(George Curry Media) – A surprising number of people, particularly young people, are enthusiastically joining a movement fueled by their feel of and affection for the “Bern.” Let me be clear, Hillary Clinton is a far better choice for president than any of the extremist candidates from a Republican Party whose views on some issues border on atavistic.
Having said that, for decades there has been a pent-up yearning for a truly progressive candidate such as Sanders who could stretch the imagination to envision and articulate what should be rather than what’s “practical.”
Under fierce assault from reactionary forces on the right, for decades the Democratic Party has retreated from the hard-fought gains secured over generations of struggle, a culture of rights for poor and working people, much of which is reflected in Roosevelt’s New Deal.
A good case can be made that this capitulation was aided and abetted by the Democratic Leadership Conference, an organization within the Democratic Party led by future president William Jefferson Clinton. The DLC never claimed to be “progressive.” It was a self-avowed moderate/centrist organization whose claim to fame was its opposition to the liberal-progressive wing of the party.
The consequences of the DLC-led capitulation has been disastrous, particularly in terms of dramatically increased inequality, the downward spiral or stagnation of wages/incomes for working people and marginalization of the poor. Indeed, the working class and the poor became virtually invisible in the public discourse on public policy as Democrats, no doubt influenced by the “consultant class,” increasingly focused on the “middle class.”
There is also a State of Emergency in America’s “dark ghettos.” Black communities/ neighborhoods in cities such as Ferguson and Baltimore are the product of decades of disinvestment, deindustrialization and blatant neglect. Clinton abandoned urban policy and responded to the crises in Black communities by proposing the Omnibus Crime Bill of 1994 that opened the floodgates to staggering levels of incarceration of Black people. The Clintons are not progressives; they consciously/deliberately, calculatingly chose to be moderate/centrists.
The Sanders’ campaign matters because he is audaciously declaring that workers, the poor and people on the margins and the struggling middle class, the vast majority of people in this nation, matter. His relentless popular education of the electorate about the utter unfairness and injustice of the insatiable greed and obscene accumulation of wealth on Wall Street, as brilliantly exposed by the Occupy Wall Street Movement, is resoundingly resonating on Main Street.
Bernie Sanders, in a manner reminiscent of Dr. King’s call for an Economic Bill of Rights, is calling for a “revolution” to loosen the grip of Wall Street, the billionaire class, on the political system in this country by articulating a vision of what should be rather than drowning hope, dwelling on what is and what’s practical/realistic.
Why should the richest and most technologically endowed nation on the face of the earth accept the fact that 25 million human beings in this society suffer without health insurance while millions more are underinsured? This despite the passage of the Affordable Care Act which was/is an important incremental victory.
Bernie Sanders asks us to dream of a nation which provides free, “public” education for the daughters and sons of ordinary people. He also calls upon us to dream of a society that provides a decent standard of living for all its people by establishing a national living wage of at least $15 an hour; offering paid sick leave and pregnancy leave for mothers and fathers; fighting for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment to guarantee women equal pay for equal work; ensuring that our seniors will live in dignity by expanding, not reducing, Social Security benefits; and promoting a green, sustainable, well-paying, job generating economy.
However, it is important to caution that the progressive “revolution,” that Sanders is inspiring, will fall short of its potential if it does not clearly recognize and emphatically assert that “race matters” in this country; that because of structural racism, the ravishes of inequality and the exploitation and neglect of poor and working people disproportionately afflict Blacks and people of color. White progressive reformers have too often minimized racial concerns and remedies for fear of alienating Whites.
Black lives matter. Bernie Sanders would do well to address the issue of structural racism and its effects on Blacks and people of color head-on. Indeed, it would be useful if he took time to deliver a major address on race in American society and outline a comprehensive policy agenda for addressing racial issues.
And, on the question of his position on reparations for Blacks for slavery and ongoing discrimination, Sanders should at least support HR-40, Congressman John Conyers’ bill that would authorize a commission to study slavery and its aftermath and determine whether reparations are warranted. These steps would be major strides toward constructively bridging the race-class divide in order to advance an inclusive, unified revolution!
Will the Sanders’ inspired “revolution” dismantle America’s capitalist political-economy? No, it will not. But, it will be a significant interim or transitional step forward advancing a politics of social transformation in this country. The “Bern” is encouraging millions of people to envision, to dream of a nation that is more humane than the indignities and injustices they suffer with the status quo.
Ron Daniels is president of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century and a distinguished lecturer at York College City University of New York. He can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org.