The Election Takes Care of Itself, Jamming, 17/01/2016

I hope, the forty-fifth and first Jewish President of the
United States of America.
A friend and colleague of mine, T-Boz, recently went to work for the Bernie Sanders campaign in New Hampshire, and I got into a Twitter conversation about it this week with another colleague, Steve Fuller.

Fuller’s tweets are available to anyone who cares to look back at my mentions. But if I can summarize his criticisms, he was concerned that Sanders’ idealism and relative radicalism in America’s political context would make him a reiteration of George McGovern.

I understand his concern, but I do think the situation is very different. Actually, if you consider Steve’s current home of the UK, I find more similarities between McGovern and Jeremy Corbyn.

McGovern, like Corbyn, was an insurgent candidate who achieved the highest position in his party on the strength of a popular movement. McGovern was the spokesperson for the movement against the war in Vietnam, and Corbyn is England’s spokesperson for the anti-austerity movement.

The mass media story is that Corbyn is “unelectable.” The Murdoch-controlled media* of Britain attacks him so frequently that it’s made his fairly tame social democratic policies so unpalatable to the general electorate that he may as well be a Stalinist. But that’s not Corbyn’s biggest problem, as far as I’m concerned.

* As well as the BBC, paralyzed with fear at the prospect of David Cameron’s looming and inevitable catastrophic cuts and radical rewriting of the company charter.

No, Corbyn’s biggest problem is that the British party system invests a huge amount of power over policy in the hands of MPs, and district associations have virtually no power to recall or even critique a sitting MP. And Labour's parliamentary leadership today, like the American Democrats in the 1970s, is schizophrenically split over a catastrophic war: Iraq.

Hilary Benn was the Labour Party's foreign affairs
opposition critic when he stood up and proudly
endorsed Conservative PM David Cameron's bombing
of Daesh in Syria. The Labour Party's leader, Jeremy
Corbyn, laid the party's position clearly: Labour was
against further barely discriminate bombing. Benn won
praise from Britain's conservative media, but a
demotion and probably a broken friendship from
Corbyn himself. Deservedly.
That’s why Hilary Benn openly denounced Corbyn on the floor of parliament last month, enthusiastically supporting the mass bombing of Syria, despite the huge amount of civilian casualties that would result. Most Labour MPs refuse to admit that the invasion of Iraq was wrong, even though their leader has always been against violent military intervention.

So what about Sanders? Well, Sanders’ messages – against Wall Street criminality, the corruption of lobbyist-greased electoral and legislative politics, war, racism, poverty, and economic inequality – genuinely resonate with many Americans.

And although the American mass media have long presumed Hillary Clinton to be the nominee, Sanders’ criticisms of her – that she’s too establishment, too indebted to Wall Street lobbying,** militarily hawkish, and inauthentic – resonate through America’s mainstream media, and have for a long time.

** Much like Barack Obama’s most important Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, who was an apprentice to the top Wall Street investment firms and hedge fund entrepreneurs, and who designed the financial bailouts of Obama’s first term to protect large banks and bankers, leaving millions of ordinary homeowners underwater.

Sanders’ populism is why soft Donald Trump supporters lean more toward Sanders than Clinton among current swing voters. He, like Trump, is seen as a voice for ordinary people. Sanders has the advantage over Trump of policy proposals that are based in real economic and political solutions, and not scapegoating and racism.

I don’t consider “not being electable” to be a real criticism of a politician’s policies or ideas. It’s a way to dismiss them without engaging the ideas themselves, presuming that they’re too different from the country’s mainstream to attract any support at all.

There is no voice more perfectly suited for channelling
the frustrations of the American people than that of a
cranky, elderly Jewish man.
It presumes that a population is never open to supporting anything but slightly different takes on the status quo. It presumes that genuine political change isn’t possible. If you build a mass political movement first, a movement that reaches beyond its in-group, then the election will follow.

Aiming for electability alone is what doomed Canada’s New Democrats. Messaging that appealed to conservatives only attracted a small number of new supporters while turning away much of the base support to Justin Trudeau, who depicted himself as the candidate of genuine radical change.

But is Sanders a new McGovern? I don’t think so. For one thing, Nixon was no Trump. Nixon may have begun the GOP’s Southern Strategy of implicit race-baiting, but he never descended into demagoguery. Cruz has made a major plank of his platform attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency, a creation of Richard Nixon.

Trump, Cruz, and the Republican Establishment has thrown the racism, elitism, and violence of American conservatism into the light by demurring about nothing. What Nixon hid in euphemism, Trump and and the other Republican candidates now, and Mitt Romney in 2012, all say openly. 

The leaders of the conservative movement really do tell it like it is. And they do so in the context of a financial crisis that has massively hurt nearly everyone in the country.

In 1972, George McGovern was the spokesperson for
America's progressive social movements in the country's
party politics. But the public support of mass police
violence against anti-war protesters at that year's
Democratic National Convention showed that
Americans weren't ready to embrace such a movement.
At least, they weren't back then.
In the early 1970s, there were plenty of Americans distrustful of the period’s rebellious youth culture and in favour of the Vietnam War. And today, there are plenty of Americans who distrust modern youth culture, and who favour massive military intervention throughout the Middle East. 

But damn near every American knows somebody who went underwater on their mortgage a few years ago. Or they did themselves. That’s the message of Bernie Sanders: We can’t trust the people whose economic policies made that disaster happen and then paid off the criminal class of stockbrokers and hedge funds.

That’s also the difference between what made McGovern a failure in 1972 and will make Sanders a success in 2016. The American economy never collapsed in the mid-1960s, but it did in 2008.

All the Republicans think the policies that led to that collapse – low taxes for the wealthy, wages free to spiral down to the lowest common desperation, no real regulations on the banking sector – are actually how you build a successful economy. 

Hillary Clinton is deeply associated with Wall Street as a lobbying group, and is well-known as a politician who repays favours. Barack Obama’s first Treasury Secretary bailed out the economic fraudsters and criminals in the first place.

Bernie Sanders is the only one running for US President with sensible social democratic policies and a simple message to the plunder of the American people by an oligarch class: ENOUGH OF THIS SHIT!!!!

So many people agree with him about this already, across generations, social classes, religions, and cultures that they constitute a true mass movement. Once that’s your voter coalition, the election takes care of itself.

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