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The Big Lie: Hillary the Pragmatist vs. Bernie the Dreamer

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The Sanders revolution is not going to be televised and it is not going to be reported in the rest of the mass media either. The revolution is against plutocracy and the plutocracy owns the mass media. Anyone still getting their information from the mass media is missing out on the history being made in an historical political year that rivals any of the past two generations.

Yet patriots should still be prepared to answer plutocratic propaganda that issues from the mass media to pollute the information environment. A month ago its propaganda was that Bernie Sanders was losing, when upon closer analysis of the facts he was clearly winning. This month’s propaganda is that Hillary Clinton is experienced and pragmatic whereas Bernie Sanders is an inexperienced dreamer who will sacrifice the achievable prosaic reform by reaching for impossibly poetic ideals.

It must be said very clearly that this is a complete and total lie, deploying “the big lie” technique of propagandists. It must be called out as such. The most consistent message from Sanders is what he said when he first started exploring a presidential bid and has continued to say down to the last debate when he clearly defined the central issue of the 2016 campaign: “Very little is going to be done to transform our economy and to create the kind of middle class we need unless we end a corrupt campaign finance system which is undermining American democracy.”

If Sanders does not overcome the plutocracy and restore American democracy he is quite clear that “very little” is going to get done by him as president. That is not the talk of an unrealistic dreamer, but of a very honest, clear-eyed, practical politician who knows exactly what the score is.

The difference between Sanders and Clinton is that Clinton assumes that under her presidency, as it has been under Obama‘s, the plutocracy will be in good hands. Therefore she promises that “very little” will get done by way of “pragmatic” reform based on “common ground” with Republicans. This is code for those reforms that the plutocracy authorizes at the point where the much vaunted partisan polarization suddenly gives way to bipartisan service to plutocracy.

When applied specifically for reform of the systemically corrupt system which is American politics, the incremental kind of reform that Clinton proposes is actually counterproductive. It makes the system even more corrupt. It takes systemic reform to overcome systemic corruption. Since systemic reform must start from the top, the precise approach to reform of political corruption by the presidential candidates, whether counterproductively incremental or effectively systemic, is key to the future of American democracy. We have had 40 years of diversionary and piecemeal reform proposals as the systemic corruption only grew worse.

Though plutocracy is by far the most important issue, Sanders is not running a one issue campaign. While totally leveling with the people about the limited possibilities for the policy reforms he advocates if the current systemic corruption is not outlawed, he is also informing people about the reforms that he will pursue if democracy is restored.

Sanders is very appropriately campaigning on these other policy issues because they could all be done relatively easily, indeed would already have been done, if the United States were a democracy. A democracy is where majorities get the policies they want that are not inconsistent with democracy itself. Policies like single-payer health care, free state college tuition, and virtually all other of Sanders’ “middle class” economic reforms have majority backing. In a democracy it is not an impractical dream to think that the majority would be able to enact the policies that they want.

Only in a plutocracy is policy that serves the majority a mere impractical dream. By framing his campaign around a platform of majoritarian policy reforms, Sanders is presenting a far clearer picture of what the country would look like under his presidency if he succeeds in his priority task of overthrowing the plutocracy. This provides a richer and truer explanation of the importance of this single decisive issue than if he had run a single issue campaign, as professor Larry Lessig advised.

The choice is then quite clear. Hillary Clinton and her mass media backers criticizing Sanders as an impractical idealist are clearly assuming that the plutocracy will continue on her watch, as it certainly would. In her plutocracy, as in Obama’s plutocracy, none of Sanders’ policies would be anything but an unattainable ideal, as he himself has consistently indicated. Sanders is focused on, and promises to achieve with the continued support of the people, the overthrow of “the billionaire class” plutocracy. Then adopting what are, in Clinton’s world, “impractical” reforms would actually become a matter of ordinary democratic politics.

The Democratic primary election presents a very easy choice that has nothing to do with pragmatism, dreaming, or more or less experience running the corrupt American system of politics. These are products of propagandists designed to change the subject. The real choice is between someone who is planning on the restoration of democracy and someone who is planning for the perpetuation of plutocracy.

Rob Hager is a public interest litigator who filed an amicus brief in the Montana sequel to Citizens United and has worked as an international consultant on anti-corruption policy and legislation.

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