A political revolution is messy. Che Guevara said, “The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall.”
When Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders called for a ‘political revolution,” those who have studied history had to know that if the Vermont Senator was going to have even a modicum of success that things were going to get messy. But, as political revolutions go, this one as been as clean as they get. Sen Sanders never intended the citizenry to actually use the pitch forks and torches to harm anyone, simply to organize, work hard and light the way for others.
Yet, recently, death threats to the Nevada Democratic Chairperson Roberta Lange have betrayed Sen. Sanders wishes for a peaceful political revolution. On May, 16th the New York Times reported that Ms. Lange feared for her life, ““It’s been vile,” she said, “It’s been threatening messages, threatening my family, threatening my life, threatening my grandchild.”
The cause of the threats was growing anger behind the process of nominating a Democratic presidential candidate. Rolling Stone contacted one of the alleged perpetrators behind the text-message threats to Chairperson Lange.
An apologetic Austin told Rolling Stone, that the outburst was about anger and he knows it doesn’t benefit the Sanders campaign, “You’re right, stuff like that doesn’t benefit the campaign, but it’s not necessarily about his campaign, as [much as] it is [about] anger. And I’m not justifying any threats or anything like that, but I would justify people who were upset.”
As the nomination for the Democratic Party nominee inches further and further away from Senator Sanders his supporters grow angrier and angrier at the injustices (some real, some not) served up to their candidate.
Revolutions are messy. Even peaceful ones. The Revolutions Of 1989, which saw the fall of the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe, is considered among the more peaceful and monumental revolutions, but it is scarred deeply by the Romanian Revolution. Over 1,000 people died during the overthrow of that country’s communist dictator. 162 lost their lives during protests. It ended with the execution of the dictator. All this from a nation often regarded as one of the more peaceful in the world.
Senator Sanders has made it clear that he does not support any violent form of protest. But, like Che said making the apple fall from the tree takes force. Sen. Sanders’ supporters must contain their force to a dogged refusal to retreat. With growing calls for the candidate to step aside so Secretary Hillary Clinton can devote her energy and ad dollars exclusively to Donald Trump, supporters must continue to fight against all forms of submission. Their candidate has been forthright. The campaign faces an uphill battle. It always has. But, that battle – win or lose – is necessary.
If liberal supporters of Secretary Hillary Clinton truly agree that climate change is a global security threat, the country must work towards Universal Health Care coverage, income inequality is disintegrating the middle class, the banking system is corrupt and that corporations, millionaires and billionaires must begin to pay their fair share of taxes than they should respect what Sanders is doing.
All of these issues have now received more news media attention than ever before and therefore made people politically aware of the dire circumstances we are in and who is responsible for our predicament. Sec. Clinton, a uniquely qualified candidate for president (eight years in the White House, Senator of New York, Secretary of State), has not brought these issues to light in the manner that Senator Sanders has over the last several months. In fact, she’s changed her views on some policies because Sen. Sanders has effectively used his bully pulpit. The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, the Keystone Pipeline and the minimum wage are all issues that Clinton has shifted on because of Sanders’ influence.
The divide in the Democratic Party today is similar to all of the closely contested nomination battles of recent history. Sec. Clinton herself stayed in the 2008 race weeks after it was clear she had no chance to win the nomination. She stumbled and bumbled her way to a concession on June 6th, four days after the last primary. I write “stumbled and bumbled” because she wasn’t adding to the discourse, she was only creating the type of unrest her campaign accuses the Sanders campaign of doing today. In 2008, when asked why she was still in the race she referenced the shooting of Robert Kennedy on June 6, 1968, after he had won the California primary. She apologized a day later claiming there was no malice behind her remark and that she was only trying to explain to reporters that campaigns typically extend into June. Her explanation fell on deaf ears to many Barack Obama supporters because their battle was so highly charged. And, that campaign wasn’t even about a revolution. It was just about change.
Sanders is right to stay in the campaign as long as possible. His goal is still to win, but the second-place prize is a substantial re-positioning of the politics in our nation. Since the Ronald Reagan Revolution, the country’s political center has veered uncontrollably to the right. (Talk about revolutions being a mess.) The rightward movement brought us the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, therefore allowing financial institutions to run amok; trade deals like NAFTA and GATT which have harmed the economy and environment; and, the narrowing of social service programs like TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) which resulted in an increase in poverty, especially among black and Hispanic families. And, all of that legislation happened under a Democratic Party president, Bill Clinton!
Mr. Clinton, we’re told by candidate Clinton, will play a major role in revitalizing the economy if she’s elected. Eight years of a Bill Clinton presidency tells us that isn’t necessarily a good thing for poor people, the middle class and the environment.
Senator Sanders told ABC-TV’s George Stephanopoulos Sunday that he’s still in the race to win. But, if he doesn’t win he is capable of taking punches in the fight for the fall of conservative policies that have befallen this nation since Reagan. He’ll do that be promoting a progressive platform at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. And those who are worried that his impassioned supporters will never vote Hillary and cost her the general election he resisted that idea and told Stephanopoulos, “I have every confidence that if Hillary Clinton is prepared to stand up to the greed of corporate America and Wall Street, is prepared to be really strong on the issue of climate change, support, as I do, a tax on carbon…if she is strong on those issues, yeah, I think she will win and win by a large vote. But if she is not, she’s going to have her problems.”
Nearly every Clinton supporter would applaud her taking those stances (only her big money contributors might rebuke).
And, when asked if extending his campaign to the convention is encouraging further vitriol and, potentially, violence, he responded, “Do people in Philadelphia, going to Philadelphia or any place else in America have the right to demonstrate, have the right to express their concerns? I thought that that was what the First Amendment of the Constitution was about? We’re not encouraging anybody…but of course people have the right to peacefully assemble and make their views heard.”
Che Guevara would probably be amused, or disappointed, by the lack of aggression in Sanders’ political revolution. But, he might at least be proud that the Senator is living up to his convictions. Che was fond of saying, “Words that do not match deeds are unimportant.”