Bernie Sanders has changed American politics forever. He hasn’t even won the nomination yet, but he’s already reshaped the political landscape in America for good.
For example — before Bernie Sanders, having huge sums of money secured from billionaire donors was a source of pride for candidates. Just a year ago, mentioning a huge number donated to a campaign from a lobbyist was the cue for awe and reverence.
Bernie Sanders has single-handedly turned that perception around. In what could be the first crowd-funded Presidency, Bernie has refused to take any money from super PACS and the even more dubious Democrat state money-laundering exercise that Hillary Clinton benefited from, and he vowed only to be working and funded by the people, for the people.
In doing so, he had to explain at length, in detail, but also in simple layman’s terms, why. And in those endless explanations, the American people began to wake up to the swindle that had been going on in plain sight.
Because Bernie Sanders took this courageous stance, Hillary Clinton has had to repeatedly answer uncomfortable questions about how all that money won’t translate into influence. And none of her speech writers can seem to be able to come up with a convincing answer. Her answer varies from a shrug and a “well, if they want to give it to me…” to an outright denial that she has received these sums at all.
When he drew attention to the massive paychecks Hillary was cashing for making speeches to Wall Street megaliths and corporate behemoths, that was one thing. When he asked her to release what she was saying in those speeches — well, that was another. Our collective attention was drawn to this exchange of goods, and it just didn’t add up. Then, when she refused to release the transcripts, that showed us all we needed to know. It doesn’t take much imagination to work out what is in those scripts.
And all it took was for him to vow not to take money from the heavy-hitters and instead rely on the energy and enthusiasm and small change of the people who needed him most to represent them.
In that one inspired action, the glamor of pulling in big money from corporate sponsorship died. Forever. We will never ever think that elected officials taking money from corporations is a good thing again. It has been inextricably linked with bribery. That time is over, thanks to Bernie.
So much has changed in less than a year, it’s hard to remember how it was Before Bernie. One telling foreshadow was the result of the very first debate. According to the internet, Bernie had won overwhelmingly. Poll after poll after poll on all the major news sites resoundingly gave Bernie the win. But according to CNN’s handpicked test crowd, and a few traditional land-line telephone polls, the result had gone to Hillary. At the time, when questioned about it, the pundits said these portentous words — “Oh, that’s just the internet.”
Oh, that’s just the internet. Not only in that callous swipe did they airily dismiss the opinion of hundreds of thousands of people, but they also showed how clueless they were to the power of the internet this election cycle. In the last major election cycle of 2008, people were just discovering Facebook and still slinging sheep at each other. This time, the internet is The Media.
And I guess it’s not in the old media’s interest to give the new media credence. It was an interesting statement, nonetheless, on how they thought that the internet did not adequately reflect the will of the people, but the opinions of the remaining few people with land-lines did.
Bernie has shown that, through social media, an extraordinary coalition of disparate peoples can collaborate to create a breathtakingly effective campaign team. With just sheer enthusiasm fuelling them, the self-organizing abilities of normal people have given birth to countless inspiring memes, videos, original songs and animations, campaigns, slogans, merchandise, activities, meet-ups, and protests.
When Hillary Clinton charged up to $323,000 a plate at a fundraising dinner, individual Berners held potluck dinners in their own homes at $27 a donation. This wasn’t the brain-child of a topiary-bearded campaign genius working his magic for a handsome paycheck — this was just a fun idea from the heart of the collective. This was not people being told what to do — this was people deciding what they want to do. And that’s the key difference. People want Bernie. They’re not choosing from the lesser of two evils — they are inspired and delighted and enthused and energized by him.
It’s the organization of people en masse that is truly inspiring. Bernie’s rallies have become legendary, as rockstar-capacity stadiums are filled with tens of thousands of people. And just yesterday, in what may be the most exciting peaceful activism since the Occupy movement (which has to be given its considerable due for bringing into consciousness the concept of the one percent and seeding the ground for Bernie’s grassroots campaign), Democracy Spring held a jaw-droppingly effective sit-in at Capitol Hill that forced even the mainstream media to report it.
Reports about this movement are hard to come by. That’s another thing that can’t be unseen post-Bernie. The sheer obstinance of the mainstream media in refusing to report on this extraordinary blossoming of grassroots activism throughout America is making people sit up and take notice. The more people who get involved in Bernie’s campaign through social media, the more people there are to notice and talk about the seemingly deliberate attempt by news outlets to first blackout, diminish, mock and belittle the Sanders momentum. There are more eyes than ever on the manipulations of the media, and more questions being asked about who controls the media, which candidates they choose to fund and why, and how they might be a little more invested and a little less objective than they would like us all to think.
You would think that the breakneck rise of a 74 year-old Jewish socialist senator from obscurity to stadium-filler in less than a year would be a journalist’s wet dream. It’s got all the elements of a great story — it’s part Rocky, part Hunger Games, with a lead character who has captured the public’s imagination as a cross between Jesus Christ and a Disney princess.
He out-polls and out-rallies Donald Trump, and yet the Donald gets 23 times more air time.
He’s won eight of the last nine contests, polling with an average of more than seventy percent, and the Boy from Brooklyn is poised to upset Hillary next week in her adopted state of New York, but every step he takes towards the Democratic National Convention in July sheds more and more light on the shady inner workings of the DNC. Reports of voter suppression have been rampant in nearly every state so far, but it’s the strange convention particular to the Democrats of the so-called “super delegates” which is now wriggling uncomfortably under Bernie’s spotlight. When asked to reassure voters that the system wasn’t rigged, DNC Chairman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz blithely declared on national television that the super delegates were there to ensure that the party got its candidate and didn’t fall prey to grassroots candidates.
In other words: yes, it’s rigged, but it’s just so the party gets its way.
That’s not sitting real well with all the newly enthused voters Bernie has attracted to his campaign. In general, the people of America thought that their vote counted. Turns out, not so much.
The Democrats are now in an uncomfortably exposed position, which will only get worse as Bernie gains momentum. If and when he gets to the Convention with more voted-for delegates than Hillary, the Democrats will be faced with a choice — go with the will of the party, or the will of the people.
The whole voting process has been exposed for being deliberately confusing and obstructive; something that political junkies had known for a very long time, but Bernie comes in to this process with a tsunami of first-time voters. From his army of exuberant millennials, to the apathetic Gen-Xers who never bothered voting before, to the disenchanted Baby Boomers he has rejuvenated that had no idea how bad it had gotten, all these fresh eyes are aghast at how obtuse and strangely undemocratic the process has become. Even cynics like me have been gobsmacked by the sheer audacity of the manipulations.
But the background of Bernie’s relentless honesty seems to outline the maneuvering as clearly as shadow puppets on a wall.
That can’t be unseen now. Those shadows are forever burned in the retina of the public’s consciousness. Bernie Sanders has changed the nation in ways that cannot be quantified, and the full extent of their reach will not be made apparent for years to come, but by pressing forward with an agenda that emphasizes compassion and radical honesty to a people so inured to the frequency of fear and lies, his light is awakening many to the impotence of the man behind the curtain and his simple props of lights and fury. The “they” that keep us enslaved to subsistence wages to fund endless pointless wars are but a few, and their tools are just words: stories that keep us believing that we need their wars at the expense of our own abundance and happiness.
And that is already done. No matter who the nominee is come July, the rule of money over the will of the people is done and dusted. No more will we believe that the trinkets of the few outweighs the might of the many. When we come together, we can do anything; that’s why they say “divide and conquer.”
Bernie has lifted the lid on the machinations of the establishment, and we’ve all had a good look inside. They can shut the lid as tight as they like, but they can’t make us forget.
The revolution has begun.
[Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images]