Why the ‘Movement for Bernie’ must not end at the White House, or even with a Trump or Clinton Presidency
There has been much talk about the relative prospects for the success of a Clinton or Sanders nomination for the Democratic Party – and much debate over whom – Sanders or Clinton – would be the real ‘change-maker.’ There has also been much ink spilled over various strategies for overcoming Republican obstruction should either of the Democratic contenders win in November. And, there have been many reminders that the 2018 mid-term elections will provide the Democrats with the opportunity to take back the Congress – and even, and especially, with a Republican win in November.
Yet, a political revolution is not just a sexy slogan. A political revolution, born of a mass movement, is a process of radical change which will succeed or fail dependent on the persistence and tenacity of a grassroots struggle which must remain active and grow in intensity beyond the formal process of voting. The scale of change needed to truly ‘crush the oligarchy’ requires long term vision and commitment to continuous fighting on a day to day basis regardless of the outcome of the election. We are well aware that our electoral system is inherently corrupt – beyond Citizens United – and that political revolution requires the cultivation of a momentum to completely overturn a fraudulent and undemocratic system.
Most of us are aware of the challenges that such a political revolution will entail – and the depths and expanse of change that will be needed to carry out a radical program of democratic renewal. Such a transformation is not merely a return to FDR style politics, focusing on re-allocation in the domestic arena. It requires a thorough re-thinking of the meaning of democracy not only at home but also abroad.
This is why, as the saying goes, nothing should be off the table. Not merely the voting system or campaign finance reform, but an entire transformation of business as usual. Not merely a more humane or trade oriented foreign policy, but a radical re-assessment of the place of the United States in the world order.
Nothing should be off the table. At home: the repeal of the National Security Act, which arguably has subverted the Constitution for nearly seventy years, the elimination of the CIA, FBI, DEA; the democratization and de-militarization of criminal justice organizations, a doctrine of economic rights, land reform, the restoration of indigenous lands, drug policy reform, a rigorous movement for public ownership, free healthcare (and not just health coverage), and free education, to name a few.
Abroad: The elimination of NATO, the IMF, repressive trade treaties and other hegemonies, such as the permanent war economy, which underline the dangerous doctrine of American Exceptionalism. A thorough revolution in the United Nations: the elimination, through the amendment process of the UN Charter, of a permanent security council of conquering nations (from 70 years ago), one which will serve the needs and aspirations of the vast array of unrepresented and unheard nations of the world. Again, to name only a few.
But, who will deliver such a revolution? Will it be Clinton whose record looks like most republicans and whose interests rests squarely with the corporate and oligarchical establishment? Only if her presidency spurs on the existing mass movement not to be satisfied with holding the White House. Clinton is not a change maker and never has been. Her nomination will assure a low voter turnout and her presidency – if such a monstrosity could ever be achieved – will quickly descend into farce and quagmire, most likely leading to her impeachment and indictment. She will not be able to hide behind the presidency since she will inevitably have a hostile congress.
Will the revolution be delivered by Bernie Sanders? Perhaps, but only if the mass movement behind him – a nearly unprecedented grassroots endeavour in modern politics, delivers not only the White House, but also a Congress of ‘Sanders democrats’ in 2016 and 2018. Yet, such a possibility will rely upon the continuous growth and proliferation of the grassroots movement which does not set aside its marches and signs with the first scent of victory or defeat. A political revolution must be serious and must have a long term vision to accomplish the radical renewal of American democracy and liberation from the oligarchical corruption of our current system.
Again, nothing is off the table. Even if Sanders loses the presidency or even the Democratic nomination, the political revolution and the movement underlying it must fight even harder to reclaim our democracy from the corruption and decadence to which it has descended. In the event of a Sanders loss, it will not be sufficient to merely state: ‘Well, your political revolution has failed – it did not win the election.’ If the system were not inherently corrupt, as if we existed in a utopian scenario, such a capitulation may perhaps be acceptable.
The Sanders’ grassroots experiment, however – its challenge to the system of ‘bought and paid for’ elections, delivered by a corporate media intent on preserving establishment interests – can only be just the beginning. It is a reminder that our nation fought with its blood to give birth to a new form of government, and that a rigged election is simply the fulfilment of a corrupt and undemocratic process – the very target of the political revolution that is sought and for which people should be prepared to make the highest sacrifice.
Otherwise, ‘political revolution’ is merely a sexy slogan with no meaning or commitment to truly smash the oligarchy, take back our democracy, and enter the next chapter of building a more perfect union. Much is a stake: the lives of countless generations in the future and those living all around the world in the present. We must not be the generation which shrugs its shoulders, as Atlas, and lets the entire democratic experiment fall into oblivion. There may not be another chance.
This article was originally published by CounterPunch on 25 February 2016.