Why Bernie?

05/12/2016

Because you can’t vote out of fear. You have to vote for what you hope to achieve, not what you are afraid to lose. The feared misanthropic society that Trump would inaugurate effectively already exists. Republicans dominate the majority of state legislatures and have attacked voting and labor rights. Obama has been the most prolific deporter of immigrants in modern history, and is actively bombing a half-dozen Muslim countries. He and Hillary have been cheerleaders of nuclear power around the world, he bailed out the financial sector to the detriment of most Americans, and black lives arguably matter less today than they did before he was in office. It is hard to imagine how much more degradation they can suffer in America’s poor urban areas.

It is useful to look back to another declining empire to understand what is going on in our own today. In 1975, the British Conservative Party held an election to find a new leader. Unfortunately, all the candidates represented in different ways the feudal elite that the majority of the general population despised. My favorite was ludicrously named Willie Whitelaw, who epitomized the kind of chinless, pony-fondling landed gentry that had dominated British politics for centuries. But as society changed, people like him became electoral poison. Several influential Conservatives knew this, and put forward Margaret Thatcher. 

Thatcher’s political hero, whom she was not shy about naming, was the most prominent right-wing politician of her time, Enoch Powell, who is most famous for a speech predicting race war in the U.K. because of immigration. Even worse, in her chemistry career before politics, Thatcher helped develop a technique to whip larger amounts of air into ice cream so that a smaller amount would fill the same-sized container. What she took from Powell was called Monetarism, the half-baked economic doctrine associated with Milton Friedman. But it would be wrong to blame her for this, because that movement started under the Labour Party—the British version of our Democrats—years before she was prime minister. She just continued and expanded its application. 

And that is how you have to understand politicians like Thatcher and her American counterpart Ronald Reagan: they don’t come up with ideas and policies, they are the acceptable public face of their implementation. They are actors who win elections so that, behind the scenes, ideas about cutting spending on social welfare, deregulating business and expanding trade agreements will lead to increased profits for certain industries, but mostly banks and speculators. This is what the bumbling Southerner Clinton, the Black entertainer Obama and now everyone’s Grandma™ are there for.

Mainstream feminism long ago abandoned its commitment to social transformation. By the ‘80s it was merely a lever for ambitious women to rise in professional ranks, mostly in the bureaucracies of governments, universities and nonprofits or, in the case of Hillary, to offer up a loyal constituency of women to various corporate sponsors in exchange for high political office. Whatever the intentions of its authors and activists decades ago, "feminism" has only proven that you can turn a woman into the worst kind of man our culture produces: craven, de-centered, manically ambitious and simulataneously unscrupulous and self-pitying. 

But you don’t have to believe a man. I got a simple answer from my friend Julia Peters. ‘Why Bernie?’ I asked. She answered: “He busted the myth that corporate contributions, super-PACs and being beholden to big-money interests are necessary to run a campaign. So Hillary supporters’ argument that big money is a necessary evil is false. Until you get candidates elected who aren’t slaves to corporate masters, you won’t change anything in this country.”

On Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at the Dance Palace there will be a potluck for Bernie Sanders.