Following are excepts from a truly brilliant dissection of the 2016 election, brought to us by the editor of Counterpunch, Jeffery St. Clair. Go read the whole thing. It will be well worth the time spent doing so.
Will history repeat itself in 2020?
I sincerely hope not.
(I want to personally thank Senator Sanders for announcing this week that he’s running for president again, since his campaign will give a second life to my book on his 2016 campaign, Bernie and the Sandernistas: Field Notes from a Failed Revolution. A lot has changed in the past two years. But, for better or worse, Bernie remains pretty much the same strange politician he has always been. Here’s the introduction. -JSC)
Out of college, money spent
See no future, pay no rent
All the money’s gone, nowhere to go
Any jobber got the sack
Monday morning, turning back
Yellow lorry slow, nowhere to go
But oh, that magic feeling…
–Lennon and McCartney, “You Never Give Me Your Money.”
Bernie Sanders had come home. Home to New York. Home to the city that fit his accent. Home to the borough that suited his cranky demeanor, his Jewish heritage, his gritty politics. Bernie Sanders wasn’t Clean Gene McCarthy. Sanders could be petulant, moody, even vindictive. A little bit of Brooklyn was still hardwired into his character. Frankly, Sanders always seemed like an interloper in Vermont. Too prickly, urban and disputatious for that verdant and mountainous sliver of WASPish New England. If more of the Brooklyn Bernie had leaked out during the campaign, things might have ended differently.
On a cool night in early April, Bernie stood on the stage in Prospect Park, facing more than 28,000 adoring fans, the largest gathering of the campaign. As he worked his way through his speech, Sanders hit all of the familiar notes–on the minimum wage, single payer health care, free college tuition, the corrosiveness of Super PACS-but he stood a little taller, his voice sounded a little friskier, he seemed fueled by the sense that he just might win the New York primary.
Could New York really be in play? Could Sanders upend the once invulnerable Hillary Clinton in her own adopted state, sending shockwaves through the System? What once seemed impossible now seemed to many Sandernistas tantalizingly within grasp.
This was, of course, the season of the improbable, the rare warping of political time when the odds were being defied week after startling week. This was a primary season in which aliens and the alienated finally featured in guest-starring roles. The mood of the country, sour and aggravated, seemed primed to embrace, for the first time in decades, a real outsider candidate, not so much because they found either of the two self-identified outsiders especially alluring, but because the electorate saw themselves as outsiders, exiles from a political system run by and for a remote and untouchable cabal of corporations, militarists and financial elites.
Nearly all agreed the system was rigged, programmed like some political malware to replicate the same results over and over again, generating torrents of booty into fewer and fewer hands, while leaving the rest of the Republic mired in debt and endless war.
Indeed, war has become the nation’s permanent condition. There seems to be a new one every few months. Few can keep up. And who goes off to fight them? Not many of us, or even people that we know. A new warrior class seemed to have taken root. We noticed them mainly from the decals on their trucks or from their wheelchairs and prosthetic limbs, rarely encountered in the check out line at Safeway.
More and more, machines were doing the war’s wetwork, killing nameless people in nameless regions on the far side of the world, hundreds of miles from any known base of operations. War has become background noise, the ambient soundtrack of our time.
It is one of the great failures of the Sanders campaign that he didn’t try to puncture some of the comforting illusions about American foreign policy. As cruelly as we treat our own citizens, Americans like to believe, in fact must believe, that our country remains a force of light and goodness in the most troubled precincts of the world. We are reluctant warriors, heroes for humanity. Sanders had a rare chance to expose America’s savage imprint on the world to his followers. With more than 800 military bases sprawling across the globe, the American military machine keeps the unruly living under a constant state of nuclear terror, each transgression against the imperial order disciplined and punished by SEAL team assassins, cruise missiles and drone strikes out of the clear blue skies.
The financial condition of the country also seems mired in a mysterious contradiction. The number of billionaires doubles every year, while everyone else is working harder yet falling behind month by month. In fact, the economy, chronically ailing for so long, finally seems to have turned malignant. Everybody knows this. Even the looters. Especially them. And the government is useless. Worse than useless. It exists not to contain the spread of economic disease or to alleviate the suffering, but to repress any minor revolt of the afflicted cells of the Republic. The evidence is all around. In homeless shelters, tent cities, food banks, and unemployment offices. Or under lock and key. One in 31 adults in America is rotting in prison or jail, or living circumscribed lives on probation or parole. Twenty-five years ago, this rate was only 1 in 77. Police are killing a citizen somewhere on the streets of America every 12 hours or so, and every 18 hours that citizen is a black male. In fact, in the first six months of 2016, police had killed 585 people, up from the previous year’s total of 491 killed through June of 2015.
The country is out of joint. It had been for a long time. Was it really possible that the sleepers had awakened? That Tea Partiers and Occupiers, Steelworkers and Black Lives Matter activists, had experienced a simultaneous epiphany? That some kind of convulsive change in the old corrupt orthodoxy was just around the corner? Well, so it seemed to some of us, suckers for almost any wish-fulfillment fantasy, in the crazy winter of discontent in America, circa 2016.
But if Bernie’s blitz through New York was a time of swelling optimism for his campaign, it was also a moment of peak delusion. Bernie had lost the nomination well before he ended up losing New York, in something of a Clinton rout. In fact, the campaign had been over since Super Tuesday, when HRC marched almost unopposed across the South, racking up an insurmountable delegate lead. But the Revolution was defunct the moment Sanders elected to run as a Democrat, a decision he doubled down on months later when he rebuffed Jill Stein’s offer to the head the Green Party ticket and chose to endorse Hillary Clinton without equivocation on Prime Time TV at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia.
That fateful decision left a pall of evil hanging over the elections. A palpable evil. An evil you could smell. Even many of Hillary’s backers knew she was a force of evil. It’s why they talked so openly and frantically about the logic of lesser evil voting.
They knew she couldn’t be trusted. That whatever Faustian deal she struck with Sanders would not be honored. They knew that Clinton lies smoothly, effortlessly, and icily. That she lies about big and small matters, from her Goldman speeches to TPP, from her personal finances to Libya, from her e-mails to the DNC’s plot to get Bernie. Yes, even Democratic Party loyalists acknowledged her evil ways. But could they really be sure, deep down, that she was truly the lesser evil? What kind of complex calculus yielded the proof?
For the Democrats, the greater evil was Donald Trump, who seemed to rise like some monstrous dirigible on the same political air currents that had sent Sanders aloft. The two outsiders were in a sense alter egos, Sanders’s Dr. Jekyll to Trump’s Mr. Hyde. They spoke about many of the same issues, the same frustrations with the economic and political condition of the country, to strikingly different audiences and in different tones. Trump prevailed because he was willing, indeed eager to burn down the Republican Party house with him. Sanders failed, in large part, because he wasn’t, even when the Democratic Party house, run with the ruthless calculation of any casino, conspired against him.
Trump burst on the scene like a character out of a Burroughs novel, a narcissistic junkie, desperate for his next fix of publicity–jittery, unpredictable, obscene, petulant and brutal. And impossible not to watch. There was a dark and dangerous erotic charge to Trump that was lacking in his rivals, especially from Sanders and Clinton, both of whom projected antiseptic and asexual personas. Trump, on the other hand, emitted the powerful pheromones of doom. At times it was hard to tell whether Trump was running a political campaign or directing a political snuff film.
Hillary, naturally, projected the severe aridity of a tax auditor. Clinton’s foot soldiers looked like an army of grim conscripts going off to wage battle against their own villages. HRC would prevail, but even her most devoted followers knew there would be no fun in the triumph. It seemed unlikely that she could chop down Trump–and for months polls showed Sanders as the better bigot-slayer–Hillary knew all along what she really had to do was wait, wait for Trump to self-destruct. Only Sanders could trip her up and she and the DNC had that unlikely prospect pretty much fixed from the start. She didn’t need to be appealing. Clinton’s calling card was her inevitability.
Sanders’s losing campaign, a campaign fated to lose, was not a campaign that attracted losers, not even beautiful losers. By and large, the Sandernistas were not social outcasts, not the homeless, the marginalized and the downtrodden. They weren’t black or Chicano. No. The Sandernistas were not scruffy street urchins and Bernie Sanders was not our political Dickens. They were raised in the suburbs of Madison and Denver on the white bread virtues of the old American Dream, a promise that had evaporated before their very eyes. They were educated and vested in the System, with enough social and economic status to have a credit score and acquire a mound of debt. The challenge for the Sandernistas will be to get beyond their sense of personal and political betrayal and to finally connect their movement for revolutionary change with the long-standing grievances of the American underclass.
Will the Dems surrender to “pragmatism” once again?
A “pragmatism” that considers international mass murder pragmatic? One where…I repeat:
Police [were] killing a citizen somewhere on the streets of America every 12 hours or so, and every 18 hours that citizen is a black male. In fact, in the first six months of 2016, police had killed 585 people, up from the previous year’s total of 491 killed through June of 2015.
God only knows what those numbers look like now.
Is this what we are facing?
With or without Trump in the race???
Another DNC silent coup?
In the name of “pragmatism?”
Look at what the last group of “pragmatists” brought us.
Especially…even if in possibly “winning” we still lose!!!???
Even if we still remain in the clutches of the .01%, whose aims have nothing whatsoever to do with anything except continued profit and the control that is necessary for that profit to continue to rise?
Let us pray not.
Thank you, and good afternoon.