Trouble in Political Paradise

Seasons of change run through political movements. The vast Vietnam anti-war movement of the 1960s and early 1970s fell into insignificance once U.S. forces were withdrawn from combat in 1973 and the military draft ended. So too, it seems, at least from viewing last night’s “launching” of the political movement called “Our Revolution,” by Senator Bernie Sanders over the Internet and Free Speech TV, that perhaps the Sanders’ juggernaut has lost steam.

Even before the senator’s speech that began the nationwide effort to encourage and support left/progressive candidates at all level of government across the U.S., there was trouble in political paradise. Politico reported in “Bernie Sanders’ new group is already in turmoil,” (August 23, 2016) that the juggernaut that Sanders represented through the presidential primary season was showing signs of serious stress, or perhaps fatal political flaws. The battle to steer the direction of  the Our Revolution movement shaped up between the former digital director of the Sanders’ campaign, Kenneth Pennington and others, and Sanders’ former campaign manager, Jeff Weaver. The disputes seemed to run along lines of perceived disrespect some of the younger members of the Sanders’ staff felt and the direction those members felt the movement was headed toward by someone whom they characterized as a person who would begin to move the efforts of Our Revolution toward garnering support from large donors, which is diametrically opposed to the small donor base that powered Sanders’ presidential bid.

The late Abbie Hoffman’s words of wisdom came to mind in regard to the inability of leftists to agree to very much of anything over the long haul. Hoffman’s said that the left had the uncanny ability to “Snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory.”

Whether or not the latter is true remains to be seen. Thousands initially expressed an interest in running for political office at all levels of government in answer to an appeal from the senator at the end of the presidential primary season. That figure was pegged at about 100 candidates at last night’s gathering in Burlington, Vermont. And some of the key races within those 100 contested campaigns are showing signs of stress like the campaigns for Congress in Florida and New York. Indeed, as a true believer, I signed up to work in Zephyr Teachout’s campaign many weeks ago in upstate New York and have heard nothing yet.

What may worry readers more, and an issue that was not even given short shrift during Sanders’ speech last night, is whether or not an anti-war movement will be formed to counter the endless wars the U.S. now fight across the globe. Besides the very real ethical and moral issues that ongoing wars present, the very real guns vs. butter issue cannot be denied. During the closing days of the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia, a strong presence of anti-war sentiment seemed obvious on the floor of the convention center. Will that presence translate into a movement on the streets of this nation after inauguration day in January 2017?

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He is the author of Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister (2017).