we and the nation and the world are in. Time to break them.
In Sanders’ own words as quoted above:
“Clearly, as a nation, I think we flourish when there are different ideas out there. Sometimes the two-party system makes it very, very difficult to get on the ballot if you are a third party, and I think that’s wrong. I think we should welcome competition.“
That’s as much as he can say right now. We can say what we want. And in any event, we won’t mourn — we’ll organize?
— submitted by Jeff Roby
February 24, 2016