You claim to support progressive values, but support a candidate that is no more progressive than Bill Clinton was during his tenure. If the DNC continues with pushing “centrist” candidates, they do so at their own peril. Winning elections at the cost of abandoning the progressive values it espouses is hypocritical.
As I told A. Progressive, such comments annoy me. “You claim to support progressive values….” Claim. Claim. Claim. We know what that means, of course. I’m not really a progressive. I’m only pretending to be. Yeah, well.
Since I’ve said just about all I can, both publicly and privately, to earnest Bernie folks, I thought I would allow the great Kevin Drum take a stab at it. In a piece published today on Mother Jones (“Here’s Why I Never Warmed Up to Bernie Sanders”), Drum made most of the points that I have been making but, let’s face it, he’s Kevin Drum and I’m not.
Drum starts out by consciously provoking Bernie people by saying the following about their beloved candidate:
I think he’s basically running a con, and one with the potential to cause distinct damage to the progressive cause.
The great progressive writer then goes on to make the point that many have made about the lack of a revolution and the lack of conditions to even get one started in the way Bernie keeps describing it from his imagination. Drum cites two examples, and there are only two, where one could plausibly—Drum admits he is “stretching things a bit”—describe historical developments as amounting to an “economic revolution”:
- The destruction of the Southern slave economy following the Civil War.
- The New Deal.
The first of these was 50+ years in the making and, in the end, required a bloody, four-year war to bring to a conclusion. The second happened only after an utter collapse of the economy, with banks closing, businesses failing, wages plummeting, and unemployment at 25 percent. That’s what it takes to bring about a revolution, or even something close to it.
Obviously, as Drum points out, “We’re light years away from that right now.” The conditions, relatively speaking, are just too damned good for most folks to get them to buy into a game-changing economic or political revolution. Unemployment is fairly low, wages, though in a stagnant phase, are pretty good for the average family (“close to $70,000”), and “90 percent of the country has insurance coverage.” And finishing this point with a mike-dropper, Drum says:
Dissatisfaction with the system? According to Gallup, even among those with incomes under $30,000, only 27 percent are dissatisfied with their personal lives.
That leads us to the most important point, the point that is hard to get ideologically minded folks, especially young folks committed to the things Bernie talks about, to understand:
Like it or not, you don’t build a revolution on top of an economy like this. Period. If you want to get anything done, you’re going to have to do it the old-fashioned way: through the slow boring of hard wood.
I like that metaphor. “The slow boring of hard wood” is exactly what it takes, in this country, to make real progress. There simply isn’t a substitute for it. That’s the way our political system is designed to work. That is, generally, the way Americans prefer change to come. Americans, except on the fringes, tend to prefer things to move a little slower than the average Bern-Bernie-Bern fan, or the average Ted Cruz or Drumpf fan, would like. Drum:
…if you want to make a difference in this country, you need to be prepared for a very long, very frustrating slog. You have to buy off interest groups, compromise your ideals, and settle for half loaves—all the things that Bernie disdains as part of the corrupt mainstream establishment.
That’s a hard message. But it is absolutely true. That’s our system, like it or not. If you want to change it, you first have to get inside of it. You can’t blow it up from the outside. That simply won’t do. You have to get in and work at it.
The problem with all this is that we aren’t just talking about an academic exercise. There can be real harm done by all the loose talk, as Drum points out. He says that rather than telling his people that there is a long slog ahead, Bernie
promises his followers we can get everything we want via a revolution that’s never going to happen. And when that revolution inevitably fails, where do all his impressionable young followers go? Do they join up with the corrupt establishment and commit themselves to the slow boring of hard wood? Or do they give up?
That’s a damned good question. And like Drum, I fear that some of them will give up:
They’ve been conned by a guy who should know better, the same way dieters get conned by late-night miracle diets. When it doesn’t work, they throw in the towel.
What I have been trying to warn people about, in terms of what Bernie Sanders has done and continues to do, is what Drum hits on toward the end of his piece:
…there’s a decent chance that Bernie’s failure will result in a net increase of cynicism about politics, and that’s the last thing we need.
Yes, dammit. There is too much cynicism as it is. That’s the kind of environment in which a Drumpf can rise and flourish. And, as progressives, real progressives, we shouldn’t allow such cynicism to creep into our camp. We should fight for our principles, but fight for them knowing the fight is necessarily long and difficult and often frustrating. We should fight for them knowing that there are lots of other Americans who don’t have any affection for our vision of the future. We need to understand that some folks, maybe our neighbors or friends or family, are downright hostile to it. That’s what makes the fight so hard and what makes it so long and frustrating.
And as Drum says, the last thing we need is someone on our side, on the progressive side, generating the kind of cynicism that could put someone like Donald J. Drumpf in the most powerful office in the world. Enough is enough. Let’s get our progressive act together before too much damage is done.