This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

Bernie Sanders is not a radical. He’s not a communist. He’s not a socialist. He’s not a crackpot spouting crazy ideas that no one likes or wants to hear. All he ever was, was a Democrat. The major difference between him and the other presidential candidates is that Sanders showed himself to actually give a shit. He was the only one among them who, given his druthers, probably wouldn’t want to be president. It’s possible, that like virtually every other mainstream US politician, it’s all been an act, that he was and has been playing the nice guy, who cares about fairness and justice, who cares about people. But I believed him, and still do.

I don’t love Sanders. He seems like a good guy, and I agree with many of his policy proposals and much of his politics in general. But he was never my ideal candidate. My own politics are well to the left of his, and he has made decisions, voted in ways, throughout his career, that I disagree with very strongly. What many pundits and the faux liberals of the Democratic party, who skew more in line with rightwing conservative politics than they realize or care to admit, is that for actual leftists, Sanders was already a compromise.

Bernie Sanders was the moderate in this presidential race. It angered me, and still does, to hear hack pundits and ignorant Democrat loyalists deride Sanders as being too radical, of the extreme left, unelectable. It’s as absurd as it is pathetic. The politics of this country are so conservative, so rooted in violence, in racism, so puritanical, so very hypocritical, and such a slave to capital, that anyone saying something slightly to the left of overt bigotry and flagrant elitism sounds dangerously radical.

Biden is a very right wing candidate. The same is true of Hillary Clinton, the last “moderate Democrat” the party tried to force on us. Hell, the same is true of Obama, who promoted himself early on as a liberal, and more importantly as a progressive, and went on to lead what amounted in most ways to a continuation of the Bush administration.

Politics keep being pulled further to the right. Trump has been a great asset to the Joe Bidens of our country, to the Democratic leadership. Neoliberals, “moderate” Democrats, whatever you want to call them: this is one of the few countries in the world where people like Biden, Clinton, Obama, Pelosi, Schumer, the majority of household names in the Democratic party, could be considered leftists or liberals. In Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, Pinochet’s Chile, sure, they’d be considered leftwing radicals. It’s thanks to the likes of Trump, and the likes of Bush and Reagan and Nixon before him, who’ve dragged us back from anything approaching progress, and complacent (mostly) white liberals who did so little to stop them, who more often aided them, that “moderate” Democrats can pretend to ascribe to any leftwing philosophy, pretend that they give a fuck at all about people.

By any unbiased metric, or simply compared with politicians of other countries, Sanders is nothing better or worse than a moderate social democrat. His proposals, whether universal healthcare, free public college and universities, free childcare, raising the minimum wage and working to ensure that everyone is being paid enough to live, more progressive and equitable taxation of corporations and obscenely wealthy individuals, and an end to constant war, are the norm in many countries, in better, happier, and more stable countries. The fact that such basic ideas, so universally beneficial, that many of us consider acts of common sense and decency, are in this country considered radical and extreme is an embarrassment. That so many people of this country’s political “left” reject basic goodness and justice, and prefer to support a candidate who supports banks and corporations over workers and common citizens; who pushed racist policing policies and the expansion of the prison industrial complex; who drove us into a meaningless war that has elicited nothing positive, and resulted only in mass-death, obscene levels of money and resources wasted, cities and cultural landmarks destroyed, and more wars; who has throughout his career repeatedly invaded the space of women, and has a credible allegation of sexual assault against him from at least one of them-- that is completely shameful. Whatever fear and arguments of pragmatism they draw on to justify their support for an elitist, capitalist, racist, warmongering sexual assaulter, I hope they do so with open eyes and commensurate shame.

I won’t rail on Biden for too long. And now that he’s the candidate, I won’t go out of my way to remind everyone that he is a garbage heap of a human being, list his many failings, or make a point of shouting that he is obviously mentally incompetent, that he should not be in this race, and that Trump is very likely to destroy him. If it’s between the wannabe-fascist, champion of oligarchs, completely corrupt, flagrantly racist rapist who can’t open his mouth to say anything that’s not horrible and astoundingly stupid, and the conservative, friend and ally of oligarchs, moderately corrupt, oldschool flavor of racist sexual assaulter who can barely string a coherent statement together, fine, the latter option is less abysmal. I’ll take Kodos over Kang, with a gun to my head. But I won’t support him. I won’t trash Biden, on the flawed, longshot notion that it will help Trump, but I cannot support Biden. Barring a complete retooling of his personality and policies, a refreshing of his mental faculties, and a redo for his whole history in politics, I can’t even think of a good thing to say about him, other than that he isn’t Trump.

As many voices on the left have pointed out, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the deadly flaws in the status quo, in capitalism, in neoliberalism, and it has made it all the more clear the necessity of some of Sanders’ cornerstone policies, Medicare for All being one of the most salient. Millions of people have been laid off from their jobs. Assuming those jobs provided health insurance, that flimsy safety net is now gone. Now, on top of struggling to stay housed, to buy food, to live, these people have to deal with the threat of catching a dangerous disease and being rejected for treatment, or treatment costing them all they have. In the midst of the pandemic, with the network of his campaign still running, Sanders turned all attention and fundraising to addressing the pandemic. He let go of personal political ambition to help people. While our president has been lying and making the crisis worse, and the presumptive Democratic nominee hid, spread false and dangerous information, and made a point of doubling down on his rejection of universal healthcare, crazy, radical old Bernie Sanders was the only one between them doing a damn thing to actually help.

What I want to know from Biden supporters, apart from what the fuck does he have to offer, and from anyone who voted against Sanders in the primary, is why were you turned off by what Sanders was offering?

Do you value the profits of corporations over the lives of regular people? Do you believe that our long-term destruction of the environment for the sake of short-term relative convenience and the financial rewards for a select few should continue unabated? Do you support our failed healthcare system, in which millions are uninsured, those who are insured can be driven into poverty by high costs even with coverage, and most people have to rely on the precarious requirement of holding onto a job to have insurance? Are you fine with an expansion of the economic gap between the poor and the obscenely wealthy?

If all or any of that is the case, you are not a progressive. You’re not even a liberal. Frankly, morally and ethically, you cannot answer yes to any of those questions and be a decent person. You can call yourself a Democrat, call yourself whatever you want if it makes you feel better, but know that you are on the side of the wealthy white male elite minority that has always ruled this country, that is killing the world and everyone not of their class, and you might as well be a Republican.

So, what was wrong with Sanders’ moderate, feasible, universally beneficial, and very needed proposals?

I’m not asking you to make a “Biden is better than Trump” argument.

No shit.

Putting the country under the leadership of a pride of feral cats would be less dangerous and aggravating, and more entertaining to watch, than a continuing Trump presidency.

But why the opposition to progressivism? Why are people so afraid of being better than we are?

It could be written off as the result of ignorance, of media manipulation, of fear and weakness, cowardice and pragmatism. In the end, however, the people who think that Sanders’ moderate social welfare and economic reforms are too extreme, that they could never succeed in this country, have a very low opinion of America and of Americans. What you are essentially saying, in rejecting even mild progressive causes, is that you do not believe Americans deserve better, or that America is not capable of being better, or both.

In which case, Why do you hate America?




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Karl H Christ

Karl H Christ

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