The Democratic Stockholm Syndrome
New Yorkers voted overwhelmingly for those holding their progress captive
The Democratic Stockholm Syndrome
By Peter Bloom / commondreams.org

After weeks of hard and increasingly heated campaigning, Hillary Clinton scored a decisive victory over Bernie Sanders in last night’s New York Democratic primary. Despite losing a majority of the state’s counties, she won in huge margins in New York City and the popular vote overall. The triumph was a potential serious blow to Sanders’ progressive momentum and a just as dramatic boom to her now seemingly inevitable march to the nomination.

"A funny thing happened on the way to the end of history – it started to change rapidly."

A crucial question in the wake of such a defeat is whether Sanders should continue to soldier onwards. He has both the resources and a vast amount of popular support to do so. Nevertheless, his often media cited path to the nomination just got significantly narrower and less straightforward.

Yet the fate of Sanders’ candidacy pales in comparison to the future success of the political revolution he is trying to create and ferment. What does losing the Empire state mean to the progressive movement he is helping to inspire? What does it say about its own long march to changing the country and the world?

A key takeaway from the Primary is that regardless of where the movement goes from here – it must recognize the affective hold that establishment Parties and candidates still have on voters, even those committed to and desiring of real change.

 

Kidnapped by the Establishment

A crucial narrative driving the Sanders’ candidacy is that he and his movement are the real standard-bearers for 21st century progressive values. While this may be substantively true, it misses how and why so many see Centrist Democrats like Clinton as their advocate even when they are so willing to betray them when in power. They represent a now established fantasy of incremental rearguard progress that seeks to inspire not by its idealistic ambition but its clear eyed “realism”.

In the wake of Reagan’s Conservative revolution, this narrative arguably made more sense. The writing appeared to be on the wall – Americans had chosen social conservatism and economic capitalism. The only answer for the mainstream left - always bordering on a contradiction in terms during the best of times - was to moderate the negative effects of this rightwing turn through a pronounced politics of moderation.

Yet a funny thing happened on the way to the end of history – it started to change rapidly. Once third rail issues of gay marriage and drug legalization became not only part of the public conversation but also increasingly the law of the land. The fight for a 15 dollar minimum wage began to gain traction and real legislative victories.

The immediate fear is that the Centrists will unfairly hijack these progressive triumphs to their political advantage. Already, Clinton has been rightly criticized for suddenly being at the forefront of the campaign for increasing the minimum wage – using its victory in New York as a photo-op for her campaign. More broadly, unions and progressive groups like the Human Rights Campaign and Planned Parenthood have been critiqued for supporting Clinton despite her inconsistency on the issues that are most important to their members.

These objections are not, furthermore, overshadowed by the argument that Sanders has substantively moved Clinton and her ilk to the left policy wise. Undoubtedly he has changed the public debate. So too have movements like Black Lives Matter. This should not be underestimated. Yet even after a heated primary season, Clinton remains as hawkish on foreign policy as ever and only slightly less compromising on domestic issues.

Her victory would do more than simply put another middle of the road candidate into the Whitehouse. Indeed it would be worse in that while Clinton is an absolute opportunist domestically, she is a principled neo-con internationally. Still her victory would only be the symptom of a much more serious disease. It would represent the continued kidnapping of progress by the political establishment.

 

Loving your Captor

There is perhaps an understandable tendency by those on the growing left to simply dismiss establishment voters. Yet to do so would be to miss a crucial part of the staying power of these establishment candidates. It is not only that they have kidnapped progress for their own political gain. It is also that they have accomplished this task by getting many of their supporters to love them even as they occasionally loathe their actions.

While supporters justify an establishment politics of “working within the system” as rational and pragmatic, its appeal largely resides as a progressive fantasy. Even after three decades worth of evidence of the profound limitations of such a strategy – it remains emotionally resonant. Hollow victories such as the compromised legislation of Dodd-Frank and Obamacare are celebrated as landmark progressive achievements. Centrist candidates are hailed for their courage in standing up to an “intractable” Republican enemy – doing what little they could to make things better in a political war that has already been lost.   

It plays into a belief that all that is needed is to elect more Democrats. That they have the best interest of the country at heart even if they regularly feed from the same corrupt cesspool as their Conservative rivals. That to dream big means to consign the nation to a century of failed idealism rather than hard won compromise.

In the recent election this affection for the exact politicians who are holding real progress hostage has grown even stronger. Whereas Clinton was once seen as the epitome of the “lesser of two evils”, in New York according to exit polls she was viewed as the “more inspiring” candidate than Bernie Sanders. There are definite reasons that have little to do with her lack of any progressive accomplishments for this rosy view – not the least that she would at long last break the executive glass ceiling by becoming the first female President. 



The Democratic Stockholm Syndrome

However, there is something else at play as well. She is heralded for her promises to continue the “progressive” legacy set by Obama. Suddenly the President who has pushed for Drone Warsfurther Wall Street bailouts and the TPP is a paragon of modern progressivism. The New York triumph of his all but publicly endorsed predecessor Hillary Clinton is a paean of love to the very establishment that many of their voters are demanding to be changed.

For progressives to achieve mass success they must do all they can to break up this abusive relationship. To not accept the myth that Clinton represents “incremental change” or that she is committed to fighting climate change or that you can trumpet gun control at home and the international arms industry abroad.

This does not mean abandoning the fight to ensure that a more retrogressive Republican alternative does not take power. The reign of a Trump or Cruz would be similar but worse than that of Clinton. Nevertheless, it also means not minimizing the passion felt for the establishment. It may be misplaced but it is real and when mobilized can be potent.

Instead, it demands that even in defeat we continue the struggle to deprogram the victims of the New Democrats. To point out consistently that change only happens from the bottom up. That one cannot claim to be a progressive and support anti-democratic oligarchic regimes around the world. That what Democrats and Republicans alike legitimize as national security is really just a bloated corporate security force subsidized by the American taxpayer. That you may “be with her” but when the moment it is politically expedient she certainly will not “be with you.”

The path to the nomination for Bernie Sanders undeniably narrowed yesterday. The path to revolution and genuine progress depends on breaking America free from its Democratic Stockholm Syndrome.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Peter Bloom is a lecturer in the Department of People and Organisations at the Open University. He has published widely on issues of 21st century democracy, politics and economics in both scholarly journals and in publications including the Washington Post, The New Statesman, Roar, Open Democracy, The Conversation and Common Dreams. His book, Authoritarian Capitalism in the Age of Globalization, will be released next year.

4.3 ·
2
What's Next
Trending Today
Ten Ways We Misunderstand Children
Jan Hunt · 17,493 views today · 1. We expect children to be able to do things before they are ready. We ask an infant to keep quiet. We ask a 2-year-old to sit still. We ask a 3-year-old to clean his room...
The Little Engine That Couldn't: How We're Preparing Ourselves and Our Children for Extinction
Daniel Quinn · 6,071 views today · In a recent semi-documentary film called Garbage, a toxic waste disposal engineer was asked how we can stop engulfing the world in our poisons. His answer was, "We'd have to...
18 Empowering Illustrations to Remind Everyone Who's Really in Charge of Women's Bodies
Julianne Ross · 3,965 views today · When Brazilian graphic designer Carol Rossetti began posting colorful illustrations of women and their stories to Facebook, she had no idea how popular they would...
Beyond Civilization: Humanity's Next Great Adventure
Daniel Quinn · 1,104 views today · PART ONE A fable to start with Once upon a time life evolved on a certain planet, bringing forth many different social organizations—packs, pods, flocks, troops, herds, and...
When You Kill Ten Million Africans You Aren't Called 'Hitler'
Liam O'Ceallaigh · 1,075 views today · Take a look at this picture. Do you know who it is? Most people haven’t heard of him. But you should have. When you see his face or hear his name you should get as sick in...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 993 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Gabor Maté: Why Our Culture Makes So Many Of Us Unhappy
3 min · 948 views today · Dr. Gabor Maté explains why it is that our culture makes so many of us unhappy, unkind to one another, miserable, alienated from ourselves, etc. Watch the full interview in Part 2.
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 888 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 861 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
You Should Get Naked More Often. It's Good for You.
Joni Sweet · 680 views today · When Nelly encouraged overheated people worldwide to get naked in 2002, he was unknowingly advocating much more than just a sexy, sweaty dance party. Sunbathing, sleeping...
It Didn't Start With You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are
Mark Wolynn · 644 views today · The past is never dead. It’s not even past. — William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun
Bitter Lake (2015)
136 min · 617 views today · Adam Curtis: Politicians used to have the confidence to tell us stories that made sense of the chaos of world events. But now there are no big stories and politicians react...
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 616 views today · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
Lawns Are for Suckers. Plant a Garden - for the Climate!
Nathanael Johnson · 494 views today · Ripping out your lawn and planting kale and peppers won’t just lead to great stir-fry — a new study finds it could make major contributions to fighting climate change...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 426 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
A New Story for Humanity (2016)
102 min · 425 views today · Inspired by the New Story Summit at the Findhorn Foundation: a sold-out multicultural, multigenerational inquiry into a new story for humanity, attended by change makers and...
90 Inspiring and Visionary Films That Will Change How You See the World in Profound Ways
Tim Hjersted · 424 views today · The world today is in crisis. Everybody knows that. But what is driving this crisis? It's a story, a story that is destroying the world. It's a story about our relationship to...
Masculinity Is Killing Men: The Roots of Men and Trauma
Kali Holloway · 358 views today · We begin the damaging process of turning boys into men long before boyhood ends.
Why You Should Take Your Kids Out of School
Ben Hewitt · 329 views today · We don't need no education. At least not of the traditional, compulsory, watch-the-clock-until-the-bell-rings kind. As a growing movement of unschoolers believe, a steady diet...
Why People's Opinions of You Aren't Real
4 min · 310 views today · "You are what you love and not what loves you." - From Charlie Kaufman's film "Adaptation"
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
The Democratic Stockholm Syndrome