Loc: Whittier, California
(Originally published on Facebook) JEFFERY HAAS·WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 2, 2019
I've probably exhausted every available Bernie thread on the internet lately to say the same thing...
When Bernie was a young man, doing carpentry and odd jobs, and giving the occasional impassioned speech or doing the occasional sit-in, social democracy or democratic socialism was a very romantic thing for an intellectual Jewish transplant from Brooklyn to do in the wilds of Vermont.
Imagine it for a moment...
Your young bespectacled sweaty face plastered across the front page of the local paper, taking the town of Burlington by storm, your impassioned rhetoric swelling the bosoms of erudite young coeds, winning the local election and trying to make good on a few erstwhile and yet earnest entreaties to fair wages and decently affordable tuition.
Yep, democratic socialism or social democracy, whichever it was, must have been a huge rush for the young Bernie Sanders, because for a guy like that, being a regular old Democrat in 1971 meant you were a lot more like the past candidates of the Democratic Party, which meant you were a lot more like Hubert Humphrey or George McGovern, which meant that you were like one of the guys who lost to Richard Milhous Nixon. It meant that you were like one of the establishment, and in early 1970's Vermont, where it was still very much The Sixties, that wasn't something you wanted to be.
The fact is, Bernie Sanders stopped being a social democrat or democratic socialist the day he first set foot on Capitol Hill. It's not because he became a sellout or a hypocrite, it's because the Democratic Socialists of America have never allowed themselves to field candidates for the House, the Senate or the White House. It's just not in their DNA for some reason.
And as you might want to point out, Bernie has been an FDR style liberal New Deal Democrat his entire life in the House and Senate. That is what he is. But Bernie clings to old romantic notions and sentimental trappings.
A lot of ex-hippies underwent much more radical transformations, and found themselves on Wall Street as financial consultants, or in Silicon Valley, or in the halls of neocon think tanks the way former campus radical Elliot Abrams did.
And yet despite their three piece suits, many of them left one tiny tuft of long hair tucked under their collar to remind them every so often that they can still "let their freak flag fly". They still want to be nonconformist, just not in a threatening or scary way.
And for Bernie, refusing to join the Democratic Party and running around pronouncing himself a democratic socialist means that he can tell himself that he's still the brash iconoclastic non-conformist...and not a sentimental old fool, because only a sentimental old fool would pass up repeated opportunities to completely overturn and rebuild the Democratic Party in his own image, literally making the DNC "HIS BITCH".
And if anyone doubts that is possible, I might remind them that Mr. Sanders raised almost 300 million dollars with zero corporate funding, purely through grass roots techniques at a time when everyone else said it was impossible.
Flipping the DNC and making the party his own would have been a walk in the park, given his considerable mojo and charisma, and given the fact that he could have started the effort all the way back in 2008, after another young and brash nonconformist with the funny name of Barack Hussein Obama did much the same to Hillary Clinton. And had he bothered to do so, Bernie Sanders would have BEEN the Democratic candidate for POTUS in 2016 and Hillary would have been munching on popcorn in upstate New York.
And Donald Trump would have been a minor footnote in history, because Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders would have won by a landslide.
So, as much as I love Bernie Sanders, I am forced to reckon with the fact that Bernie, despite some of his good ideas, is a sentimental old fool. And I voted for him and supported him right from the very first day he announced, so this is not a hate piece against him, it is more of a mournful revelation about what might have been and was not meant to be, all because of the need to cling to silly notions of the past, which is what we must stop doing if we intend to win in 2020.
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