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Bernie Sanders and the Dance of the Seven Veils

When we infuse Faith, Hope and Charity into political analysis it mutates into the willful blindness of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” So it should be no surprise that die-hard Sanders supporters still cling to Bernie’s studied ambiguity as a sign that he’s planning some kind of Hail Mary pass.

Over the months, the Sandernistas have generally insisted that their loyal support for Bernie is not at all like the Obamamania that put Bonnie Prince Barry on the Oval Office throne in 2008. Because Bernie Sanders is an altogether different kind of person and politician, which is sort of true, then, “This time it’s different.”

Perhaps unconsciously, they attribute the same Political Ninja Master qualities and motivations to this decidedly “different” candidate. They are convinced that Bernie’s coy reluctance to unambiguously declare his support for Clinton must be a signal that he’s “up to something” that will result in pulling victory from the jaws of defeat in this strange electoral Dance Of the Seven Veils.

He’s dead, but he won’t lie down. So he must have something up his sleeve! And indeed he does. Unfortunately, since the California primary, Sanders has been rhetorically rolling up his sleeves and revealing “I ♥ Hillary & the Democratic Party” tattoos.

For better or worse, it appears that Team Sanders chose to employ the term ‘revolution’ as a sanitized marketing buzzword to give the campaign a certain pizzazz– especially to attract and capture the youth vote. Tragically, to some extent it worked and now they are stuck with it. So Bernie is compelled to characterize his oft-stated intention to gracefully admit defeat and support the Democratic Party and its pre-chosen nominee, as just another front in the “revolutionary” Long Game.

Although he will essentially be campaigning for what he seemingly campaigned against, Sanders and his spokespersons and allies will shamefully deny the contradiction — or hypocrisy — and instead try to have it both ways. Because pragmatism in politics is the art of compromise. “Realistically” it is, “Anybody But Trump.” Priorities, people! Cognitive dissonance be damned.

Team Sanders must deflect and downplay the unfortunate “Judas goat” aspect of his soft challenge to the Democratic Establishment and seek to persuade his followers that this capitulation is at worst a disagreeable but necessary turn of events. It’s tricky because he can’t openly characterize supporting Clinton as “taking a step backwards to move two steps forward.” Unlike the progressive-liberal punditocracy, Sanders can’t validate his supporters’ profound disappointment, skepticism and loathing of Hillary by urging them to “hold their noses” and vote the Democratic ticket.

Instead, as Sanders slowly lets the proverbial cat out of the bag, his devoted supporters seem determined to misinterpret what they’re seeing. Nevertheless, he will eventually have to express an “authentic” personal enthusiasm for a Clinton administration — one that can’t be dismissed as mere gentlemanly courtesy or good sportsmanship.

At present, the Sanders campaign is launching its principled capitulation with a familiar fusillade of Exciting, Optimistic Big Ideas for stepping up the Bernie-inspired “movement” to challenge the corrupt and decadent duopoly. He is rallying lots of urgent grassroots activism to support more and better progressive politicians. Thus far this translates into ‘progressive’ Democrats. No third party “spoilers” need apply.

My guess is they will continue the generic reassurances that the “revolution” is only beginning. It will be interesting to see if — and how many — Sanders supporters will buy into the hype that the “revolution” is as alive as ever; it’s just prudently going underground the way Occupy did.

But how can Bernie possibly escape the corner he has systematically painted himself into? How can he distance himself from a year of gallantly treating Hillary Clinton as a worthy opponent, even as Democratic Party dirty tricks consistently victimized his own supporters? How can he walk back his insistence that the Democratic Party is the only viable path to political salvation, ripe for “revolutionary” reform, if only he can nail a few ‘progressive’ planks into the Party platform?

It’s bad enough that the corporate/mainstream mass-media commentariat, not to mention the Clinton campaign, would have a field day characterizing any major course changes as a “flip-flop” or the desperate flailing of a “sore loser”. But it could be even worse for Bernie if his opponents and detractors pile on to discredit him as he becomes a pariah among his congressional colleagues.

The more salient question is how will Bernie supporters react if he suddenly “rises to the occasion” in a way he has publicly refused to do from the very beginning of his campaign. Those who are still “Feeling the Bern” may rejoice at any indication that Bernie may not go gentle into that good night. But Sanders supporters capable of critical thinking will have to reconcile any drastic changes to the campaign with what has gone before.

They will have to accept that a “New Sanders” is as ostensibly honest and authentic as the original version. At least the younger ones won’t remember the dubious precedent of the “New Nixon.”

In any case, it should be obvious by now that this is not who Sanders *is*. He is either unwilling to lead or is incapable of leading a “revolution” — even a revolution that is limited to breaking out of the established electoral farce. He’s not going to do it — not now, during or after the convention.

Remember. This is the candidate who told Hillary Clinton he was “sick and tired” of hearing about her damn emails.

But by all means people, please, please give ‘em hell in the streets!!

February 20, 2019
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