Monday, February 29, 2016

Black Swans of History in the Year of the Fire Monkey: Bernie Sanders

The USA hasn't seen a serious national political campaign mounted by a Socialist since the 1920 presidential election. Ahead of the 2016 election, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an Independent and Democratic Socialist, is running as one of the two major Democratic candidates seeking the presidency, all the while generating a lot of excitement and energy.

A hundred years ago, the Socialists ran as a third party and garnered 3% of the popular vote. In Oklahoma, the Socialists in 1916 brought in 15.5% of the vote - a sharp contrast with the last couple of cycles (2008 and 2012), which went heavily Republican and even more heavily Conservative/Tea Party Republican. In 1912, Oklahoma had gone 16% for Eugene Debs, in 1908, 8.5%, and in 1920, 5.3%.  Recall also that women could only vote in some states and couldn't vote nationwide until the 1920 election -- less than a hundred years ago.  

During the 2016 Democratic Primaries, Bernie Sanders  (b. September 8, 1941, Brooklyn) has outright won in New Hampshire and tied in Iowa. Even in very conservative places, he's exceeded 20% of the popular vote among Democrats.

Feel the Bern! 

What is Bernie Sanders' appeal?  He is direct, dramatic and endearing, going after "Wall Street," "Big Banks" and billionaires. These are particularly good targets in the wake of the Great Recession of 2008. 

Sanders seeks to bring a "Revolution" to Washington, making health care universal, a college education tuition free, and the environment better protected, among other things. If anyone wondered what happened to the Occupy Wall Street movement, "Feel the Bern" may well represent its aspirations. 
In 1979, Bernie Sanders wrote and narrated Eugene V. Debs: Trade Unionist, Socialist, Revolutionary, 1855-1926. He knows history well.

In my own family, there were several coal miners laboring away during the late 1800s and early 1900s. At least one miner from both my maternal and paternal lines died in a mining accident (in Pennsylvania and Illinois, respectively), and others died fairly young from the impact of terrible working conditions on their health. Several of my ancestors were active members of the Progressive Miners of America aka Progressive Mine Workers of America. 

Personally, I've been a Socialist since age 23. I support social spaces and concepts  -- libraries, parks large and small, mass transit, and universal health care, etc. -- and a well-defined separation of church and state. 

I'm also a pragmatist. While Sanders has certainly shaken up the race as a Democratic Black Swan foil to Donald J. Trump in the Republican field, the reality is that Hillary Clinton remains the front runner for the Democrats.  

The chances of a Socialist "Revolution" taking charge of the conservative so-called "Center Right" USA, let alone withstanding a savage "Counter-Revolution" from the "Trumpenproletariat," Big Business, Tea Party brutes and evangelicals, is highly unlikely. 

Refer to the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939 for an inkling of what kind of nastiness this would entail, and multiply the population involved by fifteen times. 

The biggest challenge for Socialism is continued involvement and engagement. Americans tend to be able to keep interested in big things for maybe two to eight years tops (the range of all the big American wars). Then American folks move on to something else, or become something else. 

In the USA, there is no mass Socialist Party infrastructure. 

Socialists do fine within the framework of multi-party parliamentary systems in countries that are not overwhelmed by theocratic tendencies. 

In the USA, the two party system continues to dominate all national elections -- whether folks like it or not. 

When will you join the Revolution? 

Today's Rune: Wholeness. Happy Leap Year!


Charles Gramlich said...

America is, of course, already socialist in many ways. It's just a matter of how much. I definitely support Bernie. I think if he is elected he'll shake some things up. At least we'll start to have a dialog again about what is important.

jodi said...

Erik-As you know, I am a staunch member of the Cocktail Party and I think old Bernie is just too old to hang!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Socialism as a party is practically non-existent in Canada, but we do have important aspects of socialism built into many, if not most, of our political parties. Feel free to come and join us anytime!

the walking man said...

Well at least I will go to the polls today--fruitless as the endeavor seems.