One of the more unfortunate accusations that I’ve been hearing lately is that Bernie Sanders supporters are tearing apart the Democratic Party. That Sanders needs to “back down” so we can unite. But Sanders supporters are fighting for the Democratic party to be more democratic. The media and others, however, have done a bang-up job framing real political challenges from the people (which Sanders represents) as “selfish” and “hurtful.” And a good number of Democrats are taking up those pitchforks and torches and joining the chorus without truly understanding what it is they are attempting to self-righteously snuff out.
John Nichols’ article in The Nation, A Contested Convention Is Exactly What the Democratic Party Needs, (an article widely forwarded by Bill Moyers) speaks directly to why it is so very crucial to continue to challenge not just Hillary Clinton, but the entire Democratic Party. THIS is what Democracy is all about! This is our job description! But so many people have lost sight of that – or never really knew what they could or should do beyond just casting a vote – or what the Democratic Party used to be, its history, and so they don’t recognize what it has the potential to do right now. Hillary might be the nominee in the end (though that’s STILL not a guarantee), but there’s more to be done and more to be gained by continuing to challenge her and those she surrounds herself with. At the very least to the Convention. Hopefully, a lot farther.
“Prospective nominees tend to favor weaker platforms; Harry Truman would have preferred milder civil-rights commitments than were made in his party’s 1948 platform, and it took steady pressure from unions, liberals and Ted Kennedy to get Jimmy Carter to finally embrace spending on jobs programs. It will take similar pressure to get Clinton and her inner circle to accept a Democratic platform that Sanders says must include “a $15-an-hour minimum wage, an end to our disastrous trade policies, a Medicare-for-all health-care system, breaking up Wall Street financial institutions, ending fracking in our country, making public colleges and universities tuition-free, and passing a carbon tax so we can effectively address the planetary crisis of climate change.” Clinton stalwarts may want to keep things vague, but look for the Sanders team to demand specifics, such as an explicit endorsement of a national $15 minimum wage instead of the $12 proposal that Clinton initially offered, and an unequivocal rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that President Obama supports and that Clinton once championed but now criticizes.”
This is even more crucial to recognize today as the Democratic Party has a long history of silencing its most progressive candidates.
As Jill Stein pointed out in her interview with Brad Friedman:
“Whether you go back to the way they shut the microphone off on Henry Wallace, the vice presidential nominee under FDR, they shut the microphone off and they adjourned the convention. After that, they were a little more subtle. Jesse Jackson, they mounted a smear campaign. Dennis Kucinich, they redistricted. Howard Dean, they did the Dean scream. And I think what we’re seeing now is the Dean scream of 2016. This is the sabotage of the Sanders campaign being conducted by the Democrats.”
None of this is new to American history. Or to the Democratic Party. And now we’re reaping the results of our own history and silence.
Jill Stein again:
“Superdelegates I don’t believe were created in order to ensure the most viable candidate. They were created to put a firewall around grassroots campaigns and to make sure that the likes of George McGovern, a peace candidate, could never prevail again in a grassroots process, and they’ve been very successful at doing that.”
Yes, the desire to paint populism as a form of mob rule is well-documented and the results are almost always to delay or distract the will of the people in favor of more immediate individual gains.
Walker Bragman from a recent article in Paste:
“In 1824 populist and political outsider for his time, Andrew Jackson, was denied the White House when Speaker of the House, and presidential candidate Henry Clay threw his support to John Quincy Adams, and was later appointed as Secretary of State. Jackson denounced the result as a “corrupt bargain.” His supporters vehemently agreed, and much to the horror of the political establishment Adams represented, which feared populism as a form of mob rule, and believed the best and brightest should lead, Jackson went on to win in 1828…
“It is hard to look at 2016 and not hear echoes of this history — but not in so far as Trump will bring about another Trail of Tears (he wouldn’t be able to even if he tried) or corruption on par with that of [Ulysses S.] Grant’s administration [Grant’s presidency has often come under criticism for protecting corrupt associates and in his second term leading the nation into a severe economic depression]. No, the comparison is this: Americans are unhappy, the political establishment is complacent, and populism is on the rise…
“With Democratic Party about to saddle itself with a Hillary Clinton nomination after a highly controversial primary many feel has been a corrupt bargain from the outset, fracture in November seems inevitable. Further complicating matters, the party leadership has been lukewarm in its welcoming of Sanders and his supporters. DNC officials recently rejected a request from Bernie Sanders to oust two Convention committee members who are surrogates for Hillary Clinton. What’s more, the DNC Chair and Clinton ally, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who seemingly designed the debate schedule to minimize exposure, thereby limiting scrutiny against the former Secretary of State while hurting her lesser-known competition, gets to appoint four members to the Platform Committee on top of Clinton’s six. Sanders is only allowed five.
“Sanders supporters see the 2016 election as a revolt against systemic corruption, and view the current establishment and Hillary Clinton as a part of that corruption.”
Whether or not you agree with many Sanders supporters’ assessment of Hillary Clinton or the DNC, history has shown that it is vital to the Democratic process to be hyper-aware of not silencing or shaming those who speak out against political corruption. It is how our system was designed to prevent what many believe is taking place right now. To not allow it to run its course is to deny the best elements of our democratic political process, and to add to the feelings of discontent and disenfranchisement already out there. Everyone loses.
Unfortunately, the same fears and fear-tactics against populism and change that have kept Democrats all but paralyzed for decades now are still being paraded before us with historically similar results. Today’s battle-cry is that we need to unify – now – behind Hillary Clinton if we are to beat Donald Trump.
But this is the same story – the same excuse for inaction – that we have been welding for generations now. There is always going to be a Republican contender who is scary. Yes, Donald Trump is VERY scary – a culmination of much that is manipulative and nefarious in our culture, not just our political system. But would we be any less worried or frightened if Ted Cruz was the nominee? I know I certainly wouldn’t be. I find him even more frightening that Trump. Hell, ANY of the 17 potential candidates on the Republican side would be absolutely terrifying as president.
At what point does it become necessary to not only fight against the backwards-thinking of the neoconservative movement, but to fight for the forward and progressive-thinking potential of the liberal parties?
“This politics of fear that tells you you have to vote against what you’re afraid of instead of for what you believe in, the politics of fear has a track record. It has delivered everything we were afraid of. All the reasons you were told you had to bite your tongue and let the lesser evil speak for you, we’ve gotten all those things by the droves—the expanding wars, the meltdown of the climate, the offshoring of our jobs, the attack on immigrants—we’ve gotten all of that…
“The only way we’re going to turn this around is by standing up and leading the way. Democracy does not exist in a vacuum. Fear and silence are not what it needs. It needs voices and values. It needs a moral compass…
“So less democracy is not the solution to a democracy on life support. We are all going to go down with this ship. I could not face my children and grandchildren not having done everything I can to turn us around, because we are on a trajectory that does not look good, which is outrageous because we could fix this.”
So while many Democrats actively tag Bernie Sanders and his supporters as being a threat to the Democratic Party, the real threat comes from not only trying to squelch these essential-to-the-Democratic-process voices, but in perpetuating a narrative that they are somehow standing in the way of the Democratic Party or the will of the people. This is only exacerbated by the fact that so many of the people now engaged in this response are people who belong to many different groups that have, themselves, been marginalized and misrepresented in society and by the media all their lives. Now, in an amazing feat of reactionary table-turning, many are jumping on that same bandwagon by marginalizing and misrepresenting another entire group of people without blinking an eye. And all with the backing of a very powerful media and political machine fanning the flames and inciting the kind of intolerance that most often ends with a small faction of very powerful people getting their way by manipulating the masses to punch down instead of up.
None of that even touches on the fact that almost every poll shows Bernie Sanders as having a far better chance of beating Donald Trump in a general election. Don’t believe in polls? Then believe in the Republicans’ tireless hatred of Hillary Clinton. While some Republicans may vote for Hillary over Trump because she is still a semi-conservative option, there are far more Republicans who will vote for Trump simply to cast a vote against Clinton.
Don’t underestimate fear and hatred. Particularly when it has the backing of the RNC behind it. Today, Speaker Paul Ryan announced that he will vote for Trump. Count the number of conservative “Never-Trump” members now falling systematically in line behind Trump, at the strong behest and immense intimidation of the RNC itself.
“If all the people who are voting for Trump because they hate Hillary, and all the people who are voting for Hillary because they hate Trump actually had a person of integrity with public interest values, who is not corrupted by the war profiteers and the predatory banks, if they had a Bernie Sanders type person and an agenda to vote for they would be voting for it. And if the Democrats had the integrity to allow Bernie Sanders to go forward they would have that vote, but they don’t!”
It would be dangerous, irresponsible, and a denial of history to believe that the DNC isn’t undertaking similar strategies and techniques to that of the RNC when it so overtly backs Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders.
And while many will argue that this is not the right time for bigger battles or challenges within the Democratic Party as we’re currently staring down the menacing and urgent barrel of a Donald Trump Presidency, I would suggest that Trump’s rise and embrace is the clearest indicator that these immensely serious challenges are dangerously long overdue. I can’t think of a more immediate and palpable motivator.
One day, history will illuminate the inner-workings and machinations of America’s political and social upheavals during this period. I hope the story ends as an inspiring tale of progress and self-realization triumphing over obstructionism, and not a cautionary tale for other future societies to ponder.
In the meantime, I would suggest to all Democrats and self-professed Liberals out there, that while we witness the collapse of the Republican Party from within, that we take a moment to recognize not only all that we have in common with them, but also how we played a part in creating the society and political climate that has allowed Donald Trump to become their nominee. There but for the grace of god, indeed.
We are not separate or impervious to today’s political and social climate in America. We are an active, living, breathing part of it. We take an equal responsibility for where it is and where it is headed. And all the finger-pointing in the world isn’t going to change that. No matter where the RNC or the DNC or the media tells you the “real threat” is located.