You Will Get the Revolution You Deserve

The Bernie Sanders campaign has seemed to me much like the Occupy movement, and the way Bloomberg describes it just reinforces that notion:

Sanders Supporters Navigate the Audacity and Fragility of Hope

The type of person who volunteers for a Sanders campaign—almost all millennials, with a few boomer activists tossed in for good measure—is the type of person who believes a candidate loses a caucus not because of demographic trends or institutional advantages or casino unions, but because they—personally, them!—didn’t work hard enough. When you are young and want to change the world, you don’t point at statistics or grouse over prediction models at FiveThirtyEight: You go out there and try to do it yourself. And so a loss is a personal failing.

When the Animal Farm revolt was in straits, Boxer the draft horse always said, “I must work harder!” Until he died of exhaustion.

Occupy’s flaw, if you will, was not that occupiers didn’t work hard, it was that their inclusive, but also unfocused, efforts eventually petered out in the face of disdain from the mainstream media, a failure to interest most citizens, benign neglect from establishment liberals, and finally violent dispersal by authorities. The Sanders campaign offers more focus, maybe too much focus, with the clear goal of electing an outsider as president. But is swapping out the chief executive in a grid-locked government enough of a step towards revolution? Obviously Sanders would champion more liberal causes than Obama or Clinton, but he would probably encounter even more establishment opposition.

Even worse, it seems that the outsiders that actually organize and vote come from the right wing. And the problem with a right wing revolution is the same as the problem with the Tea Party. While the TP briefly targeted the banksters responsible for the Great Recession, it was quickly and deftly redirected towards fear of non-white citizens and immigrants, and promotion of conservative cultural values.

Donald Trump has built on the remnants of the Tea Party but even more on the resentments of an underemployed and flailing working class. While he pays lip service to conservative values, he has vigorously directed economic resentment against immigrants (“They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”) and has espoused stronger negotiations (protectionism?) with China. Rounding out his platform are acceptable right wing bullet points of gun rights, tax reform and increased veterans benefits. Trump’s only platform swipes at the wealthy are promises to discourage corporate inversions, overseas tax dodges and special interest loopholes.

So, it remains to be seen which outsider revolution we will see.


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