Sorry Mr. Bern, the Revolution Will Not be Elected

Okay. I’m totally prepared for you to label me a wet blanket. I’ll even don the costume, so long as it doesn’t touch my hair. Just got a press and curl.

But to the point.

Over the weekend, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders came to Washington- no not that Washington, the one with all the trees. And yes, rain. Some stereotypes just fit.

And true to the Seattle way, Bernie Sanders was the place to be, particularly Key Arena, which was packed beyond capacity. The Bern cranked up the liberal rhetoric until the crowd was near frenzied- yes, yes we want a political revolution!! Down with the Democratic establishment! Fight the rigged system!!!

Sorry homie, pump the breaks. *Sigh* Look ya’ll I get it, he’s smart, experienced, passionate and says all the thingscreditmotherjonesbernie_2 we want to hear, and that many need to hear. To be fair, much of what he says is on par with the truth, which is refreshing and more than can be said for most politicians.

Sen. Sanders’ message exists- indeed, his chances of winning the Democratic nomination- largely because of the success of the Obama campaigns and administration. It touches those who not only voted for Obama, but those who weren’t old enough to cast a ballot. I know that feeling. I experienced it with (the first) Clinton.

I was too young to vote when the tidal wave of Generation Xers hopped up on Rock the Vote took the nation by storm. We had a “cool” president, who had severe swag and said what we wanted to hear. He played the sax (and apparently women), and who, WHO can forget when he went on Arsenio Hall? Legendary. Epic before epic was a thing.

Like the impact of the original Obama campaign, voter registration among 17-24 year old’s skyrocketed. After the complete and intentional deafness of the Regan and Bush One administrations, American’s were starving for someone they felt could relate to them, not the other way around. It didn’t matter that Clinton’s social, and indeed global policies were nothing short of tragic, he said what needed to be said (twice) and it worked.

The people felt as though they had subverted the status quo, but in fact, they empowered the very people who would go on to control a large faction of the Democratic party’s status quo. The Clinton’s are powerful, and yes, they are the party establishment.

While the Republican party is embarrassingly fractured within, the Dems are divided. On one side of the party, the Clintons- powerful and conservative. On the other side, historically, is what is known as the Daschle party- so named for party power mover Tom Daschle. Obama is a Daschle. So is Bernie Sanders. Point is, both are the establishment, it’s not one or the other. Hilary Clinton is establishment. Bernie Sanders is establishment.

It’s also true that H. Clinton is often cast under the header “inevitable nominee.” Again, we saw that during the first Obama campaign. She absolutely was the inevitable nominee, until that damn Obama came along and *gasp* did what Sanders claims to be doing now, disrupting the party status quo and demanding a new direction. Sanders is the exciting candidate, breathing new life into tried and true Obama rhetoric.

Here’s the rub: politics isn’t sexy. Obama, despite what many assert, didn’t win on a wink and a nod or a hundred watt smile. He won because he had a team of political operatives who successfully charted an unlikely but solid strategy to the nomination and the White House. The Obama campaign didn’t just go state by state like traditional strategies, they went district by district, carving an insurmountable lead at the caucus stage. They taught the voters what needed to happened in order to circumvent the inevitable nominee and the people fell in line. It was breathtakingly impressive and left the Clintons spinning their wheels in the mud. Such a strategy can be repeated, but it can’t be recreated. That part of the so-called revolution happened already.

When Obama first ran for the White House he had the people eating from the palm of his hand. He could have told them all to jump up and down at the same time around the world, and they’d have done it. He told them how to get him the nomination, and they did. He told them how to get him into the Oval, and they did. Once there, voters sat back on their heels and waited for Obama to wave his hand and make miracles happen.

That’s not how politics works either, and it is, in my opinion, the single greatest organizing failure of his campaign and administration: as the instructor of our master class, he failed to clearly teach the people how government works on a basic, fundamental level, particularly between the states and DC, the Senate and the House. It’s only when the opposition built the Wall of No that he pointed to it, and by then it was too late. Remember Organizing for America? Yeah I couldn’t even recall the name (thanks Claire!). It was a lofty effort, but the “single failure” was the lack of overlap between the campaign, OfA and the presidency. People need more than information, they need motivation to act.

While the people had their eyes on Obama, state politics ran amok and we can see the results- the majority of people living in this country are suffering under the systems of oppression, marginalization and disenfranchisement.

and the parties of No and Hell No cut down progress mid-stride. Federal laws are great and all, the states rule the lives of the people, and indeed have the strongest impact on who winds up in DC and as a result, what does and doesn’t get done. And don’t even get me started on the status of the pipeline of prospective electeds in this country- it’s pretty dismal.

Electing Sanders to the presidency isn’t political revolution, and even if it were, it’s not the end-all be-all to getting things done. Can you imagine what would have happened if Obama had applied his election strategy to his legislative strategy? Putting the issues in the hands of the people and teaching them how to get what they want?

Now that’s a revolution I can get behind.



One comment

  1. I like what you have said here, and the post on What Privilege looks like. I would just mention that I, too, worked hard to elect, and then re-elect President Obama. I wanted you to know that he did call us into service (not as quickly as I had hoped) with OFA. There have been three versions of it – all the same letters but standing for different things. We have been called upon to help implement actions over the years in a variety of ways. There are still volunteers working on the effort even now, although at a reduced capacity than before. There are teams on calls (our most recent volunteer call was this past Monday night), working on various issues such as climate change and getting Supreme Court action to name two. Thanks for continuing to raise the issues and work toward solutions. The arc of the universe is long and it bends toward justice – if we work on it.

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