Wednesday, May 04, 2016

May the Fourth

Today is May the Fourth, which makes it the geeky holiday I wrote about last month. But this year, it’s so much more, being as it’s the REAL May Day.

130 years ago today, the Haymarket Riots in Chicago galvanised the world in its fight for the rights of workers, something that would eventually give rise to the May Day celebrations and demonstrations around the world. I wrote about all that back in 2013, and since then I’ve become ever more convinced that one day, some while from now, we may be heading to another workers’ revolt.

Roger Green recently asked on his blog, “Where is the revolution?” in which he looks at the campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. It’s a good read, particularly for his perspective as a Sanders supporter annoyed by Clinton supporters (I think that too many of Clinton’s supporters are unhelpful…).

However, the larger issue here is that Sanders is not leading a revolution, despite what he might say and some his supporters may fervently believe. Should he win the Democratic nomination and the presidency, he would face an uncooperative US Congress, no mater which party is in control, because progressives aren’t being elected in sufficient numbers. Dylan Matthews recently talked about this at some length on Vox.

And there’s the rub: To truly make a progressive “revolution”, there would need to be 60 reliable progressive votes in the US Senate and a majority in the US House. Spoiler alert: It won’t happen. Sanders himself, last time I checked, was only supporting four candidates for Congress, and that’s nice, but kind of irrelevant.

Back in 1988, TV Preacher Pat Robertson ran for the Republican presidential nomination and failed. He later formed the “Christian” Coalition, a far-right religious-political group intended to help elect far-right christianists. It arose out of an awareness they had that they couldn’t take over the USA by winning the presidency, but by starting at the lowest levels and working up—school boards, city councils, state legislatures, Congress, and then the presidency.

Robertson’s plans failed, ultimately, because Robertson’s own ego may have gotten in the way, but it nevertheless laid the groundwork for the “tea party” insurgency of 2010 and beyond, and also the fundamentalist “Christian” takeover of the Republican Party, and that, in turn, led to the disaster that was the Republican presidential nomination campaign.

The far right christianists were united on most points, and despite their initial successes in taking over from the lowest levels up, they ended up faltering because of infighting. When have progressives ever demonstrated that they’re immune to infighting?

Meanwhile, real working people are hurting, the middle class is hurting, and the oligarchs and plutocrats control everything. And Bernie Sanders says he’ll fix all of that merely by winning the presidency?

There may very well be a true revolution coming, something like what began around 1886 and in later years. Attempts were made to reign in the excesses of the oligarchs and plutocrats, but the Great Depression changed everything, and could have sparked a socialist—or even a communist—revolution had Franklin Roosevelt not been elected president.

The disconnect between the 1% and the 99% is becoming as great as it was in the Gilded Age, and Bernie Sanders is absolutely right about that. But without bringing change to the lowest levels of government, he cannot possibly hope to bring that change to the highest levels. This isn’t about ideology or preferred candidates, it’s about arithmetic.

Bernie Sanders couldn’t possibly bring “revolution” to American politics, but the he might possibly be a sort of modern FDR forestalling more dramatic and violent revolution, which is a good thing in itself, in my opinion. But even that won’t happen because of the lack of support in Congress.

So, even though I’m ideologically closer to Sanders than to Clinton, as I’ve said many times, if the goal is to make some change rather than none, then Clinton is probably the only one who can do that. That’s not revolution, but it may be the closest the USA can possibly get to it without actual violence.

I remain open to being proven wrong, of course—it’s just that I doubt I will be.

May the Fourth be with us, indeed.

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