Why Bernie Sanders Is The More Realistic Candidate
Why Bernie Sanders Is The More Realistic Candidate
By Bill McKibben / huffingtonpost.com

In the mounting, panicky attempts of elites to derail the Sanders candidacy, one strand dominates.

You find it woven through every sage piece from the old-school pundits of theTimes and the hip insider websites like Vox. Yes, they say, he's saying some useful things. But he can't really make them happen. He's talking "puppies and rainbows." Real "reform is hard." The Times editors, in their endorsement of Hillary Clinton, managed a matchless condescension: His ideas about breaking up the banks or guaranteeing health care for everyone, they intoned, "have earned him support among alienated middle-class voters and young people. But his plans for achieving them aren't realistic." Wait 'til you're older and richer like us, and then you'll understand how change happens.

In fact, these pundits couldn't be more wrong about where change comes from. And neither could Hillary Clinton. Here's how she put it a few months ago, backstage at a tense and fascinating little confrontation with Black Lives Matter activists:

"I don't believe you change hearts. I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate." 

That sounds sensible, grown-up, wise. It's what Washington pundits always say -- they said it over and over again when we launched, say, the fight to stop the Keystone pipeline. But in fact it's completely backwards.

Change comes precisely when you do change hearts -- and once that change has come, then the laws and the "allocation of resources," and the "way systems operate" follow pretty easily.

Look, for instance, at gay marriage, which I'm pretty sure that President Obama will be holding up as one of the accomplishments that happened on his watch. And it did, but not much thanks to him. It came from a big, impassioned movement that cleverly changed the zeitgeist: that introduced Americans to their gay neighbors, that won a few court cases and then used that progress to show that the world wouldn't fall apart with gay marriage, that argued in a series of referendum votes for the new right. By the time that Obama (and Clinton) came on board (a decade or two after Sanders), the battle was mostly won. There was mopping up to do, but the change had come, and it had come from changing hearts.

Or look further back in American history. LBJ's the favorite example for this "effectiveness" argument, and indeed he was the legislator that twisted the final arms to get landmark civil rights legislation in place. But it was only because people had spent a generation building a movement that he had an opening. The hard, desperate part was changing the zeitgeist, which involved changing enough hearts. The Voting Rights Act didn't propel the civil rights movement; it was the other way round.

By this token, Bernie Sanders has already changed the world more than Hillary Clinton, despite all her vaunted years of experience. She manages process, but he moves the argument. Because of him there's a reasonable chance now that the TPP trade agreement will fail (he's already moved one of its authors, Hillary, into opposition). He's made it necessary to take inequality seriously -- he's the next stage, after Occupy, in moving the issue to the center of the stage, and the longer he lasts and the better he does the more attention it will get.

No, none of his plans will pass Congress intact. (Nor hers -- see, for instance, her badly mismanaged effort at health care reform in the first Clinton administration). As the Prussian chief of staff once remarked, "no plan survives contact with the enemy." Instead, what survives is momentum, trajectory. Movement. If Sanders can keep building a movement, then he has a far better chance of changing history than she does. Hillary promises constantly that "I'll be there every day, fighting for you." Bernie's slogan is #NotMeUs. There's all the difference in the world.

Now, you could argue that a manager is better suited to the presidency. We've had one the last eight years, and he's done a good job of cleaning up after the mess he inherited; the country, by and large, has been well run. So if you think that there's already enough momentum around issues like inequality and climate change, then it makes sense to elect another manager president. Washington pundits like the world pretty much as it is; it's working pretty well for them.

But younger people and poorer people may not see the world the same way. They may sense an urgent need for change. I mean, we've just broken the planet's temperature record two years in a row. If you think that we need a leader who will push to change the way we see the world then it makes perfect sense to imagine Bernie as the realistic candidate, the one who will get things done.

My guess is that the establishment pundits actually understand that, and I think they fear it a little. The polls in Iowa showed that rich people were backing Hillary while poorer people -- who can't endure much more of the status quo -- came out for Bernie. That should make you think.

Follow Bill McKibben on Twitter: www.twitter.com/billmckibben

3.8 ·
1
What's Next
Trending Today
10 Provocative Quotes from Ivan Illich's "Deschooling Society"
Daniel Lattier · 16,299 views today · Ivan Illich’s groundbreaking book Deschooling Society (1971) offers a radical critique of the institutionalization of education within modern societies. Illich believed that we...
This Text Message Exchange Between a Mother and Daughter is Pure Gold
Belinda Hankins · 7,677 views today · When Belinda Hankins got a text message from her 13-year-old daughter, who was shopping for period products, it started an exchange that will resonate with women everywhere. Enjoy.
Welcome to Marinaleda: The Spanish Anti-Capitalist Town With Equal Wage Full Employment and $19 Housing
Jade Small · 4,433 views today · With virtually no police, crime or unemployment, meet the Spanish town described as a democratic, socialist utopia. Unemployment is non-existent in Marinaleda, an Andalusian...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 4,057 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
Superblocks: How Barcelona Is Taking City Streets Back From Cars
5 min · 3,881 views today · Modern cities are designed for cars. But the city of Barcelona is testing out an urban design trick that can give cities back to pedestrians.
11 Traits of People With High Emotional Intelligence
Raven Fon · 3,787 views today · Lately, new ways to describe human interactions, social behaviours, and many facets of psychology have emerged on the social network scene. One of those descriptions is “high...
When You Kill Ten Million Africans You Aren't Called 'Hitler'
Liam O'Ceallaigh · 3,728 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...
Who Are You? Watching This Breathtaking Video Could Be the Moment You Change Your Life
2 min · 2,372 views today · "Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you need so you can...
Throw (2016)
10 min · 2,332 views today · The first installment of Invisible Thread, an ongoing ELM passion project series, Throw tells the story of an outsider from East Baltimore, an area challenged by gang violence...
What You Might Notice If You Forgot Your Phone For a Day
2 min · 1,720 views today · There is a moment happening right in front of you, right this second, and you just might be missing it
93 Documentaries to Expand Your Consciousness
Films For Action · 1,591 views today · There are over 800 documentaries now cataloged in our library of social change films. That's probably way too many for any mortal to ever watch in a lifetime, let alone a few...
Ikigai - Finding Your Reason for Being
Chip Richards · 1,559 views today · What Gets You Out of Bed in the Morning? When asked what is the single most powerful contributing factor to one’s health and vitality, integrative medical...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,499 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...
Fighting Trump - Residents Opposing Donald Trump's Scottish Golf Resort
14 min · 1,406 views today · Documentary on the residents protesting against Donald Trump's golf development on the Menie Estate in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Directed and Presented by James Trosh.
Real Change in Democracy Comes Not in the Voting Booth but Activism at the Grass-Roots
Ilze Peterson · 1,317 views today · Many years ago, the late Judy Guay, a low-income woman from Bangor, founded the Maine Association of Interdependent Neighborhoods in order to advocate for the neediest in our...
Doctors Response to Daily Mail Bigotry is Beautiful
Neil Tiwari · 1,200 views today · A poetic open letter to the Daily Mail newspaper from Dr. Neil Tiwari, in response to a bigoted attack on his colleagues, is going viral and it's beautiful.
Forest Man
16 min · 1,057 views today · Since the 1970's Majuli islander Jadav Payeng has been planting trees in order to save his island. To date he has single handedly planted a forest larger than Central Park NYC...
How to Criticize with Kindness: Philosopher Daniel Dennett on the Four Steps to Arguing Intelligently
Maria Popova · 905 views today · “Just how charitable are you supposed to be when criticizing the views of an opponent?”
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 837 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...
Maya Angelou's 3-Word Secret to Living Your Best Life
3 min · 779 views today · Dr. Maya Angelou says that in order to be the best human being you can be, you must follow one simple directive: "Just do right." Watch as Dr. Angelou reveals how you can never...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Why Bernie Sanders Is The More Realistic Candidate