Noam Chomsky was recently recorded in an interview saying that the Bernie Sanders campaign was “an extraordinary success” that “completely shifted the arena of debate and discussion” in the United States. While I agree with Chomsky when he says in the same Democracy Now interview that “If Trump is reelected, it’s an indescribable disaster. It means that the policies of the past four years, which have been extremely destructive to the American population, to the world, will be continued and probably accelerated.” I don’t agree with or think that we can now, in our collective, progressive disappointment, paint the Sanders campaign as “an extraordinary success”, when as the dust has settled and the carpet has been rolled-up, we can see that it was far from being a success of any kind.
The early capitulation of Bernie Sanders in the 2020 primary signals the end of decades of progressive political activism and organizing here in the USA. The progressive movement in the US has now, like a cloud with no rain, passed over and failed three generations of left-wing voters. With this loss, the boomers, Gen-Xers and todays Millennials, all who were represented on the line for Bernie Sanders and the progressive policies he was promoting have been left outside, still praying for rain.
It is absurd to think that a political defeat of this magnitude could or should be somehow spun into some kind of counter-culture win but I suppose it must be spun for the sake of all tender feelings and forever optimists. That is fine for them, I don’t wish to pull them down from their place but for the rest of us who can take an unpleasant truth when it kicks us in the pants, the truth is, we have lost the battle once again in 2020 and with this battle I believe we have lost the progressive war. Progressives will have to start out on a completely new path now, one that does not lead to a forever cycle of compromise and capitulation, compromise and capitulation among “friends” who are at best, sheep in wolves clothing. Rather than thinking that the Sanders campaign gave a voice to progressive groups and movements, I feel that the Sanders campaign picked-up those groups and voices along the road and then drove them into a dead-end where they will be struggling to survive through the distractions and pure nonsense of the Riden-with-Biden campaign and if he should be so lucky as to win, another spell of just to the right of centrism politics that will, without a doubt, be his position.
The spin that goes around now is that somehow, through the efforts of the failed Sanders campaign, the political conversation has changed and to such an extent, that all those progressive ideas and platforms, international reconciliation, social care and welfare, sensible environmental stewardship and a further democratization of real politics will be received and celebrated, respected and promoted, legislated and observed by the Biden democrats should they win. Progressive voters may be waiting for a signal of compromise from the Biden democrats but the names of Gretchen Whitmer who has been described as the “quintessential insider”, and Amy Klobuchar, if known for anything it might be the great distance she keeps between herself and progressives, who have been floated as possible running mates for Biden which, if one of them sticks, sends a very strong message out to any actual progressives who might have been hoping for someone more along the lines of say Stacy Abrams or Nina Turner or maybe even Elizabeth Warren who at least has made some concessions to and has some experience in promoting one or two popular progressive ideas and policies.
What has actually happened, especially when compared to some other paths that might have been explored, is that Progressivism, in the popular sense, has been co-opted and beaten down so horribly it now hangs by its last few breaths.
My guess or sense of the matter however is that the old guard of the boomer generation is finished now, along with what we have known as the progressive movement and it should be finished, buried and forgotten after suffering such defeat as it has in the last decade or more, including those days when many thought we might have a champion in Barack Obama or Bernie Sanders but in truth were again, as always, left without much more than hope, and with such a draught of any positive change, our reservoir of hope is growing terribly low. But in reality even that last bit of hope we have been clinging too was dashed after eight years of centrism finishing with Obama and the party further to the right than from where he or the party started. Whatever bit of hope for progressives that was left was thrown back in their faces when looking to replace Obama, the party came down strong on the progressive candidate Sanders and instead of hearing the roar of the Sanders campaign decided to, full of pride, go forth and run with the already washed-up and irrelevant candidate Hillary Clinton.
The progressive movement again fails the people with the collapse of yet another Sanders campaign for the presidential nomination in the 2020 primary. Sanders, not finding it within his own or his campaigns abilities to go the distance sheepishly exit the stage in humiliation and then immediately join in the chorus of endorsements of the Democrats most embarrassing candidate possible. The reputation of the progressive movement has been so tainted by its almost constant losing that it has become associated with that losing and with compromising with Democrats to the point of being of a trifling significance and it now has become, not the strong voice of the people but the hopeless movement of lukewarm expectations.
Strangely enough as the policies behind the progressive movement gained favor in the public eye, every blue candidate from the ones least committed to those policies to the ones most committed to the policies has at one time or another tried to wave the progressive flag or somehow tack that label onto their profile, as the progressive policies themselves are quite popular. This progressive posturing helps candidates look better in the public eye, which they quite understand but it’s muddied the water and it’s hard for some to clearly see who is and who isn’t a real heart-strong progressive. Many politicians now will posture close to the label and some have even come out of the gate swinging or at times aspire towards the true progressive cause, it’s just that politicians, once enthroned, often fail to match their once brave rhetoric and actually legislate those policies into public programs and law as that would upset the old-time party loyalists and most importantly, their old-time party financiers and donors. This posturing of puppets has so challenged the meaning of the word progressive that it now doesn’t really mean much of anything. The progressive movement needs to be resurrected under a new name, a new party and with a focus on including those other forgotten Americans who are sick and tired of watching their country fall to the wolves of capitalism and the politicians who do their dirty work for them.
With the knowledge that the government of the reliably awful Donald Trump or the government of the less predictably awful Joe Biden is what we have before us, it stands to simple reason that anything, any policy that is even remotely progressive will not stand a chance of being brought forward as public policy within either of these administrations. Progressives, well almost all people that is, should realize therefore that they are not going to be welcome in either of these camps and should take the hint and reorganize completely outside of either of these two mainstream and totally corrupted and compromised parties so that there is no chance of any sensible voter ever mistaking one of these self-serving party candidates for a progressive person of integrity who will stand with that majority of Americans who are, or desperately want to be, done with these politicians posing as representatives of the people, so they might against the odds, actually make some gain towards a political system that is not entirely bought and sold.
I am and have been thoroughly disappointed in Bernie Sanders as a leading figure in the progressive movement. I can understand how some might have thought that there could have been some small chance of moving a progressive candidate through the Democratic Party but there wasn’t. For Sanders to turn around and do it twice, to do the sheepherding all over again I think was downright negligent, maybe even sinister. Sanders had managed to pull all the air out of the Jill Steins campaign and the chance of any other progressive candidate, certainly not someone from the smeared and disgraced Green Party so the floor was all his but then, even owning the platform, he failed to build on it by not gaining the support of even one endorsement from his rivals as they rushed to drop-out and endorse Joe Biden. Tulsi Gabbard for instance, looked like she was in real pain when asked about her relationship with Sanders saying that he had never reached out to her even after she had stood so strong for him in 2016. As it turned out many millions of dollars were wasted on the Sanders campaign along with an immeasurable amount of political energy, tossed aside with hardly as much as an, “I’m sorry” from Sanders. Sanders I believe, could/should/would have made much more of a political impact if he had rallied round and joined in with the Green Party as Jill Stein invited him to do giving the Greens, who are true progressives, some teeth to chew with rather than endorsing the failed candidate Hillary Clinton, which as it turned out, was a wasted endorsement and his energy would have been better spent moving quickly to the left of Clinton, to a position that could truly reflected the will of so many of his original supporters. Sanders had enough of a following that he could have started an entirely new Party. Then we might have had some time over the last three years to build some political power outside the confines of the already established and apparently unmovable Democratic Party. We might have invested in a party that could honestly challenge both Republicans and Democrats to becoming better representatives of the people but instead here we are again, the two major parties holding hands in the front seat of a car that roars closer, faster, closer, faster to the edge of the thousand foot cliff leaving progressives in horror with no ride home at all.
We have been bouncing back and forth between the terror of the Republican Party and the failures of the Democratic Party long enough and there is no better remedy for ending this ping-pong game with the American people souls than the introduction of a strong third party and Sanders, of all people, should have known that.
As a somewhat scarred and burnt-out, but still caring human, I look towards the younger generations now for fresh energy. I have three children in their twenties and they are just as fed-up with the status-quo as I ever was but they bring with them the lessons they’ve learned from watching our struggle and they come from a place that is already socially transformed in ways that our generation was not, which frees up a lot of their transformational energy for political battles instead of fighting against their elders as so many of us spent our time doing. Along with being free from many of the social hang-ups the boomers struggled with, the younger generations have a very well defined sense of purpose because of the urgency with which they must act. The boomer generation at times aspired to various versions of Aquarian utopias whereas the Gen-Xers and the Millennials best and most urgent hopes for now are to simply stay alive.
I look for them, support them and will hope that rather than trying to patch up the old system as we have done, that they will consider wrapping themselves in a whole new outlook and that they will bring forward up-dated and fresh new ideas and strategies for their political efforts struggles and advancement. I hope that they have the sense and the power to free themselves from a system that almost everyone will admit is corrupted, that they will not believe those who worship the impossible but will make themselves strong and proud by understanding the spirit of defining what is possible for them, for their generation.
The up-coming battle for president between these most corrupt and irrelevant old white men, Trump and Biden, will be a show of the most absurd, hypocritical and clownish nature, so much so that whatever has not already been revealed concerning the fall of the American Empire will soon be on full display all over the world thru that other absurd, hypocritical and clownish device known as main-stream media. It will be hard to look away but harder still to watch as ad agencies and media organizations attempt to promote these has-beens as heroes of their parties, heroes of the nation. As these ad agencies and media organizations attempt to work their magic while raking in billions from advertising revenue with the most preposterous of images of these two failed humans, the masks that they all are wearing will fall away exposing them, all together, as the corrupted enemies of everyday people that they are.
This is the point from which the next generation and the next movement must rise. The failures of the old system will be so obvious that the new activists may not, with good leadership and purpose, have to spend too much time or energy on debating the failures of the two diseased parties. With the urgency of their mission of survival in their minds, we can hope that they will instead be focused on a speedy recovery from the crash of the two party empire and that their revolution will be one of building up the country, the environment and humanity on the grand-scale rather than on the tearing down of our old systems as has been required in the political lives of us older ones.