Grief and rage reign supreme within our progressive movement after the recent primary election losses, especially the one in Michigan where Bernie was expected to win. What went wrong? The answer is NOTHING—at least in my view. Wrong here would have meant Sanders had gone astray, reneging on his agenda, but he never seeks ideological rapprochement with his political rivals, and his message has been consistent.
Medicare for all, free college tuition, environmental preservation, raising the minimum wage, education-not-incarceration are novel, daring and lofty goals, but no one can still claim they are fringe ideas as they did four years ago, for they bear none other than the trademark of the justice for which the vast majority of Americans long. So why Sanders was unable to melt the hardened hearts of Michigan, Texas, and North Carolina voters where a few days before Super Tuesday, polls showed he was leading? More importantly, how come Joe Biden, whose campaign was in free fall shortly before the South Carolina primary, has now been dubbed “the comeback kid”?
The process to nominate a candidate to represent the Democratic party in general elections has been anything but democratic, and it is not surprising. Presidential election in the United States is supposed to be a well-designed political process to showcase American democracy. Bernie Sanders and the progressive movement have threatened to spoil the show. For this, his opponents feel he must be dealt with swiftly. The past two election nights have been a testament to this assertion.
The most important lesson one needs to learn from these recent setbacks is that the political establishment, despite its obvious nonchalance vis-à-vis the disenfranchised, can still manage to insult the intelligence of millions of citizens, especially African Americans by obtusely claiming they are Joe Biden’s firewall against the progressive “machine.” It’s undeniable that many African Americans across the South voted for Biden, but to say black Americans are Biden’s stepping-stones on the road that leads to his nomination is grossly unjust. It feels like killing M. L. King twice—his vision for America, his struggle against segregation, knowing how openly racist Joe Biden has been.
The superrich in this country have all the tools at their disposal to not only project power anywhere on the planet, but more importantly to defend that power whenever they feel it has been threatened, and their manipulation of mainstream media is one of their effective, sophisticated weapons in this new fight against an invading progressive force. To them, Bernie Sanders is the man to beat, not Trump.
Sanders is a social democrat, advocating a new deal for America. He is not a socialist raising the red flag and singing the International on the campaign trail. And they know it. “Democratic socialism means creating a just society in America that provides the kind of rights spelled out in 1944 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt,” he said during a speech at Georgetown University back in 2015. The same theme was repeated in another speech he delivered at GU in June of 2019. And he added this: “[T]he issue of unfettered capitalism is not just an academic debate; poverty, economic distress and despair are life-threatening issues for millions of working people in the country…Taken together, the American Dream of upward mobility is in peril. In fact, if we don’t turn things around, our younger generation will, for the first time in living memory, have a lower standard of living than their parents. This is not acceptable.” So, Bernie is a New Dealer with intellectual probity, not an old red commie creeping his way into America’s heartland.
This socialist straitjacket is being used here to play the politics of fear, but it seems, here in the case of Bernie Sanders, intellectual brilliance combined with unflinching patriotism and honesty are “suspicious qualities, suggestive of elitism, and snootiness,” as Kara Politt wrote in the New Yorker (in reference to Elizabeth Warren). On the other hand, if Bernie “had been obtuse… unready,” intellectually clumsy, dull in his thinking, a plagiarizer, cold-hearted, beholden to Wall Street and, of course, staunchly reactionary, perhaps he would have been tolerated by the corporate elite. However, his high-pitched cry for justice, eloquently voiced, scares them, and for that they will fight him to a bitter end.
Of course, we who support him are frustrated, but this is no time to be angry. This is, rather, the moment to be more resolute in the struggle for socioeconomic justice. At the end of the day, whatever happens between now and November and beyond, our progressive movement endures and grows. The question is: Although our ideas have been front and center in the Democratic political discourse, can we truly succeed within the framework of Washingtonian politics? If the answer is NO, then it is time to start thinking about providing an alternative to the two-in-one party system.
Note: Ardain Isma is a novelist and editing manager at CSMS Magazine . He heads the Center for Strategic and Multicultural Studies. He also teaches Introduction to Research Methods at Embry Riddle University. To see his books, click here.
Follow him on Facebook: www.facebook.com/ardainnovel
Also, on Twitter: www.twitter.com/csmsmaga