By Nick Pemberton
The au courant merch for the 2020 Presidential election begins and ends with the “Hindsight Is 2020” Bernie t-shirts. The implication of the shirt is that Bernie should have been elected in 2016. With clear hindsight, that being the 20/20 vision, we will anoint The Chosen One in 2020. Whenever I see this shirt I am reminded of T.I. rapping “Hindsight 20/20, future not as clear.” Bernie has officially started to gather his team to discuss running in 2020, with all signs pointing to him doing so. The fact that he has already started planning shows how long, expensive, and mind-numbing our Presidential elections are. If Bernie does run what makes anyone think that Bernie will be treated any differently in 2020 than he was in 2016? The deck was stacked last time, and the rich are getting richer by the day.
Who can blame people for hoping though? Our options in 2020 are lacking hindsight, foresight and insight. Personally I wish Tulsi Gabbard was the the fashionable choice in the Democratic Party, but she may not even run. Elizabeth Warren is just a step to the right of Sanders and would be a fine choice too. Sanders himself is one of the most sane voices in American politics. But most of the Democrats are dreadfully corporate. A second term of Trump would be a disaster.
If any man can reform this system it would be Bernie. He inspired many people to get politically involved, myself included. But we must ask ourselves if this ship is worth saving.
There is a small part in me that would be interested in helping out Bernie’s campaign again. While Sanders is personally quite unappealing, knocking doors and making phone calls for issues such as universal health care, free college, a 15$/hour minimum wage and the like is by no means a waste of time. At the very least it is a way to build community and connections in an increasingly isolated and reactionary political climate. When Noam Chomsky compared Bernie to Dwight Eisenhower he said it wasn’t a criticism. And it certainly doesn’t have to be in these last stages of capitalism. Chomsky used the word “refreshing” to describe Sanders. This is absolutely true. Bernie talks about issues the corporate media and politicians routinely ignore.
For what it’s worth Sanders is far from personally refreshing. He is grumpy and monotonous. He is an American style workaholic who grits his teeth as he effectively automates a thesis that centers around Making America Great Again (thankfully New Deal style rather than Trump-KKK style). In short, his political imagination is in short supply. Bernie is here to save capitalism and imperialism. Bernie is here to save the Democratic Party, the CIA, and the FBI. He is here to return us to the days of prosperity. He is here to save us from our decline.
While there is no doubt crossover in the feeling that Bernie and Trump may invoke, there is far less crossover in policy. Attacks associating Bernie and Trump are disingenuous smears. Yet what Bernie and Trump do share is the element of return. Anyone who isn’t a middle class white American man of a certain age and a certain sentiment may see little merit in returning to the good ol’ days. To his credit, Bernie does support the ways our society has gotten more liberal. But he seems to do this more to check off boxes. Like a good neoliberal, class remains separate not only from things such as gender, race, and sexual orientation but also from love, nature, animals, peace, and community.
The central question for Bernie and his cult following may be whether we can afford to negotiate with the elites and their corporate duopoly at all. The pattern of late has been a gargantuan rightward shift by both parties. Bill Clinton’s triangulation has turned Democrats into Republicans. While Republicans have become extremists. Chomsky correctly called them the most dangerous organization ever. The Paris Climate agreement is an example of this. The Democrats may believe in climate change they just don’t believe in changing the climate. What Chomsky and Bernie both lack though is a political and moral imagination that transcends the current climate of hopelessness. Bernie, as Chomsky correctly noted, is a moderate Republican of a certain time. They both not only see a solution in Sanders, but also if necessary, a Clintonite Democrat.
Both men raise important questions about the current state of affairs but both end up choosing reform, despite the fact that our country now stands with more economic inequality than pre-revolutionary France. Questioning this cynical philosophy is necessary and urgent. Of course there is also a certain cynicism in never engaging in the zeitgeist of the times, which makes the Bernie question such a vexing one.
The hope is that our imagination can grow beyond a return to the very Party that has brought us endless war, destruction, and despair. The hope is that we grow beyond a return to the predatory systems of capitalism and imperialism that have expanded to abuse all creatures and people of the world save the Euro-American middle class that Bernie represents. Notice Bernie’s rhetoric is always about restoring the middle class, while he seldom mentions the poor.
Bernie is desperately trying to plug the holes in the sinking ship known as American Empire. If any man can reform this system it would be Bernie. He inspired many people to get politically involved, myself included. But we must ask ourselves if this ship is worth saving. …