Invest in Activism, Not Bernie Sanders

Yes, Bernie Sanders would be a far superior president to Hillary Clinton.

That requires a bit of elaboration. Something I just scraped off my shoe would be a far superior president to Hillary Clinton, but Sanders would actually be good in a whole lot of ways. He has numerous imperfections, but the contrast with Clinton is like day to night.

I’d rather have him running than not.

But please do not give him or Hillary or the wonderful Jill Stein or any other candidate a dime or a moment of your life. Instead, join the movement that’s in the streets of Baltimore opposing police murder, that’s in the halls of the United Nations pushing to abolish nukes, that’s blocking mountaintop removal, divesting from Israel, advancing renewable energy, and struggling to create fair elections through steps like automatic registration in Oregon, and pushing legislation to provide free media, match small donors, give each voter a tax credit to contribute, or take the power to establish plutocracy away from the Supreme Court.

I’m not against elections. I think we should have one some day. At the presidential level we do not currently have elections. That office is not up for election; it is up for sale.

The point is not that we should abandon all hope or that when the going gets tough we should just give up. The point is that there is a huge opportunity here. Hillary Clinton expects to bring in billions (with a B) in bribery for her campaign (primary and general). To begin to compete with Hillary, Sanders would have to bring in a big chunk of that, at least some hundreds of millions of dollars.

For that kind of money we could create a television network dedicated to peace and justice and democracy from here on out. Or we could open a counter-recruiting office next-door to every military recruitment office in the United States. Or we could organize and bus people in for the largest and longest march on Washington against racism, militarism, extreme materialism, and the corruption of our elections ever seen, complete with food supplies and bail funds for as long as it takes. Instead of a march for nothing, how about an occupation for no more Bushes or Clintons or anyone like them?

The complete breakdown of the presidential election system is made obvious to some by the pairing of another Clinton against another Bush. Sanders muddies that clear picture, but only if you imagine he actually has a chance. On that basis, some will now propose to take a year away from policy-based principled activism, after which, the thinking will go, what’s another half a year for hold-your-nose lesserevilist Clinton campaigning? And, please understand, by entering the Democratic primaries, Sanders has committed to supporting the Democratic Party nominee and to encouraging his supporters to support her.

Activism gave women the right to vote. Activism got kids out of factories. Activism got the Navy out of Vieques. Activism won the last civil rights movement. Activism has always been the driving force for change. Two years of “registering voters” busy work out of every four years, and the reliance on corrupt figures that it creates, drains away our activism. It was activism that forced President Bush in 2008 to end the war on Iraq as of 2011 in a treaty signed by himself and Iraqi President Maliki. It was the antiwar uproar of the Bush years that led Congress members to think twice about voting for a new war in 2013 and has left them incapable of formally supporting the new war in Iraq that President Obama launched in 2014 despite the feelings of any number of people who believed that voting for him was somehow a significant act.

I worked as press secretary for Dennis Kucinich for president in 2004. I watched him make all the right points and win the most standing ovations in debates with the other Democrats. The reports the next day tended to mention him in the last paragraph as having also been there. And if you asked people in the room cheering for him they’d say “Yeah, I’d vote for him if he had a chance.” And inwardly, and sometimes outwardly, I’d rage at them: “Imagine the chance he’d have if all you morons weren’t bowing down to your televisions? Why show up and act as if you have an independent brain if you’re just going to do what your television told you to do?”

So, here I am in the role of “that jerk” telling Bernie Sanders fanatics that it’s hopeless — a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom if ever there was one. But we have limited time, energy, and money. I don’t think saving the planet is hopeless. I just think the best place to put our resources is into uncorrupted, principled, policy-driven, nonviolent, creative activism — including the activism needed to create fair, open, verifiable elections.

Sure, we now have the internet in a slightly larger way than a decade ago. Sure, a few more people are disgusted enough with Clinton without yet being disgusted with the whole broken system. Sanders is coming to speak in a very small church in my town next week and I’ll probably go listen. Any tiny influence the corporate media will allow him on the conversation, so much the better. Maybe with only two Democrats running they’ll be forced to allow him a few seconds here and there. Maybe he’ll point out that a corrupt corporate hack who voted for the war on Iraq was unacceptable last time and should be again. And yet, she’ll be accepted.

The price has been rising. The media has been worsening. Sanders will be skillfully marginalized and mocked. Hillary will avoid debating him. And the election will place either a Democratic or a Republican catastrophe in the White House. Not because I have some sort of wisdom due to having been around a few years. Not because I’m in a bad mood. But because the media monopolies that Clinton’s husband facilitated have demonstrably grown more powerful than ever, and elections have grown more corrupted by money — Just ask Hillary who pretends to oppose it.

Now anything is technically possible. But considering the scandals already known about Hillary Clinton, what sort of new one could make a difference? None that I can even imagine. She could suffer some unfortunate sudden illness or accident, but in that unlikely and undesirable scenario, the media would hand the election to the Republican, even blame Sanders for Clinton’s illness or death. You think I’m kidding? The Washington Post just suggested that a victim of Baltimore Police murder broke his own spine.

There’s no need for any hard feelings at all among those who mean well. You think the smartest strategy is raising funds for Bernie, we can still be the best of friends. I just happen to disagree. The real question is not whether the next President will be a walking disaster, but what sort of popular movement will have been developed to resist it.<--break->

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  • dsw

    FYI, facebook blocks this article when I attempt to post it

  • cettel

    ‘Activism’ without voting is inactivism. I don’t like people who lie. Even worse is people who are deceiving others to think that, “At the presidential level we do not currently have elections. That office is not up for election; it is up for sale.” More honest would have been for him to say: “I want the U.S. Presidency to be sold to suckers — to misinformed fools who vote — not elected by informed rational voters. The latter people should not vote.” Because, what this article is arguing for is that only misinformed fools should be voting. Intelligent informed rational people should instead be ‘activists.’

    This is the most outrageous article I have seen on washingtonsblog; it tries to deceive readers to believe that the entrance of Sanders into the Democratic primaries isn’t sufficient reason for a progressive reader to go to the polls on Primary Day and to vote for Sanders against Clinton. The author is saying, in effect: It’s hopeless to participate in the democratic process because we live in a dictatorship which is beyond repair by any available or even possibly available democratic, or electoral, means. He is saying, furthermore, that, whether the Democratic nominee turns out to be Sanders or instead Clinton makes no difference that’s worth the expenditure of an intelligent person’s time and effort to vote; instead, only being an ‘activist’ is what’s important. This kind of deception is substantial.

    Now, I might instead question whether that writer is lying, and raise the possibility that he is incredibly stupid. I don’t believe that he is that stupid; I believe that it’s far likelier that he really does want progressives to abstain from the chief way that has existed between 1932 and 1980 for American progressives to make a political difference, which is to vote for the most progressive candidate in Democratic Party primary elections, and then to vote for the Democratic nominee in the general. I see that author as a Ralph Naderite, an enemy of the more progressive Party who wants things to get so bad and violent that there will be a revolution, not any sort of evolution towards progressivism. Well, Nader was obsessed with helping G.W. Bush to defeat Al Gore, but he didn’t even bother to get involved in 2008 and 2012 when it really was Tweedledee versus Tweedledum. No: I see Nader not as an idiot but as a fraud.

    I have quit the Democratic Party and will vote for Ron Paul if I have to in order to do what I can to keep people as proven-corrupt as Hillary Clinton is from ever again living inside the White House. But I shall first be voting for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary, especially because he’d be better not only than Clinton but than Paul. And my form of ‘activism’ will be to do what I can to help his campaign. As for the view that only non-political forms of ‘activism’ are constructive, I’m intelligent and honest enough to say it’s not only false, it’s ridiculously and dangerously false.

    • kimyo

      like warren, though, sanders has refused to denounce the ethnic cleansing in the ukraine, performed by actual nazis, with u.s. government support.

      this stance alone marks him as a failed progressive. his failure to speak up is a disgrace.

      • Libertybelle

        Of they support the ethnic cleansing of white America through immigration invasion it is unlikely they would lecture others about it overseas.

      • cettel

        I agree strongly. However, perfection doesn’t exist. And maybe if he became the only prominent politician who calls Obama’s nazism nazi, then lots of Americans would just dismiss Sanders, not even listen to him on other matters. So, I can’t dismiss Sanders on that ground. Anyone who does is either a perfectionist or someone who knows more about political strategy and tactics than I do.

        • kimyo

          typical. first, posit that there’s only 2 choices, ‘perfection’ and ‘not perfection’*. then switch into a straw man attack.

          although it may well be the case, i do not need to know more about political strategy than you in order to dismiss as unworthy a candidate who, despite numerous opportunities, has utterly and completely failed to act as a true progressive would. a candidate who stands silent in the midst of state-funded genocide should have the decency to withdraw from the political arena.

          * the third state: qualified, and a decent human being. neither warren nor sanders make the cut here, regardless of how many excuses you put forward on their behalf.

    • Libertybelle

      Do you mean Rand or Ron?

      • cettel

        Rand is running for President this time. Ron is done.

        • Libertybelle

          Ok. Got it.

  • jadan

    Political parties exist to contain activism. It is activism that created parties in the first place. All these fine things you’d like to do with money saved from not supporting the Democrats, will have to be done through some other party organization. There is no “movement in the streets of Baltimore”. There is protest. anger, mobocracy. Nothing is being accomplished there, David, except to bolster the cops and their greater plans for ultimate control of society. Activism all by itself accomplishes nothing. It didn’t give us civil rights, voting rights, or curb militarism in any way. The Democratic Party organization channeled activist spirit into law. Yes, the system is corrupt and politicians, Hillary Clinton in particular, are for sale. We do what the system allows us to do, we march with Bernie, we demand the end of Citizens United, and all the other crap going down. Your activism is no choice. If you think Baltimore is a “movement”, you’re badly confused David. There is no true movement happening today. Sorry to tell you that…we have to create a movement for democracy and we can do that under the party umbrella provided by Sanders. If you can get huge numbers of activists to march on Washington, well go ahead and do that, David. But this is not 1963. You’re wasting energy going down this no-vote road, and you’re doing harm to the activists out there you pretend to support….

    • cettel

      I agree 100% with what jadan says here.

      • jadan

        And we have to look at the most recent quixotic “movement”, the Occupy protests, with the heartbreaking idealism and enthusiasm that did not respond well to police chemical weapons and violence. These people have to be protected by whichever party will give them legitimacy. Hopefully, Bernie Sanders will provide that cover…..

  • Libertybelle

    The CIA won’t allow it.

    They need someone willing to illegally slaughter foreigners on command and probably see Sanders as a pansy unable to comply.

    Hillary has already been there and done that. And it is unlikely that Princess With Lying Cheekbones could be wrangled into international slaughter. Warren is kinda of a Jimmy Carter type. And too much of a stuffy and icky intellectual clod as well. She would drive the CIA nuts, Hillary is sharp and wicked. She is perfect for the killers at Langley.

    And her hubby! What can I say about a man who never flinches at the thought of starving 500,000 children to death in Iraq. That has got to be a tempting morsel for them to pass up having in the Whitehouse again.

    Really, there is no one else for Dems.

    The CIA will have its way. They have the back doors. The hacks. The encryption codes. The spooks, spies, and spoilers, and the dirt on everyone.

    There is a global empire to create and they want to be the top spy masters of it.

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