It is a tough pill to swallow, knowing full well that The Good Senator from Vermont stands next to no chance of becoming the next President. The political revolution, as it were, appears to be trapped within the Faustian pickle of US politics. Fascism lurks. The status quo looms. What we Berners face is an identity crisis.
The time has come to call a spade a spade and begin planting the seeds of change. Through her comfort with corporate funded elections, support for free trade agreements combined with military intervention and, most importantly, the never fulfilling promise of “incremental progress,” Hillary Clinton proves herself to be a Neoliberal. There is nothing wrong with Neoliberalism as long as one never faces its negative consequences. Too bad that so many of us struggle with low wages, high rent, and a silenced voice, they tell us, but keep calm and carry on. Neoliberalism is an ideology and merely one available model along a continuous spectrum of possibilities. We must always distinguish between the “is” and the “ought.” And yet, fascism marches closer towards the realm of possibility and the status quo struggles to keep its mandarins in line. Indeed, socialism for the rich and rugged individualism for the poor seems to have only ripened the fruits of radicalism to be fermented by the rabid right wing media.
This election we have the unique decision between electing a buffoonish neo-fascist or a wonky war hawk, both of whom share an address at 1209 North Orange. By stretching the spectrum of political possibility to the Left, we can make sure that civilization will have some middle ground to survive upon. One way for us to carve out that middle is by embracing the term Democratic Socialists, picking up that spade, and pushing our political discourse and action to the left. Let’s embrace the fact that we know that we can do better than the “is” and that we “ought” to have greater participation in our own political lives.
2016 is not 2008. Unlike the difference between Obama and Clinton, the difference between Bernie and Hillary is not merely of personality and degree but rather of kind. The Establishment either fails to understand this or is doing its best to ignore reality when the Washington Post chides Berners to “fall in line.” To be sure, it is crucial to appreciate the truly important historical achievement of nominating the first female candidate for the US Presidency. However, as the philosopher Nancy Fraser explains, although Neoliberalism champions the politics of recognition by embracing individual diversity it will only mock any effort at a politics of redistribution seeking to materially improve lives through the lens of class struggle. We reject the techno-plutocratic world of austerity and free trade in favor of Democratic Socialism; there is neither a duty nor an expectation that we should forget this critical distinction and enthusiastically endorse Hillary. That said, 2016 is exceptional in its proximity to neo-fascism helmed by Con-all Trump. Within the landscape of the status quo there is still room for direct action and political dissent. In Trump’s world, we would have no space to agitate for social democracy. Neoliberalism is far more preferable than Fascism; the two are not even comparable. Thus, those of us who live in battleground states should strongly consider pulling the lever for Clinton while the rest of us may want to either write in Bernie or vote Jill Stein. Regardless of who we choose for president, we must turn out this November in full force in order to elect the most progressive candidates to our local offices.
Insurrections tend to burn in a blaze of glory, fizzle out, or gather strength. I challenge all Democratic Socialists to make time to gather strength amongst ourselves. Get to know your neighbor. Become a county ballot judge. Organize alongside your coworkers. Volunteer at a local non-profit. Join an action group like Fight for 15, Reinvest MT, Soft Landing, or even canvass for a fine local candidate like Gail Gutsche or Denice Juneau. Most importantly, though, show up and vote in November for local progressives and then again in two years for the midterms, and then again in 2020. Keep up the pressure. Politics, much like geology, takes time and pressure to make things happen. We Democratic Socialists have a lot to learn from the Hillary Camp; let’s make things happen by getting involved- and staying involved- with more than just rallies and show up for every single local, state, and national election.
One year ago, the pundits that be considered Bernie a fringe, protest candidate. Thanks to our contributions of $27, time, sweat, and energy, we won over 12 million votes and the overwhelming loyalty of the future Democratic Party. Bernie leads a campaign which shuns Super PAC donations and therefore promises real breakthrough. For example, doctors Cornel West and James Zogby, Rep. Keith Ellison, and the activists Bill McKibben and Deborah Parker are all working tirelessly to convince the DNC to draft the most progressive and ambitious party platform ever. Indeed, through our small contributions, we have put into practice the theory of ownership of the means of production, that filthy Marxist term which invites so much contempt. Only through collective ownership of this campaign has it responded so articulately to activist demands. We own this campaign. Time we own our future.
Democratic Socialism is theory of ownership whose practice seeks to empower individuals through collective agency of our own conditions of existence in order to achieve human flourishing. It is our duty to continue to conceptualize, articulate, organize and agitate for alternative models which put people over profit. While we, as democrats, prefer to affect positive change within the system through electoral democracy, we must also apply pressure from outside through creative, nonviolent direct action. Only through continued and concerted effort will we create the conditions for social democracy to thrive.
This election is not about Donald Trump. This election is a test to whether idealism will succumb to cynicism or, rather, if we will continue to organize and work toward the realization of our potential. We have plenty of work to do. Let’s keep on pushin’!
A.B.C. is an activist living in Missoula who focuses his time and energy on access to justice and climate action. All views expressed herein are strictly his own and should not be interpreted as representative of any organization that signs his paychecks.