For many American dreamers who have been rubbed up sweetly by the “Bern” effect, Bernie Sanders has become an almost-religious like figure to rally behind and fight for “a future to believe in,” but will the presidential candidate crash and burn or stand and deliver if he gets the keys to the White House?
Brooklyn-born Sanders, with his promises of fighting inequality, taking on capitalism’s might, calls for free healthcare, the breakup of big banks, more taxes for the rich, and free tuition at universities, certainly talks the talk and gives us all something to believe in, but will he walk the walk if the fates conspire to make him one of the most powerful people on the planet?
On a grand scale, Bernie Sanders hasn’t even done anything of note yet because he has no real political clout, but before the restraints of reality and the red-tape of bureaucracy tie a man up in knots it’s easy to imagine a world you want to live in. And it’s easier still to tell the electorate that’s exactly the world you’ll create if you’re voted in.
And let’s be honest, it’s not all that hard to be the hero in a white hat in a race where so many of the other frontrunners are tainted by the same old stench, which has turned the stomachs of ordinary folk for centuries.
Sanders is important because he offers a jaded American public a movement to get behind. Yet the optimism, promise, and idealistic future that Sanders offers his supporters was seen not so long ago in the guise of yesterday’s man, Barack Obama.
And look how that turned out.
Clinching the key states of California, Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, Obama led his Republican rival and seasoned campaigner John McCain by 338 electoral votes to 141 as he stormed past the magic number of 270 needed to set up camp in the White House.
In a 21-month-long campaign that saw a record number of Americans voting, Obama did what only a few decades would seem impossible and as America’s first black president realized the ultimate end product of Martin Luther’s dream.
“It’s been a long time coming. But tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America,” announced Obama in a celebratory speech.
“This is our time,” “Change has come to the US,” “Victory belongs to you,” and “Yes we can!” are just a few of the sound-bites that people clung onto fiercely until the dream disappeared overnight in a labyrinth of smoke and mirrors.
The celebrity-endorsed Obama’s first public address in Chicago after winning the election was cheered on by hundreds of thousands of people, including Oprah Winfrey, who told news teams, “I’ve been pulsating all day and now I feel like in full vibrational mode. I feel good. I feel like this is what we’ve wanted and hoped for, for the past 21 months.”
All over America, people were keen to tell the world with tears in their eyes and emotion in their voices about their feelings of euphoria and how incredibly proud they were to be an American on this day of days.
Even in cynical old Britain, many got swept along on the tidal wave of possibility that is the “American Dream” as TV screens, radio airwaves, and internet providers all conspired to inform the watching public what a great day for change had occurred, while front pages of national tabloids were full with images of Obama and single-word headlines exhorting their readers to “Believe.”
It appeared, no matter the country, the election of a U.S. president had taken on the proportions of a spiritual and religious occurrence, and that all the ills of the world would now soon be fixed. There also appeared to be a general consensus among many that after 21 months of campaign slog, rousing speeches, and unfulfilled promise, Obama’s job was kind of done.
Obama was sworn in as the 44th U.S. President and stepped into the shoes of George Bush, who made a personal phone call to Obama soon after the result was known and wished him all the best.
“Mr President-elect, congratulations to you. What an awesome night for you, your family and your supporters… I promise to make this a smooth transition. You are about to go on one of the great journeys of life. Congratulations and go enjoy yourself.”
How much enjoyment Obama and the American public has experienced between then and now is open for debate, but the American economic crisis, the wars in the Middle East, the inadequate U.S. health care system, and America’s woeful reputation as worldwide environmental polluter, have all conspired to taint Obama’s dream.
Commentators once called Obama post-racial, saying that because he defies fixed category, his appeal is universal.
In 2016, Obama offers about as much promise and change to the American public as a pair of faded and unwashed jeans. His easy manner and effortless rhetoric have become cliched and repetitive to a nauseated nation who have grown cynical at his carefully orchestrated Hollywood charm.
Yet so, for a brief time, did George Bush in the immediate aftermath of September 11. A short-lived period where American patriotism was reborn anew and flag-waving deemed compulsory as the tribe as a whole came under threat.
And that is Sanders’ dilemma. When too many people, let alone a nation, project and invest too much hope on any one man or symbol, it is doomed to failure.
Obama has often said that change comes from the people, but were the people listening?
Sanders should take note that the compromise making and ideal-crushing culture of international politics has devoured many an optimistic and positive soul and spat them out the other end a washed-up and bitter cynic.
People who have to make the hard decisions are never popular and everybody loves to pass the buck and have a scapegoat to hand. Obama had no magic wand, and neither does Sanders, so perhaps people should stop expecting so much from him and asking a little more from themselves.
However, like Obama did before, Sanders has put himself up for the position of “Numero Uno” and all the fringe benefits and universal access that it entails.
Bernie Sanders wants the power, so if he gets the responsibility, he should enjoy his honeymoon period while it lasts, before he battens down the hatches and braces himself for the storms to come.
They’ll no doubt be fierce.