Well meaning people just spent a quarter billion dollars on the Bernie Sanders campaign which continues operations while its candidate says he will vote for Hillary Clinton for president.
Let’s put that in a little perspective. Iraqis fleeing Fallujah yet again, as wars that Hillary Clinton pushed for roll on, are in need, according to the United Nations, of $17.5 million for survival.
I work for an organization opposing war, called World Beyond War, which runs on less than $50,000 a year. Many good organizations pursuing just what this world needs run on less than that, but you could fund 5,000 organizations at the level of World Beyond War’s current funding for what’s been spent on Bernie.
Has Sanders for President been a wise investment or not?
Certainly Bernie’s campaign inspired people. But I see no reason not to expect most of them to become despondent and despairing now that it’s over. If past experience with failed and successful campaigns alike is any guide, that’s where we’re headed.
Certainly Bernie’s campaign educated people. But it’s reasonable to assume that establishing or expanding major new media outlets to the tune of $250,000,000 would have educated people too, and that they might have gone on providing the same funding next year and the year after, if their interest were in education rather than election. (First Look Media, publisher of The Intercept, was created with just that amount, but not to all be spent in one year.)
Certainly Bernie should go on trying to somehow make the Democrats’ Platform (which, if the past is any guide, they will ignore anyway) slightly less rightwing and disastrous.
It’s unclear that investing in Bernie was a reasonable gamble toward winning something more. The rigged nature of the election was clear from the start. Bernie’s commitment to promote Hillary Clinton in the end was clear from the start. And her commitment to warmongering, environment destroying, oligarchy enhancing policies was clear from the start.
What else could have been done or could be done now or could be done next time? No, of course you should not vote for the fascist golfer clown. Yes, of course you should vote for Jill Stein. But the system is as rigged against her as it was against Sanders.
Let me ask the question a different way. Why is it that corporations will now take a public stand for LGBTQ rights? Why will even a conscience-free corporate hack like Hillary Clinton defend LGBTQ rights she used to oppose? The primary answer is that activists changed the culture. The role of voting in their work was minimal. As Emma Goldman said, if voting ever changed anything they’d ban it. As Howard Zinn said, it matters less who’s sitting in the White House than who’s doing the sit ins.
Why so down on elections? I’m in favor of them! I think we should have one some day! That will require some of these changes that cannot be voted in under the broken system that lacks them: public funding of elections, no bribery, free air time for candidates, automatic voter registration, open debates and ballots, no gerrymandering, hand-counted paper ballots, international monitors, no electoral college, no delegates, no superdelegates, and a three-month election season with a bit of actual governing before the next one.
If I were drafting a party platform, it would add to those the following: take military spending back to 2001 levels, tax corporations and billionaires at 1960 levels, restore the minimum wage to its 1968 level, and guarantee everyone top-quality free education preschool through college, healthcare, job training as needed, vacation, family leave, retirement, transportation, childcare, clean energy, public parks, sustainable agriculture, and significant aid to the rest of the world. Yes, that’s Bernie’s platform, or could have been if he’d been willing to mention cutting military spending or investing in foreign aid. It’s also Scandinavia’s reality. But a party platform is not the most important place for these commitments.
The place for our passion and even our “unity” is not in a political party that destroys everything we hold dear and calls our continued subservience “unity.” We have 60% of the U.S. public that simply cannot stand Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. That may increase as we’re forced to endure more and more of the pair of them. If all of those people, or even half of them, backed Jill Stein she might win. But that requires imagining a fair system of elections and of communications that does not exist.
And what if she were elected president? Or what if Bernie Sanders were elected president? We’d still be up against a corrupt communications system, an ill-informed public, a reactionary Congress, a medieval Supreme Court, and the absence of a major independent movement for change. It’s good to see Congress Members staging a sit-in to demand that other Congress Members back some ridiculously weak if not counterproductive gun control measures, but what we need is a massive movement of independent people sitting in and surrounding the Capitol until both parties act on the basic lessons learned around the world: ban the guns and stop bombing people.
Does that sound dreamy and utopian? The point is not to expect it to succeed entirely and immediately. The point is that the most strategic way to achieve a partial, compromised solution is to build momentum for a real fix. When your best Congress Members are openly bragging that their opening negotiating demand is for the very least that could possibly be done, the predictable result is less than that. When people fall in behind those so-called public servants, failure is guaranteed.
So what should we do? Even if you believe in dumping most of your energy and money into a broken election system, please consider saving a little for independent activism. We should organize, educate, march, rally, protest, sit-in, disrupt, create alternatives, create media, and find local, state, regional, and international solutions.
Here’s one example of what I’m working on. World Beyond War is planning an event called No War 2016 that will happen in Washington, D.C., in September and involve panels, workshops, and nonviolent civil resistance. Speakers will include Dennis Kucinich, Kathy Kelly, Miriam Pemberton, David Vine, Kozue Akibayashi, Harvey Wasserman, Jeff Bachman, Peter Kuznick, Medea Benjamin, Maurice Carney, David Swanson, Leah Bolger, David Hartsough, Pat Elder, John Dear, Mel Duncan, Kimberley Phillips, Ira Helfand, Darakshan Raja, Bill Fletcher Jr., Lindsey German, Maria Santelli, Mark Engler, Maja Groff, Robert Fantina, Barbara Wien, Jodie Evans, Odile Hugonot Haber, Gar Alperovitz, Sam Husseini, Christopher Simpson, Brenna Gautam, Kent Shifferd, Patrick Hiller, Mubarak Awad, Michelle Kwak, John Washburn, Bruce Gagnon, David Cortright, Michael McPhearson, and Sharon Tennison (none of whom necessarily agrees with me on anything in this essay, and some of whom certainly disagree passionately).
We can help you plan a conference or a nonviolent action or both in your part of the world, and you can find lots of events here. I particularly recommend sit-ins in Congressional offices now, pointing to Congress’s willingness to use the same tactic itself, and pointing the media to your own live video feed of your own teach-in on the floor of the plush office of your senator or misrepresentative.
The truth is that we have far more power than we’re told, we just don’t have it where we’re told to look for it.