Monday, February 01, 2016

The Bernie Sanders Type


I am not saying that Bernie Sanders is a bad guy. If he is the nominee, believe me I will work for him. But if he wins the nomination without the support of African American voters and middle aged women, it won't be worth much, and it won't matter what I do.

I know Bernie by type, because I ,too, am Bernie: a white male radical who has
labored in the vineyards of progressive change in the USA since the days of college. There were quite a few of us. Some of us became academics; some of us went into local politics (like Bernie); some of us became ministers; some of us went into software; some of us became farmers. Some of us were scoundrels,, but most of us were good guys.

But we all had a blind spot. We were powered by our passion and by our analytical ability. We had an analysis. We could get to the core of the problems with our government and economy and we could describe them in crushing detail.

We could explain why half-way measures and milquetoast reforms would never solve them.

We were very, very good at being able to explain how voting for a Democrat wouldn't do any good. (You're welcome, Richard Nixon.)

No, our analysis was that we needed a Revolution. We could not see, though, that our analysis was not anywhere near enough to actually organize anybody.

Our Blind Spot: We thought if we could fit the oppression and exploitation of African Americans, women, gays, and everyone else, into our analysis, those people would see us as their leaders.




3 comments:

Steve Cook said...

I appreciate your candidness, Tom, and I think you have a very valid point. It is this quality of the earnest, energetic "Bernies" of the world that I can find not only tiresome but, when applied to an election of this importance, worrisome. I find that the conviction of utter rectitude, when claimed to be backed by data and theory, does not lend itself to the messy business of politics. Bernie appears to have found some way to do this in the Senate, I guess, but there is a messianic tone to the campaign so far that worries me.

Pete M said...

My thoughts aren't far off from Steve's comments above. I've had debates online with Bernie supporters on healthcare. They make excellent points about virtues of single payer compared to the ACA. What I don't find persuasive is their confidence that the right combination of messenger/message can overcome all of the structural impediments to change baked into American politics -- such as gerrymandering, the filibuster, etc. Those impediments can, sometimes, be overcome and may someday be removed, but in the short run they have to be acknowledged.

To your larger point, I think that half-way measures and milquetoast reforms are more or less the way politics works in the United States.

LdeG said...

Not sure what constitutes middle-aged these days but I'm a 64 year old woman who is a Bernie supporter. And so are many of my friends. Knowing how to work the system is only useful if the goals are right, and I don't think Hillary's are. Better someone I can trust to at least veto. I am seeing backlash against Republican callouslesness out here, by white working class guys, and I think by 2018 we are going to see change in Congress. I'm willing to wait.