Dream Big: Why Voting for Sanders Still Matters, Despite the Electoral Math

by on May 31, 2016 · 1 comment

in California, Election, Politics, San Diego, Under the Perfect Sun

By Jim Miller

bernie sanders big ideaWhat struck me the most about the recent Sanders rally in National City was how much the crowd embodied the notion of the beloved community.

As opposed to the corporate media caricature of Sanders’ supporters as a group of mostly angry, white “Bernie bros,” this huge gathering of over ten thousand people was diverse in age, gender, sexuality, race, and class.

It was also a kind, gentle crowd that fell silent when Sanders, in a moving gesture, stopped his speech when someone fainted and waited patiently for the EMTs to come to the rescue before he continued and interrupted chants of “Bernie Cares” by saying “no, WE care.”

The truth is that while many there were surely still hoping against hope for a miracle comeback in the primary, the driving force animating the crowd seemed less about the horserace and more about being about part of something larger than themselves—a movement that just might be able to make things right at the end of the day. Thus, as Sanders spoke about love trumping hate and the need to reject cautious incrementalism and “dream big,” you could almost feel the yearning ooze out of the collective body.

It reminded me of Martin Luther King Jr.’s words about the goal of social justice work where “the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the beloved community . . . it is agape which is understanding goodwill for all men. It is an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return . . . This is the love that may well be the salvation of our civilization.”

In this spirit, the anger that Sanders expresses when he rails against inequality and the ruthless agenda of the “billionaire class” is the “no” that has to come before the “yes.”

This is what Sanders gets and much of the rest of the Democratic establishment clearly does not: that if the Democrats do not speak to the righteous anger that so many Americans feel about their increasing economic and political marginalization, the ugly populist right is happy to do it for them by pitting people against each other rather than aiming their fire at the real citadels of power.

As I recently wrote in my review of Thomas Frank’s Listen Liberal: What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?, this is exactly what is wrong with the Democratic Party today:

At base, the fundamental misunderstanding that they have about inequality is that it is somehow a “technical problem” or a “single issue” rather than, as Frank puts it, “nothing less than the whole vast mystery of how we are going to live together.” It is, in the end, not a “problem” to be fixed but a deep injustice that needs to be made right—a moral rather than a technical issue. But seeing it this way bucks up against the meritocratic assumptions undergirding much of contemporary Democratic policy with all of its undying love for market-friendly technocratic solutions.

What Sanders understands is that the whole question of “how we are going to live together” needs to be addressed in a real and fundamental way by every generation. His politics are “radical” in the neoliberal world because they go “to the root” of what ails us.

So the question of economic inequality is, as King observed long ago, inextricably linked with the problems of racism and militarism. And, updating this formulation, Sanders notes that so too is the problem of climate change which can only be solved by standing up to the suicidal greed of the fossil fuel industry.

In this way, Sanders is the only candidate running for President who is offering a way out of the steel trap of economic inequality and looming climate catastrophe brought to us by the neoliberal order. He knows that we need to change the game and that it will take a real, multifaceted social movement to do so.

Sanders also understands, as Frederick Douglass put it, that “power concedes nothing without demand.” Thus, a vote for Sanders is a vote against the neoliberal order and a vote for a better future either through an unlikely Sanders upset or, more likely, through an ongoing transformation of the political landscape driven by a new generation of Americans yearning for something better than what mainstream American politics has been offering for a long time.

Some on the left are critical of Sanders’ decision to run inside the Democratic Party, but I do not share this skepticism. What his candidacy has already done, whatever the outcome of the race, is change the dominant narrative of American politics by rejecting the ideological hegemony of neoliberalism in the face of overwhelming odds.

This is what Sanders gets and much of the rest of the Democratic establishment clearly does not: that if the Democrats do not speak to the righteous anger that so many Americans feel about their increasing economic and political marginalization, the ugly populist right is happy to do it for them by pitting people against each other rather than aiming their fire at the real citadels of power.

Despite a hostile corporate media system that operates exactly as Noam Chomsky outlines in Manufacturing Consent, a political system where the deck is stacked against outsiders, and a host of other formidable obstacles, Bernie’s historic run has given a whole new generation of Americans hope that our Democracy just might be wrested from the hands of the oligarchs.

And, win or lose, the millions of new voters Sanders has brought into the process along with the cementing of a genuinely left, anti-neoliberal block inside of one of America’s two major political parties is something progressives should celebrate. It’s this historical shift, not personality politics or the current snapshot of the horserace, that really matters.

Hence your vote for Sanders is a step toward changing history for the better by demanding the impossible and pushing the boundaries of conventional politics in a more deeply progressive direction. So don’t be afraid to vote with your heart and your core principles. Vote for Bernie.

It’s not about him, it’s about US. That is what the beloved community is all about.

Coda: Don’t be Afraid

To all my fearful friends on the liberal side of the spectrum, some perspective: we are not on the fast-track to fascism. In the end, the electoral map just doesn’t add up for Donald Trump and the truth is that the PUMAS (Party Unity My Ass) that supported Clinton in 2008 to the end were far more recalcitrant than the majority of Sanders supporters are today if the polls tell us anything. As the New York Times recently reported: “Still, the Democratic resistance is less widespread than it was in the 2008 primary. While 72 percent of Mr. Sanders’s supporters say they would vote for Mrs. Clinton this fall, a Times/CBS News survey taken in early May 2008 found that only 60 percent of Mrs. Clinton’s supporters said they would vote for Barack Obama in the general election.”

We all know how that one ended.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Avatar Carl Zanolli June 2, 2016 at 5:07 pm

Jim Miller may think the “electoral map does add up for Donald Trump” but I am far less confident of the common sense of the American voter to arrive at that conclusion and far less willing to take the risk of a Donald Trump presidency. Given the dire consequences of a Trump presidency, I am amazed anyone is foolish enough to take the risk.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Older Article:

Newer Article: