The Bernie Sanders primary campaign is simultaneously an inspiring populist movement against inequality, and exasperating.
This is the only kind of Berner I’ll ever be, although I’m to the left of Sanders. For that matter, I’m to the left of Fidel Castro.
The first Jewish president would mean a lot to me as a Jew. The last time a socialist Jew got so popular, people wore him on their necks for the next 2000 years (and killed him, but shhh). A Bernie vs. Trump election would provide the long-awaited Jews vs. Hitler rematch. I’m not into “Feel the Bern.” I prefer “Bern the Jew.”
On the other hand, the first woman president would be amazing. We should finally recognize that women are as capable as men at bombing civilians and creating poverty. I’m sure men will handle the first female president with the same grace and dignity that white people handled the first black president.
There’s a bizarre anti-Hillary and anti-electoral sentiment among Sanders supporters, most recently Susan Sarandon. “I couldn’t bear to vote for Hillary. Hillary doesn’t deserve my vote. I can’t legitimate this system.” #BernieorBust they say. Such statements are emotional catharsis, not political strategy.
Clearly Hillary Clinton represents the capitalist war-monger wing of the Democratic Party, i.e. most of it. But the United States is a capitalist violent empire. That’s the job description. Hillary Clinton would be exceedingly competent at managing the empire. The White House is not the vehicle for radical intersectionality.
When George Bush was president, I hated him, and missed the simpler times when I hated Bill Clinton. I look forward to hating another Clinton.
When progressives don’t have the power to win our agenda, sometimes we must take up defensive struggles. Bernie supporters saying they can’t vote for Hillary is like saying you can’t bring yourself to protest a war because you can’t also abolish bombs.
We can’t elect progressive mayors in San Francisco and Oakland. (See also, everywhere else.) Why would we think our next move after failing locally, consistently, for years, is to fail nationally? Why not walk before we cartwheel?
The best evidence against anti-electoral/anti-Hillary left arguments is before our very eyes.
“Voting is futile and legitimates a corrupt system.” That’s why the right works so hard to suppress voting with voter ID laws and gerrymandering. Because voting doesn’t matter.
“The Democratic Party won’t allow a challenge to the left so we need a third party.” Sanders is running the most successful national left electoral challenge in decades, via the primary. That’s why Ralph Nader himself wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post supporting Bernie running as a Democrat. If Bernie ran outside the Democratic Party, he would influence national politics as much as the memorable Matt Gonzalez Green Party vice presidential bid of 2008.
The overwhelming lesson of the Obama years is that Democrats can be moved to the left by effective movements and Republicans cannot. All the unilateral progressive executive branch actions of Final Lap Obama — stopping the Keystone pipeline, DACA, raising wages for federal contractors, net neutrality, expanding overtime rules, new gun control rules, funding body cameras on cops — responded to sustained grassroots pressure. They did not spring from the goodness of his heart. They were too late and mild, but no victories happen under Republicans. Only defensive struggles.
Bernie calls for a political revolution. Everyone’s a bit hazy on the details of what said revolution might consist of. It will take more than shouting at stray birds and voting. Revolutions don’t end at the ballot. In fact, what we do in that revolution should be the same as whoever ends up in the Oval Office.
As Rebecca Solnit says so eloquently, “Politicians are weathervanes. We must be the weather.” Don’t be mad at Democrats because we fail at being the weather.
Anyway, if Hillary wins, and nominates Mayor Ed Lee ambassador to China as rumored, Hanukkah comes early.
Nato Green is a comedian and writer, who can be seen in a new Mystery Science-style movie riffing show monthly at the Alamo Drafthouse called Riffer’s Delight. Send hot takes @natogreen.