Feeling the Burn

There really wasn’t that much doubt about this. Bernie Sanders’ 2020 run sure looked good at the beginning and was catching some serious fire early on. Many people actually dared to believe that this time, he could actually win. But just before “Super Tuesday” it became crystal clear that the establishment Dems were having none of that heat since they – and we – knew that, if Bernie won the nomination, and thus quite plausibly the election, the first burn casualties would be their hold on the Party. This was definitely not going to be allowed, so one by one the remaining challengers were corralled into dropping out of the race and shifting their support to the cognitively compromised Joe Biden. A man who a week ago mistook his sister for his wife, whose regular incoherence was well-documented, and of whom Elizabeth Warren said was “a big risk” because “[n]ominating a man who says we do not need any fundamental change in this country will not meet this moment.” She was right. Reading this morning’s news (about Super Tuesday 2) it is apparent that, as Bernie undergoes a slow fizzle through the remaining primaries, that this movement to gather the wagons around Biden will get him the nomination, sustaining the Clintonite, neo-liberal hold on the Democratic Party for a little bit longer, and most likely guaranteeing Trump’s second term. There was another movement, though, very different but certain to grow. Sanders captured more than just the imagination of many voters, he kindled their yearning for something better, something more than what the Dems or the Republicans offered.

He fought hard for Medicare for All, a no-brainer for anyone who has journeyed outside the US and now that the corona virus is wreaking havoc on the markets and on economies worldwide, is an issue Sanders should be pouncing on even more strenuously. Sick time? Paid time off? Isolation and keeping away from public places? If workers can’t stay home, the virus will spread and cause even more havoc. But Bernie hasn’t risen to that occasion yet, and the writing is now on the wall. Still, there was marijuana, ending student debt, promoting a Green New Deal and other policies which are relatively tame, social democratic ideas elsewhere, but which fired up millions in the US. It was the logical fulfillment of FDR’s New deal and that was enough to spark a lot of hope. But it hasn’t been enough to win, apparently. And that’s a loss for you all over there.

The Democratic primary season is not over and, while I am no believer in political miracles (and skeptical of most others) something could conceivably happen to render this commentary moot. But I’m not betting on that nor should you. What IS worth betting on is the gradual death of politics as usual and the ever-increasing rate of cynicism which will ensure the collapse of the Dems as a so-called force for change. That really hasn’t been the case for more than 40 years but even so, things will get worse for them. In the end, the last bonfire set by Sanders’ tenacious embers, will consist of the neo-liberal wing of the capitalist “two-party” system. What comes after that, few can predict. My bet, though, is on a rising phoenix of reanimated youth and activists whose Bernie burns will have healed but who will push a hell of a lot harder for more action on the climate, on student debt peonage, and on a more socially just society. That action can win if it mobilizes on the streets instead of inside a dying political party. And if it does, a lot more than old politics will likely be set on fire.



José M. Tirado is a Puertorican poet, Buddhist priest and political writer living in Hafnarfjorður, Iceland, known for its elves, “hidden people” and lava fields. His articles and poetry have been featured in CounterPunch, Cyrano´s Journal, The Galway Review, Dissident Voice, La Respuesta, Op-Ed News, among others. He can be reached at tirado.jm@gmail.com.