When people hear Sen. Bernie Sanders speak, they hear about everything that’s wrong with the United States. We hear about a broken justice system, a broken economic system, and a broken educational system. We hear how legislation is created by big business to benefit big business and not the American people. We hear about a growing plutocracy. We hear the anger in his voice when he speaks of the growing attacks on women, racial and ethnic minorities, and how most of his opponents are in bed with big money.
Bernie Sanders frequently talks about a political revolution, but it’s not a revolution of guns and swords. He speaks of a political revolution of American people tired of apathy. He speaks of a revolution where people march, protest, vote to get money out of politics.
Critics say his proposals for tuition-free college and a $15 minimum wage are impossible. They say he can’t fix everything all at once. But that’s not the message Bernie Sanders is sending. His message is: Not Me, Us.
In other words, the political revolution Bernie advocates involves getting people motivated enough to vote for real changes. He’s not promising the make these changes. He’s promising to get the ball rolling. Whether those changes actually do happen is more up to the American people and our willingness to fight for what we believe in.
In the New Yorker, John Cassidy described Bernie Sanders’ progressive goals.
“Sanders, as I understand him, isn’t claiming that his ambitious and costly program is realistic in today’s Washington. To the contrary, he says that the political system is so broken, and so in hock to big money, that it is virtually impossible to effect nearly any substantive progressive change. The only way to make big changes, Sanders argues, is to create a mass movement that faces down corporate interests and their quislings. Once this movement materializes, all sorts of things that now seem out of the question — such as true universal health care, free college tuition, and a much more progressive tax system — will become possible.”
And Bernie’s political revolution has already begun. People are sitting up and taking notice. Hillary Clinton’s campaign has begun to paint him as a communist sympathizer because he once traveled to a city in the former Soviet Union as part of Sister Cities International. Bernie’s campaign is focused so strongly on “we the people,” and not “me the president” that even his opponents aren’t able to ignore him anymore. It’s this sense of “people power” that has the rich and powerful nervous, for they know that once the general population feels angry enough, it’s only a matter of time before the pitchforks come out.
Less than two weeks away from the Iowa caucuses, Bernie Sanders is now running neck-and-neck with Clinton in what could be a very telling race. If he wins, it could propel him to victory in other states. If he loses, it could be the beginning of the end for his political revolution. His supporters, though, are unwilling to let that happen.
Contrary to Clinton supporters, who have difficulty seeing beyond what is possible in the short term, Bernie Sanders’ supporters are taking the long-term view. How can we start this revolution? How can we effect real change? How can we take back the country from the plutocrats? And his supporters have begun to look at history as a source of hope for the future.
Looking to the past may seem counterintuitive at first glance, but in fact, it’s the beginning of the roadmap our country veered wildly off in the last several decades. Instead of building upon FDR’s progressive policies, and instead of following Harry Truman’s dream of a single payer health care system, the United States took path to privatized health care, which has had devastating affects on just about every family of every income level in the country.
Truman’s bill came at the unfortunate time when fear of Soviet communism was high, and the idea of a nationalized health care system was attacked for it. The parallels of Hillary Clinton’s campaign now attacking Bernie Sanders and his political revolution for being communist sympathizers, then, is unsurprising. They, too, are looking to the past for ideas on how to attack Sanders for his populist call for political revolution.
The difference between now and 70 years ago is the internet. People today have much more access to information than they did in Truman’s time. As a result of this, voters are less inclined to take attacks on Bernie Sanders at face value. Another thing that changed, and it’s one that Sanders has said before, are the people themselves.
People have grown tired of being ignored, of being told how they must vote. The American people have grown angry that their government seems more supportive of big banks than to the welfare of its citizens. The American people have grown tired of rampant police brutality and the blatant racism that drives it.
What Bernie Sanders’ political revolution can do is begin the process of healing. He doesn’t promise an immediate cure for what ills the country. Rather, he is proposing a regime of treatment that will start the country on the road to getting better. Sanders has been a member of Congress for more than 25 years. It was only recently that the vast majority of Americans were ready to hear his message. And now that they’ve heard it, they have embraced the revolution.
[Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images]