The Bishop and the Butterfly: Murder, Politics, and the End of the Jazz Age
    barefooted's picture

    Bernie Sanders - Off The Bench

    It is fairly easy to understand Bernie Sanders. After all, he's barely changed his positions for decades, he still personally prefers to avoid getting personal (especially about himself), and he's proudly a self-proclaimed Independent Democratic Socialist. Since there isn't a Democratic Socialist Party, technically he's a registered Independent running for president on the Democratic ticket with a Democratic Socialist agenda. But he's Bernie, and it's the Democratic party, so one plus one equals two and a half when it comes to a Revolution.

    He's a decent man, almost maniacally focused on getting his message heard, clearly irritated by any deviation and willing to practically implode for his cause. Dedication such as his is to be admired. The sheer strength of purpose that he displays is simply awe-inspiring. He's been hidden for too long ... where's he been? Oh, yeah. Congress. But with his message, purity, integrity, character and authenticity why is he such a stranger to so many progressive democrats?

    That happens sometimes. It happens more often than not when there's a disconnect between the person and the times; when a message waits for its time and/or the timely messenger. But the eventual leader when the public calls can't be just anyone. It has to be the person with a voice to finally spread an unspoken, deeply ingrained but mostly silent need. It must be a man or woman capable of spanning impossible bridges. Able to leap tall partisanship with singular bounds of nuance and sharp hair-splitting, smiles aside a hard nose. In our time, the plea wasn't for Bernie Sanders. It was for Elizabeth Warren.

    If his supporters are honest with themselves and others, they will admit that Bernie Sanders filled the void Warren left when she refused to run. The hard question is whether or not he is enough. He has engulfed his supporters with enthusiasm and dreams ... can he truly make those dreams reality in a hard, cruel political world? He's clearly nowhere near Warren when it comes to polish and her gut-given ability to relate to progressives and centrists alike. Yes - centrists. She quietly knows and understands the world in which she walks. Sanders does not practice the art, nor is he particularly good at it. Then again, he doesn't really care.

    The truth is that if Elizabeth Warren had thrown her hat in the ring Bernie Sanders would still be in the Senate working as he has for years, with little fanfare. The progressive wing of the Party found a voice in Warren several years ago before she even entered Congress. Wall Street, big banks - her wheelhouse. Income inequality, student loans ... ah, well, she's not running. But Bernie Sanders owes her a big Thank You for making at least part of the country listen - which he had never been able to accomplish on his own.

    The person must meet the times if a Revolution is to be conceivable. Maybe it's Bernie. Or maybe he's an important means to an end that will take a bit more time. Then again, maybe we don't necessarily need a Revolution at all. We'll see where Warren throws her support - if she does before the nomination. She's a realist, after all.


    Very insightful, Missy. Gives a person something to think about.

    Thanks, flower.

    I think we're getting more conversation than revolution, but I'm not complaining.  It's a healthy conversation.

    I agree completely. I wonder, though, if his most fervent supporters will accept anything less than the "revolution" they've been promised.

    My thought is; why do Americans always choose Conversation when, deep in their hearts, they know what's needed is Revolution?  Do we fear major losses if we reach for the stars and fail?  Yeah, I think we're timid in that way. There is a high price for trying and failing.  I think that keeps a lot of people from following where their heart wants to lead them.   We don't want to suffer any more than we already suffer,  and the glories of a successful revolution are too intangible a thing on which to pin our hopes.

    I think it more likely we get teabagger's / 1% revolution than leftist. What's happened the last 14 years *is* their revolution.

    I don't see any revolution having a chance at success without a backbone of intense conversation. It's that which enables structure, direction and attainable goals. It's not impossible to reach that pie-in-the-sky, but without the right ingredients it doesn't exist.


    Agreed,   I suppose I just lament the time it takes to go from conversation to implementation. 



    I live in an ex-communist country that still has a fairly socialist health-care system, even though it gets beaten up by budget cuts and the poor economy.

    Family members had property confiscated under the communists - too many square feet for this one, didn't need the extra horse for that one. That's the lighter side of it - others denied the right to study because they weren't good enough communists, and then the friends who had fingers broken and worse. Of course that's nothing compared to Russia and really nothing compared to mass incarceration and mass murder in North Korea and Cambodia.

    I bring this up for 2 reasons:

    1) I don't think the left has an appreciation for how nasty the communists were and how insidious life was under them. When I first started traveling to the east, it was amazing to see the long queues in front of stores that wouldn't have bread, would have 30 bottles of one fruit sap and no bottles of anything else. And the attitudes of the people took at least a decade to thaw out. It was a bit similar in Barcelona - took a decade to get over Franco. Glossing over the horrid brutalities of the 30s/40s, and then being 1-sided on the brutalities that still exist doesn't make us credible.

    2) I don't think the left knows how to communicate well the difference between socialism and communism, nor feels a need to, and doesn't appreciate the concern about government absconding with personal property. There is a tension between community and personal privacy, property & achievement, and it's one of the core tenets of America, and this tension will likely still be there in 100 years. Any change has to deal with this divide in a crafty creative way - for audiences who are pig-headed and for audiences that simply have grown up with particular definitions all their lives. It's not just "how to pay for it"- it's "why we should'. That's a lot bigger hurdle of persuasion.

    I don't have much hope for broaching that hurdle at this point - if anything, we've gone far backwards in the last 15 years, so I'd be happy if we slowed that momentum to a crawl and tried to turn it around a little. This is a country that now by-and-large thinks holding uncharged prisoners in Gitmo forever is okay, and is willing to ignore torture in its new worldview. This is a country where tasering people on the street with no provocation is preferable to having officers face any uncertainty, much less danger. This is a country where some absurd love of arms as a symbol of something permits awful mass killings every few weeks, with no change in heart.

    We're a long way from socialism. Baby steps, not big giant steps. I hated the Hillary line "This is not Denmark, this is the US of A", but sadly it's the pig-ignorant exceptionalism that paints us. Yes, we could learn from Europe, but we won't. To us, we're still saving Europe from the Nazis and world wars, and we're the enlightened west. If it weren't for the creativity of our economy funding our conceit - as always with the uncaring exploitation of masses of workers - our position would be laughable. But we're still playing the "we're the moral beacon of the world" game even after we screwed the pooch and jumped the shark 14 years ago. What to do?

    It's clear that we don't generally understand the "socialist effect" - what it means or how much it might change our everyday lives. We're not just accustomed to capitalism, we're in large part ingrained in the process.

    I have no problem with a change, or with making ours a more equitable society. When presented as a prospect, it's grandly explained as a no-brainer - the simplicity of which demands of a thinking public a deeper exploration. That's what bothers me. That needed exploration is being upended by an impatient audience without the desire or heft to delve deeper. They want today what history says may happen decades from now. The question for me is: will they - we - breathe long enough to wait? I really hope so, but as I said in my post (more or less), leadership matters.

    I don't think it's Sanders. The question is bigger than him - maybe bigger than anyone on the current stage. Then again steps.

    I have little to add to your assessment Mike.

    That brings me to another conversation.

    We on the left seek conversation and discussion.

    This might sound trite.

    But in the end, repubs seek more relief for the rich and we on the left seek relief for the masses.

    And I aint gonna attack the good guys.

    Even if they have no guns.hahahahhahaha


    Very thoughtful, Barefooted, especially the connections to Warren.

    Thanks, Oxy. I don't think the picture of the "movement" is clear without that connection.

    Well done, shoe-challenged person.

    One thing that strikes me about Sander's unapologetic call for socialism is that it provides a baseline for policy that has been missing for decades. Since the Fifties, the topic has always been argued about in the context of a war between Federal and State powers. The problems of public policy now saturate all forms of government. You cannot even be involved with a PTA without coming toe to toe with the elements driving our form of life. The arguments about what will change the future within the political process does not need everybody to agree what the "commons" should be but the whole thing is a bad joke if the process doesn't even allow for the existence of one.

    There are forces that seem to be making everything like that film Brazil but also a growing understanding that any successful change is going to require a lot of work. I know which team to root for.

    It's feeling more and more like there's less and less that the process can't allow for, simply because of demand. That's a good thing. And as we strive to change the process -not just the definition but the vision- I think it's important that we understand where we're going and what it will look like when we get there. That's probably the hardest part of the work we need to do.

    Yes to all you've said here, Missy.  I remember all too well  liberals like Stevenson, McGovern and Humphrey, who tried Bernie's same message and were trounced and humiliated for it.  The truth is, we are a centrist nation and the reforms we're looking for will have to come gradually.  Baby steps.  But you've said it beautifully here.  Thank you.

    Thank you, Ramona. It's a different world now, and for better or worse we have to be part of it. But I agree that patience and baby steps are required - as long as we understand that the baby needs longer legs and patience has limits. I guess what I want is for Sanders' supporters to recognize that enthusiasm doesn't a movement make, and for Hillary's supporters to acknowledge that enthusiasm matters. I think she does.

    We have, as we usually do, a polarized country, but one of the few things we agree upon is the need to agree via compromise. No movement can succeed without a country-wide effort, yet the extreme arms of both parties can't even look at each other. The only place left is the center.

    I've been thinking about this and I hate the idea of baby steps.  The Tea Party didn't take baby steps, they took a giant leap and won.  They've infiltrated Congress and every state in the nation.  We're not understanding their message and we definitely don't understand the people they're appealing to.

    Our message seems so simple it's hard for us to believe everyone isn't on our side.  We want to believe it's relentless Right Wing propaganda that turns voters against us.  We want to believe those voters are racists or xenophobes or misogynists.  We want to believe they're allowing the rich to take over because they believe they'll be one of them someday.

    I think it's more than any of those things.  I think we don't talk enough about how the economy has changed people's  lives--which is what Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren do so well.  We blame Republican voters and make fun of them for not recognizing that the very people they trust are the ones who are helping to make their lives miserable.  We can't understand why they can't compare voting records between Dems and the GOP to see who is working for them and who is working against them, but we fail to understand that for the most part, they're apolitical and aren't interested in charts or statistics or voting records.

    They're ripe for demagoguery because they're hurting and they want someone to blame.  it's an eternal problem and we don't know how to fix it.  Nothing we've done so far has gotten through.  Maybe Bernie's tactics will work.  it could be he's on the right track.  But he'll have to get elected first, and then we'll have to figure out how to get more people  like Bernie and Elizabeth elected.

    We've been here before--many times--and we almost never win.  We're missing something. What is it?


    Thomas Frank laid out the situation in "What's the Matter with Kansas". The anger is focused on Liberal proposals because they come with addressing issues like immigration, abortion, racism, etc. It is easy for Conservatives to divert attention to the social issues rather than the economic distress.

    Kansas re-elected Brownbeck despite his crushing the state's economy. Kentucky voted in the guy who votes to take away their health care. The GOP victor is a "Conservative Christian", so there goes abortion, etc.

    Edit to add:

    Ben Carson is a nitwit, but he hits the Republican sweet spot on religious issues. 

    Ramona, there is an article out on the increasing mortality rate of middle age whites--45-54--which is higher than for blacks and hispanics, and of course whites in other developed countries. Much is explained with drugs, etc., but the thing that describes it best is "hopelessness"---and the Democrats don't quite get it.

    The Depression babies seem to be durable. Maybe they have a different outlook.

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