The Coin Flip of the Progressive Alternative

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

No Future to Believe in But the One We Allot for

Two weeks from now, the California presidential primary will finally take place and the biggest state will finally get to yank on the tug-of-war rope between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. The problems that each of these candidates poses have not changed: Clinton is a war-monger aligned with a former president who shamelessly sold out working people and whose policies depleted the ranks of unions. Lest I seem like a knee-jerk radical in my scorn for the first feminist to achieve a major party’s presidential nomination, let me once again be blunt: Sanders is a calculating liberal posing as a radical. One only has to look at the disparity between the benefits he proposes for people under the age of 35 and people between 60 and 70. Those about to hit old age, after having been devastated by the Great Recession, are kicked to the curb by Sanders (see my blog post, “Feel the Big (Very Big) Chill, O Baby Boomers!” on Thursday, February 18, 2016). Since I am in the latter group, I will add that being kicked to the curb is still better than having been thrown under the bus by Mr. Clinton. (I worked for Mr. Clinton’s election in 1992, and when the decade ended I was deeper in debt than when he took office. His mantra of job training was never more than a campaign promise, unless you count the student loans I still have to pay off as job training.)

At this point, it does not appear at all possible that Sanders can win the nomination, and yet withdrawing from the race now would be a disaster; a decision by Sanders to cease campaigning would be tantamount to assuring that his diluted socialist ideas would never be mentioned again until the next economic collapse. His supporters might have just as well not bothered acting on their aspirations to alter the hierarchy of American inequalities. Therefore, I urge Sanders to continue his campaign so that as many young people as possible get a chance to hear about a political and economic alternative. Furthermore, unless Hillary Clinton grants Sanders some serious say in the convention platform as well as some prime time to address the nation, then she will only show that a feminist is just as capable as any male-chauvinist patriarch in continuing to treat in a haughty, disdainful manner those who have already suffered more than she can possibly imagine.

If Senator Sanders does have a chance, however, to address the nation, I hope he gives Democrats a campaign slogan to unite around that has more rhetorical reciprocity than “A Future to Believe in.” That ideological snippet has no more verve than a flat-lined, straight-edge Frisbee toss. (Surely he remembers that the Clintons chose the song, “Don’t Stop Thinking about Tomorrow” as their convention theme song.) The “future,” in political terms, is nothing more than old campaign promises being made to people from whom much work is going to be extracted. For those from whom much work has already been extracted, there is nothing offered by Sanders but the pittance of medical neglect and short rations. He has said nothing about restoring the ways that Medicare has had its benefits cut. He has said nothing about the crisis of how old people can remain in the increasingly expensive cities that their labor made more inhabitable. At the risk of redundancy, let me repeat: there is nothing that Sander has said that indicates he cares about the baby boomer generation any more than Barack Obama did in 2008-2009. If you are in this generation, you are legitimately justified in being very wary of B.S.’s so-called socialist agenda.

If I vote for Sanders on June 7th, therefore, it will not be because I believe he intends to do anything that will make my life even the slightest bit better. In what way do any of Bernie Sanders’s proposals reconcile the deleterious impact that the Great Recession had on my life? At age 68, I see no propitious future to fantasize about (let alone succumb to believing in) in what Bernie Sanders touts as a more fair distribution of social capital. The pitiful tokenism of his propositions to assist the baby boomer generation is hardly “a revolution.” On the contrary, it is almost hypocritical on his part to think of himself as a radical, if we look closely at his measly increases for social security. Most emphatically, it is not out of self-interest that I will vote for Sanders. Rather, I will vote for him because I believe the young people who have supported him need to be taken seriously, and I wish their cause to have a chance to grow.

Finally, it needs to be said that the case for Sanders to continue his campaign has been made most strongly from an unexpected quarter. I recently read of some comments made by a Republican senator from Nebraska, Ben Sasse. “With Clinton and Trump, the fix is in. Heads, they win; tails, you lose. Why are we confined to these two terrible options? This is America. If both choices stink, we reject them and go bigger. That’s what we do.” I agree with Sasse, except of course about the direction to go when one goes bigger. The startling thing about Sasse’s perspective is that he ignores the obvious. There is a candidate who has said that both choices stink and who has proposed a far different coin flip: “Heads, you win. Tails, Wall Street wins if and only if you win in equal proportion.” The challenge that the Left faces is in convincing people to give up their possessive individualism and enable them to see the benefits in “you” being plural and not just singular.

The last thing politicians such as Senator Sasse want to hear, however, is that there is a popular alternative to the “two terrible options.” The Occupy Wall Street movement has resurfaced against all odds and shown that its critique is not only convincing, but is winning over more adherents than ever.