Soul Man

Posted by Randy in Meta

Keep in mind that I am an historian not a fortune teller and I am writing this before the final primaries and the convention. Maybe one of the Republicans wild punches will land and Hillary will be disqualified as a candidate;  maybe Bernie’s followers’ fantasy of the superdelegates becoming convinced that only Bernie can beat Trump, comes true. However,  Hillary’s march to the nomination seems to me the most likely scenario. I believe Bernie will ultimately endorse Hillary when she wins the nomination and I am not afraid of him dividing the party with a third party run. His followers are a different story. I can see them sitting out if she becomes the Democratic candidate and either allowing Trump to win or at least making me sweat on election night. Why then do I encourage Bernie to keep fighting? It is not about getting good sounding yet ultimately meaningless planks in the platform although I wish Cornell West the best of luck. The Democratic party has lost its way and become just as much of a tool of the 1% as the Republicans although of a slightly different flavor. This has left the middle class, progressives, people of color, single mothers, idealistic youth, and the poor, all disenfranchised. Many have pinned their hopes on Bernie as an agent to change this. To them the failure of Bernie’s campaign to achieve the nomination is seen as a loss that signals the failure of his “revolution.” I see it as a first step. Let us admit that to truly transform the Democratic Party is going to take time. Just as the insurgent campaign of Eugene McCarthy in 1968 begot the nomination for George McGovern in 1972. It was the disastrous loss of McGovern in 1972 that eventually led to today’s counter revolution of superdelegates who will protect Hillary. The country was a different place and not ready for McGovern or progressive ideas in 1972. It will take some preparation before they will be ready in the future.

The situation today is quite different. The electorate is changing not only in the demographic emergence of more voters of color, but in the rejection of politics as usual that Trump’s emergence has revealed. Right now what we are seeing is a battle for the soul of the Democratic Party. I see Bernie not as the “Savior” but as John the Baptist readying the party for a “Savior” who is yet to come. His “revolution” rhetoric and progressive ideas are a preparation for the future. If HRC is elected we have seen that her “pragmatism” is simply a response to which way the wind is blowing. We need to ensure that the wind is a progressive one. I heard Eugene McCarthy speak many years after his retirement from politics and he said that the best candidate may be an opponent who could change. HRC is certainly that. Trump is that too, but I worry that if he is elected there may not be a presidential election in 2020. If Bernie loses the nomination he needs to ensure that he has enough delegates to help sway the inner workings of the party toward a progressive future. The ultimate importance of this next election cycle or two may be the election of progressive candidates to Congress. If we compare national opinion polls to the voting of elected officials we see a disconnect. For example, a majority of Americans support some kind of gun control yet the conservative Congress opposes even modest measures. We need to have a Congress more in touch with what Americans want and will support. Whatever their faults the Republicans have been successful in convincing the middle class to vote for them usually by scapegoating someone else. I think that if we see the ideas that Bernie has put forth translated into ideas that the electorate will support we will see his “revolution” transform into real reform.

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