In case you haven’t heard, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has called for political revolution. That’s gargantuan news, which poses an equally gargantuan paradox to wrap our heads around. Now, it’s not as if some civic-minded voice in the wilderness like, say, Chris Hedges or Ralph Nader, has called for political revolution. Instead, an incumbent U.S. Senator, running for the world’s most powerful office in one of our two electable, establishment parties (the same ones corporate donors lavish billions of dollars on), has called for political revolution.
That’s literally jaw-dropping political news. So why don’t you hear about it? Because nearly everyone—skeptical leftists like Hedges and Nader, the entire Democratic party establishment (including the Warren wing), mainstream and even most left-wing media, even Sanders’ most ardent supporters—apparently believes Bernie Sanders’ call for political revolution is “just BS.”
Besides wondering (playfully) whether Bernie was frequently ragged about his initials in school, we should be wondering (seriously) whether he means what he says. And, above all, whether his decision to run for president in today’s ultra-establishment Democratic Party necessarily reduces his call for political revolution—whatever his naive sincerity—to a big, stinking pile of BS.
Viewing Bernie Sanders as neither naïve nor insincere, the budding revolutionaries of Revolt Against Plutocracy categorically deny that Bernie’s decision to run as a Democrat must reduce his call for political revolution to bullshit. We find such thinking lazy, unimaginative, and, ultimately, irresponsible—especially since he’s already hinted where the responsibility for political revolution must lie. It doesn’t depend on him; it depends on US.
Bernie Sanders has a campaign to run—a thing he does extraordinarily well—and we should all be deeply grateful to him for running it. We at Revolt Against Plutocracy feel we best express that gratitude by doing the one thing his campaign shackles him from doing—and which only grassroots activists can do anyway—organize his revolution. “Grassroots revolution isn’t just BS” is one slogan we pray becomes a meme, and as ardent believers that our disintegrating political system screams for Bernie’s revolution, we’re writing to announce it. And to recruit for it.
But to do so effectively, we must demolish the crippling misconception that his revolution’s the same thing as his campaign. It’s not; as just noted, the revolution’s not really his at all. It’s ours, and dangerously overdue. His campaign simply provides our ideal springboard for launching it.
You’ve probably heard the familiar revolutionary slogan “To make an omelet, you’ve got to break some eggs.” In the vivid contrast between “breaking eggs” and “walking on eggs”—the latter expression implying a tortuous, torturous effort to avoidcracking the shells one is forced to tiptoe among—we glimpse the most compelling reason Sanders’ called-for revolutioncan’t be the same thing as his campaign.
In a political system that’s now a hollow shell of representative government, our eggshell metaphor couldn’t be better chosen. Where virtually the sole real purpose of government is to shove the will of plutocrats—whether Wall Street, fossil fuel, Big Ag, Big Pharma, or military-industrial-surveillance complex plutocrats—down the sane majority’s throats (to the planet-threatening detriment of the common good), the chief purpose of most political campaigns is to maintain the trompe-l’oeil solid appearance of representation’s hollow shell. In other words, most campaigns amount to propaganda touting the lie that our existing political system is still serving us. It’s clearly not—to the extent that even such a sold-out tool as today’s Democratic Party must allow more radical voices bent on serving the common good, like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, within its ranks to maintain the faintest illusion of legitimacy.
Given the extreme betrayals of faux-progressive presidents like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, political leftists have earned an incontestable right to distrust: above all, to distrust of soaring campaign rhetoric high on promise and devoid of detail. Considering the global catastrophe for economy, democracy, and peace that was George W. Bush’s presidency, Obama’s betrayal of urgently needed progressive reform is especially unfortunate. But amidst its well-earned distrust, the left makes a serious mistake by tarring the likes of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren with the same incriminating brush as Obama and the Clintons, punishing them for their mere association with Democrats. As regards the treachery of Democrats’ party leadership and its favored minions like Clinton, the left is incontestably right, as the analysis of honest veteran operative Bill Curry or a little research into the sleazy trickery of its corporatist leadership should make clear.
But by two powerful litmus tests—speaking in detail and speaking in season—politicians like Sanders and Warren prove they shouldn’t be tarred with the same accusatory brush as Hillary and the DNC. Just contrast the detail of Sanders’ economic platform and the timeliness of his TPP opposition with Clinton’s detail-allergic vagueness and cowardly equivocation on the same two matters. Besides, as the Democratic leadership well knows, Democrats’ legitimacy among progressives is so near-moribund that only the strong medicine of real sincerity, and not the placebo of fake, can restore its vigor. That the party is tolerating a lifelong independent and self-professed socialist (one calling for political revolution, to boot) as contender for the top spot on its ticket underlines the sheer desperation of Democrats’ quest for lost legitimacy.
So, leftists should regard Democrats’ desperate need for legitimacy as vouchsafe of Bernie’s sincerity. But his personal sincerity provides no evidence whatsoever we should trust the substantially bought-off party he’s running in. Nor does it free him from the delicate, eggshell-walking task of ardently fighting plutocracy while maintaining the illusion of legitimacy for a party whose leadership has made plutocrats’ wettest wet dreams their own. (Again, witness TPP.) Clearly, Democrats’ acute crisis of legitimacy opens a vulnerable flank for attack by Sanders’ revolution. And it makes our battle plan equally clear: to hammer the message that all legitimacy lies with Bernie and his sympathizers, and none with Hillary and the party leadership. Responding to the facts on the ground, Bernie’s revolution must treat his candidacy as a hostile coup against Hillary and the corporatist party leadership. Clearly a job for Bernie’s revolution and not his campaign, since his campaign must—at peril of shutdown by the DNC—diplomatically avoid cracking the same eggshell of legitimacy his revolution needs to smash.
Revolutions don’t walk on eggs; they smash the eggshell of phony legitimacy. But phony legitimacy is exactly what today’s Democratic leadership and Hillary Clinton seek: legitimacy without fundamental reform. As fundamental reform is what Bernie’s political revolution seeks—why the hell else start a revolution?—the Democratic Party leadership, Hillary Clinton, and her political allies, who clearly intend to go on forever feeding like pigs at the plutocrat trough, must remain squarely in our crosshairs as our revolution’s determined enemies.
But the illegitimacy of today’s Democrats hardly implies today’s Republicans are legit. In fact, the urgency of political revolution in a nation saddled with a malfunctioning two-party system strongly implies that both parties suck. And it’s hardly going on a limb to say that today’s know-nothing, science-denying, vote-repressing, proto-fascist Republicans suck more. In fact, today’s Republicans are a blasphemy on everything that’s sane, civilized, and (ironically, given their religious bent) even Christian—strong candidates for the title “whore of Babylon” if not that of “Antichrist.” But their utterly perverse badness—for which, as we’ll see, Democrats bear substantial responsibility—hardly implies that Democrats are acceptable. Nothing in the notion of a two-party system logically implies that both parties can’t be unspeakably bad. Indeed, given a two-party system, that’s precisely what one would expect in circumstances demanding political revolution.
Which brings us to Democrat’s sleazy “lesser-evil” con game. Now, what should be clear is that both major parties serve roughly the same corporate puppet masters. What differs is that Republicans serve somewhat more evil ones, and serve them with greater unanimity and stronger fealty; it’s as if that the party had made taking Voldemort’s Dark Mark a litmus test for membership. While Democrats certainly are somewhat different, they’re certainly not different enough—different enough, that is, for responsive, responsible governance meeting the grave emergencies of our society and planet.
In fact, no one has stressed that damning lack of difference more forcefully than Barack Obama. Perhaps the Democratic Party leadership should consider ordering a mob hit on Obama, for when he speaks his unguarded mind, no one could cripple Democrats’ crumbling legitimacy more grievously. It was bad enough when Obama privately reassured Democrats’ sponsoring banksters (many likely guilty of large-scale criminal fraud) that he intended to stand between them and the pitchforks. But consider something even more damning Obama said—more damning because he said it to Chris Matthews on national television. Remember the highly colored—but scarcely exaggerated—words portraying the ever-worsening evil of today’s Republicans above? Well Obama, scarily lucid when he wants to be, acknowledged that Democrats aren’t really all that different from those same Republicans, saying “Most of the time we’re playing between the forty yard lines here.” Just consider those words, which carry the authority of the Democratic Party’s sitting U.S. president, the next time Democrats try to con you that they’re radically different from those “evil Republicans.” As the Democratic Underground writer of the “forty yard line” link just shared tellingly put it, “Maybe that’s because both teams are owned by the same people—and it’s not us.”
Not only do corporatist Democrats differ little from evil, bought-off Republicans; they’re actually criminally culpable for condoning and perpetuating Republican evil. Nowhere can we see this more clearly than in Obama’s failure to investigate and prosecute major war criminal George W. Bush and his henchmen, and in Democrats’ utter refusal (a refusal imposed even on plain-spoken Bernie Sanders) to label Jeb Bush “the war criminal’s brother.” Considering Democrats’ obvious self-interest in using that label—it would be the instant death blow for Jeb’s campaign—their refusal to apply it proves just how much Democrats are part of the same evil game. For applying it would raise embarrassing, unanswerable questions for Democrats, like why Bill Clinton imposed genocidal sanctions on Saddam Hussein’s innocent people, why Democrats overwhelmingly joined the bandwagon for Bush’s wildly imprudent criminal war, or why Barack Obama decided to continue Bush’s universal spying and even expand his unending ill-advised war on terror (albeit in proxy form). But perhaps the worst instance of Democrats and Republicans playing the same evil game is Obama’s and Mitt Romney’s criminally irresponsible “gentleman’s agreement” never to mention climate change—a life-or-death issue for humanity, but politically inconvenient for both—throughout their series of 2012 presidential debates.
All of which convincingly proves that Democrats’ “lesser-evil” argument, blaming reform-minded voters for enabling Republican evil when in fact no one deserves blame for enabling it more than the Democratic Party itself, is a sleazy con game. CounterPunch writer Andrew Levine has insightfully argued that “lesser-evilism” is a political race to the bottom, but he didn’t go far enough in explaining its sleazy dynamic. In fact, it’s rather simple: both Democrat and Republican teams playing for the same plutocrat owners, both operate under severe constraints controlling what they may say and do. Ditto for consolidated mainstream media, owned by an ever smaller number of corporate media giants. So among the three “parties” (Democrats, Republicans, and media), there’s a common conspiracy—that Republicans’ worst misdeeds—generally embarrassing to Democrats and media, since they’re complicit—should disappear down the memory hole. Their worst misdeeds never properly denounced, Republicans are emboldened for ever-worse coups against the common good.
A Democratic Party not complicit, and holding the moral high ground to denounce Republican evil, could have stopped the GOP’s worst misdeeds long ago. With Democrats, so deeply to blame for Republican evil, no reform-minded voters should be duped by the sleazy blame-shifting con of voting for Democrats as the lesser evil. In fact, Democrats simply hide beneath the ground cover of Republican evil to perpetuate their own plutocrat donors’ preferred brand. What voters should in fact feel guilty for is enabling that.
Sorry if we’ve been long in stating our revolutionary case, but since we, unlike our enemies, believe that rational persuasion is the essence of democracy, we took pains to be clear and well-documented. While our revolution’s justification was somewhat long, its strategy is short and sweet. It can be summarized in the slogan “Show Us the Anti-Money.”
We focus on the 2016 presidential race, since, important as Congressional races are, the presidential race is the only one commanding national attention. Contrary to the unimaginative, Democrat-allergic left, which merely dismisses Sanders’ Democratic candidacy as a sham, we see a rare honest presidential candidate openly calling for political revolution, in a race that draws obsessive national attention, as a virtual revolutionary “perfect storm.” But only if we don’t make the fatal mistake of settling for Sanders’ Democratic candidacy as our revolution. Obviously, we don’t plan to.
Instead, what we plan to do is rigorously apply our slogan “Show Us the Anti-Money” to the whole pack of 2016 presidential candidates. Plutocrats’ purchase of our government is the root of all our political evils, and as the only major-party candidate who’s called for a political revolution against plutocrat money, Bernie Sanders is the only adult in the room, the only candidate utterly free from the influence of that money, and the only one with a viable platform for ridding us of it. Therefore, he’s the only major-party presidential candidate worth voting for. As solicitors of billions of plutocrat dollars, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush don’t even register on our radar as serious candidates. And we have a strong bias against other Democrats and Republicans, because their party leadership makes it virtually obligatory for them to accept oligarch dollars. As a lifelong independent scarcely funded at all by corporate dollars, strategically forced to run as a Democrat, Bernie alonehas our trust. If he doesn’t win the Democratic nomination—and if he fails to, it will be due simply to party propaganda we aim vigorously to counteract—we plan to write him in in the general election. In states where write-in votes aren’t counted, we plan to simply vote Green.
As the political revolution Bernie called for but can’t as a Democratic candidate lead—and perhaps must disavow—we passionately believe Bernie can’t be a sheepdog if his ever-growing legion of supporters aren’t sheep. In fact, we’re insulted that the likes of Chris Hedges—who shares our belief in the moral imperative of revolt—considers us such, and therefore can’t imagine a political revolution based on Bernie’s candidacy. For those who do, who “feel the Bern” so strongly its sparks could ignite revolution, please consider joining ours. For more information, visit our Revolt Against Plutocracy Facebook page; to take the ultimate revolutionary plunge, take our #BernieOrBust pledge on our Revolt Against Plutocracy homepage. By refusing the con of lesser-evilism, you’ll show Bernie’s revolutionary movement truly deserves the nickname “Sheep No More.”
Post it with pride: #SheepNoMore #BernieOrElse! #BernieOrBust We do.