Sunday, April 16, 2017
How The Bernie Sanders Movement Is Overcoming Cynicism
Last month, I wrote what would come to be one of my most popular articles, titled How The Sanders Coalition Is Healing Its Divides. It cited the facts that the extremely divisive 2016 election is now far in the past, and that DemExiters and DemEnters are these days largely working together towards their shared goals, to back up my personal perception that while this movement splintered into many unfriendly factions after last year's primaries ended, it's very much putting itself back together.
Well, I'm about to lay out why I also believe the Sanders coalition is overcoming something that's in many ways the source of those divides, and that has thus turned out to be one of the biggest threats to the political revolution's success: cynicism.
First, I should give some background into what I mean by cynicism within this movement: as someone who does much of my activism online, I'm exposed to the sentiments of rank-and-file revolutionary leftists all the time, looking at hundreds of social media comments from my fellow anti-Clintonist progressives. And I can report that the general mindset among this group is still far from healthy or productive.
Since Bernie's campaign ended, a great deal of his supporters have been unfairly accusing him of being a sellout to the Democratic establishment and accusing those who still side with him of being unwitting tools of the oligarchy or worse. Many of those in this "Bernie sold out" crowd have also taken to reflexively treating anyone who associates with the Democratic Party as an inherent enemy. And while these unhelpfully cynical individuals have always very much represented a minority within the revolutionary left, as Bernie Sanders' favorability ratings have only gone up since June of last year and are now higher than ever, I think they warrant some focus.
If this sounds like unnecessary fretting over what some online comments say, remember that "reactionist" attitudes within social or political movements, wherein certain members of the team develop habits of tearing down pretty much everyone around them because they see any parts of their ideology being challenged, is an often overlooked but legitimately movement-threatening problem. And mainly online or not, reactionism's presence within this movement is especially detrimental, because in addition to bringing about much hostility and division, it can lead to people who would otherwise be doing positive and meaningful activism work feeling too discouraged and bitter to get involved.
Well, I'm going to illustrate how the Berniecrats are effectively working to prove the cynics wrong.
The beautiful reality of this situation is that outside the online forums and the column sections of many political sites, the pro-establishment liberals and "Berniecrats are sheep" types (who have more in common with each other than they'd like to think what with them both having cynical worldviews and wanting to tear down Sanders supporters) have little influence. Or at least little influence in the bottom up aspect of political life. And this has allowed the Berners to make a few gains. A lot more than a few gains, actually.
I'd like the Democratic Party loyalists and "Bernie sold out" leftists who both assert our efforts are set for failure to explain why the following chart of state Democratic parties we've taken over looks like this:
That's right. Berniecrats haven't mostly taken over four state Democratic parties as I've previously estimated. They haven't taken over five. They haven't taken over ten. Twelve of these entities have now been confirmed by the maker of this map Warren Lynch to be mostly controlled by people intent on advancing the political revolution, with sixteen more being under lesser Berniecratic influence and who-knows-how-many local Democratic parties by now having succumbed to the active-on-every-level insurgents.
At this rate, by 2020, Berniecrats will control virtually every part of the Democratic Party's state and local facets, as well as quite possibly virtually every state and local facet of American politics in general. In which case our 2020 Democratic presidential candidate (assuming Bernie isn't drafted for a People's Party by then, in 2020 our option will almost certainly be a Democrat) won't be in danger of sabotage throughout the primaries by state Democratic officials, and we'll be able to easily take the presidency.
But returning to more immediate subjects, thanks to the efforts of progressives who work towards change instead of asserting change for whatever reason can't happen, some big aspects of the corporate state's control are really starting to crack.
Since the seemingly logic-defying movement to get single payer health care passed in a time of unprecedented Republican control kicked off around early March, America has become closer than it's ever been to joining every other major country in providing universal health care. After weeks of intense efforts from the 60% of Americans who support single payer to pressure their representatives into co-sponsoring the H.R. 676 Medicare for all bill, the proposal now has 93 congresspeople behind it-nearly half the Democrats in Congress. That's more than the amount of support from Congress that single payer got during its last opportunity for passage in 2009, and it's no doubt far less than the amount of support it will receive from government officials in the coming years. Bernie Sanders himself, meanwhile, continues to wait for the right moment to propose a Senate version of H.R. 676.
As the inverse equivalent of the right-wing backlash that happened around eight years ago continues, coupled with the modern equivalent of the class backlash that happened around eighty years ago, these gains, made mostly in the last six months, will no doubt be only the beginning. If the current amount of progressive political involvement is kept up, the near future will be one of goal after supposedly radical Sandersist goal coming to the forefront of the policy debate, all as Berniecrats sweep election after supposedly unwinnable election. And if this has to be accomplished amid the unprecedented threat to American democracy that will appear after the next big terrorist attack happens, so be it-revolutions aren't supposed to be easy.
Of course, the Berniecrats' progressive detractors don't see such a bright future coming from our efforts. They're mainly inclined to see us influencing things negatively. Negatively in a "purist" way if the detractors are Clintonists, and negatively in an ideologically impure way if they're anti-Sanders leftists. But as victories continue to be made by Berniecrats who haven't succumbed to the cynical worldviews of the ones who are telling them they're helping a lost cause, it becomes increasingly clear that every kind of philosophical status quo which works in the oligarchy's favor is being surmounted. That includes not just the lines of thinking that claim positive societal change shouldn't happen, but that it can't happen because of "realism," "practicality," etc.
I don't mean in this piece to shame or point fingers at those who've doubted our movement. I just think they're very wrong in that belief. And a few years down the road, when we all find ourselves in a period of prosperity, justice, and coexistence as a result of the work Bernie Sanders and his supporters have done, I can easily imagine the current cynics will view things as optimistically as we do.