The Sanders campaign has been called a revolution – and in many ways in this late Neoliberal era, it is. It has introduced and begun to foster a sense that we can have a government that works for the people and that money can serve us rather than the other way around. The problem of course is that this revolution is focused on the saintliness (if such a word can be turned on a secular Jewish man) of one person, whereas a revolution involves a massive revolt focused instead on a dream or idea – in this case, the liberation of the masses. Where our conflict arises is that here both the idealism and the movement thus are tied to, anchored by, and could sink in the personality, humanity, and limitations of one person – a good person who has, like every human being let alone his political opponents, made some big mistakes.
We can (and I would suggest should in some level) support the work and candidacy of Sanders, but it’s counterproductive and counterrevolutionary to engage in the usual Cult of Personality of Electoral Politics. We need a rising, surging, electrified people-centered wave ready to wrest control from corporations and misanthropic, children-hating, poor-starving lawmakers and towards a liberating, compassionate, and growing people-powered economy of love.
Being able to address these and similar concerns with vitality in the popular imagination is due in no small part to the Senator from Vermont as well as the Occupy, Black Lives Matter, eco activists, and Indian Country and other activists. Sanders is merely the latest messenger and the one closest to the White House, a mechanism of political power unseen in the world since the days of Rome and Egypt. Which is to say he is limited and anchoring ourselves solely to his campaign could fail us all. We need to anchor our movement, rather, to ourselves as a plurality of humans.
Our totem or anchor, so to say, isn’t just Bernie Sanders – it’s our aunts and uncles struggling to survive on paltry social security checks while paying the mortgage; it’s our children who are forced to go to college and enter a job market that does not pay them enough to pay off their loans; it’s our grandchildren who breath fossil fuels and drink lead; it’s our neighbors being forced out of their homes through predatory lending practices; it’s our political prisoners being forced to endure cruel and unusual punishment in solitary confinement; it’s our global neighbors trying to get by in life while dodging bombs made and delivered by us; it is the reservation not having control over its own destiny so their women are sexually assaulted by unaccountable outsiders while their lands are piped and pumped by unaccountable multinationals.
These people connect us to the earth and propel us forward. We must engage them from political apathy to the recognition that the polis – the ability to shape policy that can help or harm, liberate or imprison – is within themselves.
Make no mistake about it, it is possible that Sanders can win. But even more importantly and more possible – if we organize and mobilize well – that we as a people can and will win.