Saturday, June 10, 2017

Why The Berniecrats Aren't Going To Back Down

The houses above, like tens of thousands of others in Detroit, obviously used to look very different. But then came the advent of what was at first seriously referred to as "free market capitalism," followed by what was initially called "job-creating" free trade, followed by what was at least honestly referred to as the Great Recession. Throughout these developments, most in Detroit and America overall have seen the opposite of freedom or job creation. They've seen their livelihoods taken away for the benefit of a few corporate executives. They've seen their tax dollars used to fund unending wars (the volunteers for which largely came from poor areas of color like the one pictured), along with trillion dollar bailouts for the billionaires who caused the economy to crash. They've seen the system be redesigned to make it much harder for people like them to live happy, secure lives.

They've also seen the way those responsible for their misfortune have overwhelmingly responded to it: by blaming the victims. Just like hatred towards blacks had to be propagated for slavery (and the parts of its legacy) to be widely accepted, hatred towards the poor has been instrumental in selling the neoliberal enterprise. Thus the countless statements over the last few decades from corporatist politicians, right wing media figures, and thus tens of millions of ordinary people about how poor people aren't trying hard enough, how they aren't entitled to anyone else's money, how they should be self-reliant, etc. At no point has the majority of the population accepted this classist ideology, but the fact that it's been pushed so aggressively has had the desired effect: everyone who's grown up in lower class lifestyles throughout the last forty years or so is familiar with the view that people like them shouldn't be complaining about their situation.

The unintended problem with this is that when people are told their struggles are illegitimate and they should just accept the status quo, they do the opposite of become compliant. Except in the statistically rare cases where they've shown to fall for this neoliberal gaslighting, those left behind by the current system have overwhelmingly come to reject the oligarchy's agenda in recent years. This is clear in how the majority of Republicans now support single payer health care, higher taxes on the rich, and ending neoliberal trade despite their different views on these things in the recent past. More importantly, this awakening has shown in the emergence and so far spectacular success of the Bernie Sanders revolution, with tens of millions of people now actively working towards bringing the changes our society desperately needs.

But once again, while the dissenters represent the majority, we haven't been able to do our work for this movement without intense disdain from within the beltway. The attacks against us involving Stalinism have thankfully been relatively rare, but the more mainstream anti-Sandersisms, as articulated by outlets like the Washington Post, haven't been any less disingenuous: Bernie Sanders and his supporters are fringe, are purist, are unrealistic, etc. When the majority of the country backs Sanders and his ideas, the best the oligarchs can do is try to convince those in that majority that they're naive. And once again, as I'll illustrate, such tactics have a way of backfiring.

To the rank and file establishment loyalists, corporate news columnists, and occasional Goldman executives that denigrate what we're doing, I'll say it in a more complete and direct way than I've said it before: the Berniecrats will not back down. Just like we wouldn't accept that the status quo shouldn't be challenged, we will not accept that challenging it is naive.

We will not accept that a party which has hurt people of color through mass incarceration more than Reagan did, reordered the global trade system to benefit large corporations, caused the Great Recession by deregulating Wall Street, made the difference in Senate votes for the Iraq War, set us up for a new crash by refusing to adequately re-regulate Wall Street, escalated Bush's wars, took us to the brink of climate collapse, and so much more is an adequate alternative to the GOP. Nor that this party did not undeniably and directly steal the Democratic nomination from Bernie Sanders, who the majority of the Democratic base has embraced.

We will not accept that goals like keeping corporate money out of politics, ending the paradigm of perpetual war, and single payer health care are unrealistic when all of Bernie's agenda is not just practical, but politically attainable due to the revolutionary dynamics that are emerging amid staggering economic inequity. Nor that the American people, who are found in every public opinion poll to support these reforms, will reject Sandersist candidates in the coming years for offering them.

More to the point, we will not accept that those on the receiving end of the destructive policies Sanders' critics often champion shouldn't see their concerns addressed. We will not tell the Detroit workers who've lost their homes because of neoliberal trade and Wall Street greed that they're naive for wanting these things stopped. We will not act like the tens of millions of Americans now living in third world conditions because of lack of an adequate minimum wage, lifetimes worth of student loan debt, and an outrageously racketeered health care system aren't realistic for wanting these problems alleviated. We will not dismiss the struggles of the millions of people who've been unjustly incarcerated, the tens of millions who can't afford their obscenely overpriced prescription drugs, or the countless families throughout the global south who've been literally torn apart by the U.S. military empire because anyone says doing so would be impractical.

The political establishment essentially used this strategy of telling disadvantaged groups that their concerns are naive as a means to beat Trump last year. As a result, enough lower class and nonwhite people chose to opt out of voting for Hillary Clinton, and enough downtrodden Rust Belt residents chose to vote against Clinton, that the unthinkable happened. And now, as the majority's concerns continue to be sneered at by the members of the McResistance, an insane specter looms: when a major U.S. terrorist attack inevitably occurs sometime soon, and the Trump regime no doubt lays the case for totalitarian lockdown in response, most Americans, I predict, will jump on board the push towards nationalistic fanaticism. Because at least the faux-populist right wing extremists in the White House are different from the "moderates," who mock the very idea of change and barely even pretend to care about the needs of ordinary people.

Society is on the brink of willing self-destruction because of the political establishment's condescending and callous attitude towards the have-nots, and Berniecrats aren't going to stand for it. We will continue promoting our progressively populist message as an alternative to the Trump team's reactionary temptations. It may not be what Paul Krugman wants us to do, but it's what the people who used to live in the houses above would probably want us to do.