Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Three Reasons I Just Gave More Money in Support of Sanders (and So Should You)

So, I'm still contributing to the Sanders campaign. Why? Because I think his win yesterday in Indiana is the breakthrough, that all of sudden the math is going to change and the delegates and the votes are going to pave his way to the Democratic nomination? Of course not. Sanders has said all along--and is still saying--that what he's been attempting is an uphill battle, and even his closest advisers are talking about how his monumental effort is likely to come to an end. But people who look at party politics solely in terms of the electoral results they make possible, and not at what kind of ideological infrastructure they can help build along the way, are missing the point. Yes, in our electoral system, influence comes from winning votes, and so Sanders has rightly talked all along about actually winning the nomination--which means he's talked about actually beating Clinton, and he's going to continue to do so. And that makes Clinton supporters, whose eyes are entirely (only?) on the prize, nervous. Now that Trump is essentially being crowned as the Republican nominee, they say, it's time to unify against him. Well, sure! Every liberal or progressive or socialist, every leftist of any stripe, is going to do whatever is needed to defeat Trump in November, and for most that will include voting for the Democratic ticket (as Sanders has said he will do multiple times). But is the best way to do that to stop supporting Sanders's crusade now? I say no, for a few reasons:

1) Because, as silly or as irresponsible or even dangerous as it surely sounds to many pragmatists, Sanders's talk about "revolution" is both necessary and real. Mobilizing people outside of party structures with the aim of shifting the effective coalitions within those structures: that's a way of conceiving of the operation of democratic governance in the American polity as old as Jefferson and as current as Black Lives Matter (or the Tea Party, for that matter). Is attempting to generate that kind of profound political change, that kind of real evolution in how voters involve themselves in the never-ending struggle with the political and socio-economic structures of American society, most effectively done by running a former hippie senator from Vermont in a presidential nomination race? Almost certainly not. But still, you never know how, when, or from whence revolutions will come; you just back whatever reasonable vehicles exist to make the electoral field open up for them to happen. And then, if and when they stop being workable, you find or create other vehicles, and work on them. For now, for those of us in the trenches, Sanders still is that vehicle.

2) Because the political effect of campaigns is at least as much a result of the messages which their success carry forward, and being confronted with the message that Sanders has found himself embodying--the lower middle-class message about jobs, college, and health care--has benefited the Democratic party. True, his populist argument for greater economic democracy, his ability to present the party establishment with a block of voters who recognize how their livelihoods have been negatively effected by globalization and trade deals that provide little protection against global capital, and by the spread of an outsourcing economy which makes health care and job security much less dependable, would have been even stronger if he'd been able to pull off more wins (Ohio and Pennsylvania, I'm looking at you). But he's likely to win West Virginia and Montana, contest strongly in California, and come into Philadelphia ready to hold Clinton's feet to the fire, particularly in matters of trade. The pressure, both internal and external, on her to flip once again on the Trans-Pacific Partnership or similar deals will be great, since her personal vision of the global marketplace is fundamentally all about financial growth rather than community protection, and especially since Trump is going to make bashing Clinton on trade a centerpiece of his campaign anyway, and she'll naturally want to distance herself from that. But a rare opportunity is present here in 2016, to actually generate real political change in America's commitment to a Davos-and-Wall-Street-friendly style of globalization, to articulate a message about capitalism that hasn't been heard in Washington DC (outside of the offices of a few senators and representatives here and there) since the rise of the DLC--or indeed, if you buy into the larger conceptual possibilities of someone who calls himself a socialist so successfully capturing votes and campaigning for the nomination of a major political party, it's a message that hasn't been heard in decades, and maybe not for a century. By keeping the real electoral challenge of Sanders to Clinton's presumed march to the White House strong for as long as possible, that political message is similarly strengthened.

3) Because, honestly, there's still too many possibilities out there, and let's just leave it at that. Keeping Sanders viable means that, if the Clinton machine blows up (as it has done before), there will another movement, ready and able, to take its place. (And really, all you Sanders nay-sayers, isn't that a realistic way of looking at things?)

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