Sometimes when you’re moving along the revolutionary path, you come to a fork, and have to make a choice. The political revolution that Bernie Sanders has ignited seems to be approaching such a decision.
With the near sweep of the latest set of primaries by Hillary Clinton—and despite the fact that Bernie’s late surge of votes again demonstrated defiance of the polls and positive momentum for his campaign—the mass-psychological stage has been set to make a Bernie presidency seem an ever more distant goal.
And given the massive rigging of the US electoral system—from the major-party duopoly to the donor-class primary to the tightly controlled corporate media: the very system Bernie is running against—the chance that Bernie could plant a stone in that Goliath’s forehead was always a miraculous longshot, at best. But the idea that so many average people could still believe in miracles, and choose to fund those miracles with their ever-shrinking wages at 27 bucks a pop—even with plutocracy as firmly in power as it is today—seems to have at least raised an alarm among the plutocrats.
The very quantifiable favoritism that the mainstream media has from the very beginning showered on Hillary and—interestingly enough, in retrospect—Donald Trump, is only the most visible sign of how truly rigged the system is. The media only started paying attention to Bernie when his challenge to the system seemed to become an actual threat—and then only to blast him with negative propaganda (though not so negative as to drive his followers from the Democratic fold) and to weave a hypnotic narrative of children seduced by fantasies of free college and health care, and how the moment would inevitably arrive when it would be time to wake up to the “real” world, eat some neoliberal spinach and vote for Hillary.
Before considering other options the children may have, it’s revealing to examine the ephemeral yarn from which this narrative has been spun.
In the first place, as Bernie’s advisers have repeatedly pointed out (to the often obvious bemusement of “journalists”), the whole primary system is frontloaded to favor Hillary and the Democratic machine, and more than half the delegates are yet to be chosen. And the commentators lined up to parrot the Washington consensus openly admit that razor-thin victories are most important for their “psychological” effect—and that’s an operation they are well-paid to perform.
But taking a step back from the immediate electoral circus, and looking at American democracy as a whole, you see a very sick patient. Although this year is better than most, and there is some real enthusiasm even among Democrats, a small fraction of Americans ever take part in primaries and caucuses. It doesn’t take many votes to make a nominee. The turnout rate so far this year among Democrats has been 11.7% of eligible voters. American democracy, as portrayed so fittingly in our endless reality show-style elections, is primarily a spectator sport.
And why is that? Because the system is rigged, and everybody knows it, so why should they pay attention? Even most people who bother to vote in the US would be considered “low-information voters” in most other modern democracies.
It’s not their fault. The people of the United States have been betrayed by the leaders and institutions in whom they have been taught to place their trust. The corporate counter-revolution against what the establishment considered the democratic “excesses” of the 1960s and ‘70s is complete.
A few appeals to the “reptile brain”—and both Trump’s and Hillary’s campaigns are, in their own ways, based in fear—and any residual 2016 insurgencies can be safely quarantined. To the establishment mind, as establishment mouthpieces have been trying to convince the public since before the first vote was cast, this campaign is over.
And by their metrics, it probably is.
As someone who has put my faith in Bernie’s integrity and in his tempered and realistic assessment of the American political landscape—which is why, of course, he ran as a Democrat—I have to assume that he knew there was a probability that he might face this moment, and the political revolution he instigated would face a choice that he has said he’s already decided on. He will support the Democratic nominee for president.
If Bernie wants his army of insurgents to follow him on that path—even as he rightly continues to hold out hope for a dramatic shift in the prevailing electoral tides that will ultimately give him the nomination—he has a responsibility to his loyal supporters to start explaining exactly why and how voting for an establishment candidate is also the path to political revolution.
Because revolution—the critical imperative of this corrupt era—is all many of us signed up for.