Yes to Bernie

CvtxBepMy heart burns with hope when I listen to Bernie Sanders speak. As each word promises change and every statement emboldens listeners to believe in an alternative to vast inequality, I feel myself transported to long days chapping doors for Yes in 2014. And then, just as quickly as I believed, I am yanked into suspicion. Surely someone who makes me feel like this cannae be trusted, cannae be believed, and definitely doesn’t stand a chance?

I was there, in Massachusetts, when Obama won on the hope ticket back in 2008, eyes stinging from tears as I hugged and cheered with friends who believed in him and his vision. That evening people paraded through the streets of Cambridge, dancing into the night to the rhythm of a new America. With expectations so high, there would always be people who circumscribed his administration to disappointment.

See I’m developing a knee-jerk reaction to hope, stamping frantically on the tiniest of embers lest I let my guard down and reveal a vulnerable position. Accepting inevitable disappointment in politicians feeds this internalisation of the establishment’s derision for anything but the status quo. This powerlessness is the antithesis of being part of a marching, protesting crowd. It comes from feeling alone; polarised individuals living polarised lives.

But from unity we find strength, and if we work together we can achieve anything—hope is the defiance to the invisible hand’s impact on our lifestyles and communities. This is the populist Bernie message, mirrored and distorted by fear in the leading Republican candidate, Donald Trump, whose followers are themselves often victim to the vast inequalities in the USA.

My time living in the US was often punctuated by political miscommunication, whether discussing universal health care or the minimum wage. Calling myself a socialist heralded a flicker of confusion, fear and/or humour across the faces of fellow students. Relative to American politics, the recent polling showing more and more Americans identifying with Bernie’s socialism is an unprecedented turnaround—hope is back in fashion.

Bernie’s campaign shares similarities with the Yes Campaign. Demographically, young people are more likely to feel the Bern, with 83% of 18-29 year olds voting Sanders in the New Hampshire primary. His record-breaking funding base is grassroots: small, one-off donations averaging $27 from more than a million people. He’s been the progenitor of hundreds of memes, with supporters using social media platforms to self-educate and support his policies. And perhaps most strikingly, his campaign is built upon the message of an alternative that is deemed by the ‘establishment’ to be pie-in-the-sky idealism, and thusly, unrealistic.

Go on, all ye hopeful of the land of the free, back in yer box.

Amidst the almighty rammy between the polar opposites of the potential politics of the future—the multi-billion-dollar global businessman Trump, and the activist Sanders, worth a measly $330,507 in comparison—we have Clinton. In this context, Clinton’s candidacy either reeks of ‘establishment’—script-written words learned from decades as a professional politician—or of pragmatism; the most qualified choice.

The boring refrain of ‘progressive enough’ echoes through every op-ed defense of Clinton politics. The Hillary-splaining of her past political choices, reinterpreted as well-meaning political manoeuvring, only serves to retrench my own frustrations with a politics where politicians are applauded for compromising for gain. I’m sorry to find myself being intolerant towards my friends who are Clinton supporters, against my own counsel to understand and empathise with political difference. When the stakes are so very high for so many in dire poverty in the US and around the world, it feels like abandonment at a moment of opportunity. Add to this the degrading message to the next generation of Americans who turn up in spades to support Bernie instead: “you just don’t know enough to fix it, so hush kids, and trust us – we know what’s good for you”.

This response is all too familiar to Yes activists. You’re too wee, too stupid, and too idealistic to know how to do politics, so leave it to the big boys, eh?

I do not doubt Clinton’s capabilities; I doubt her dedication to emancipating the oppressed. Someone who is worth an estimated $21,000,000 is not in touch with ‘the people’. Someone who endorses bombing the most precarious of the world’s populations as a means to an end cannot lead the new politics. And those that would decry this as harmful to the emancipation of women insult the millions of women in America who have used the right to political preference to support Sanders.

The rise in a populist politics in Europe and the wider world has been traced to many things, but none more acutely than the stranglehold grip of global capitalism on it’s last legs. With the growing popularity of extreme right movements have come inspiring bursts of left-wing populism; whether in the democratic innovation of Podemos and Syriza, or closer to home with Corbyn’s leadership win and the grassroots spontaneity of our Yes movement. Sanders is America’s part in this demand for change. You see when Sanders speaks of ‘together’, it isn’t just about Americans. For me it’s about the international movement for justice and the role we all play in enacting change. With a strong dose of defiant hope and passion, we shouldn’t be interested in simply making America great again, but in making the world great, movement by movement by movement.

Comments (17)

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  1. bringiton says:

    The problem Bernie faces is the same as Jeremy in England.
    How to overcome the fear of change felt by Daily Mail readers here and their equivalent across the pond (the fear being directly related to their bank balance).
    Until sustainability is accepted by the political establishment and the teachers of political and economic “science”,making a fast buck is going to prevail and that means voters supporting the Trumps and Clintons of this world.

  2. Pete Searle says:

    I am neither young nor American. – though I am a passionate Yes supporter – But I have long followed and admired Bernie Sanders and the breath of truth and reality he brings to those who shamelesly follow closely rehearsed scripts as substitutes of rethinking and responding. His insight and courage are amazing. His challenge is real. His honesty is tested and unsullied. None of the deluded others can even begin to match this.

  3. Blair paterson says:

    The American powers that be will make sure he will not win just like all over the world an honest man is to be feared he is classed as an enemy of the state honesty and truth is things that do not exist in their world and those who are in a position to change these things to their everlasting shame do nothing when they are confronted with the truth it is like holding up a crucifix to a vampire the look of sheer terror on their faces I am afraid in this world truth honesty and decency lie buried in an unmarked grave

  4. Blair paterson says:

    Sorry should have read in their world

  5. Gordie says:

    Much the same was being said about Obama.

  6. Alan says:

    Chris Hedges on the Clintons, Obama, and Neoliberalism

    On Bill Clinton’s destruction of banking firewalls, destruction of welfare, and the creation of America’s Gulag Archipelago. And Obama as a marketing phenomenonand his culpability in the destruction of civil liberties.

    Bernie is dangerous to the establishment, not because he’s a socialist, but because he’s the last liberal standing.

  7. Alan says:

    “…hope is the defiance to the invisible hand’s impact on our lifestyles and communities.” Read The Wealth of Nations and realize that Smith never wrote about the invisible hand of the market. There is no invisible hand. The “invisible hand” is is a fiction invented by modern economists who systematically misrepresent Smith’s moral philosophy.

    Worth reading When neoliberalism exploded, a review of Daniel Steadman Jones’ history of neoliberalism, Masters of the Universe.

    Many on the left, and the right, saw that what was being marketed as free market policy by Reagan and Thatcher was, in fact, an insidious form of government manipulation. Much of the political resistance of the past three decades has focused on distance between a social world, organized by genuinely free exchange, and the forms of government control identified with free markets by successive neoliberal administrations. The sense of this distance enables people on both the far right and the far left to claim, with justice, that the Reagan and Thatcher revolutions were founded on lies, that neoliberalism’s ascent witnessed not the retreat of government, but its insidious extension.

    For “successive neoliberal administrations” read all administrations since Reagan and Thatcher.

  8. Josef O Luain says:

    Like the author of this post, I’ve had enough political frights and disappointments in my time; all of which have made me wary of believing that Bernie will ever be allowed to consolidate his support and become President. Superdelegates and the Electoral College are two problems that we know about, unfortunately there are many others that none of us know about.

    All of that said, the Bernie phenomenon will open many boxes in the U.S. and insure that politics cannot return to “business-as-usual” in 2017.

  9. J Galt says:

    The sheer raw NEED for hope!

    I really, really wish you were right Katie and that I was wrong about Sanders.

    As Gordie says above, much the same was said of Obama in 2008.

    “Hope springs eternal in the human breast”

  10. Jane says:

    I voted for Obama, twice, but am not a big fan. I never really bought into his Hope and Change – because he didn’t have a long track record and had never been a major or governor (actually running a government is different from legislating). Bernie has 40 consistent years – he is the real deal. And look at his record as mayor. I think he will win the nomination and win the presidency. Then the really interesting stuff starts.

  11. Dr Carol Norris MBE says:

    A superb Editorial with which I completely agree.

  12. Brian Powell says:

    Unfortunately it doesn’t matter what people here think, the Americans will decide. We also have a problem with hope. When we really had a chance to change Scotland people bottled it. A whole lot of Labour folk went for rhetoric and voted No rather than take the reality.
    Labour in England has the same problem, they listen to Corbyn but won’t see it through.

  13. SimonB says:

    The ‘hidden hand’ that lurks behind the puppet contest of representative so called ‘democracy’, perverted by the chicanery and construct of money…

    Regardless of who wins the show, honestly or dishonestly, pre-determined as some contend, the government always gets in. Business resumes and the rich continue to get richer, The Planet continues to get despoiled and degraded… divide, rule and conquest… onwards to Armageddon.

    The so called ‘native’ people are crying out for Truth and Reconciliation, and in spite of suffering and abuse still defiantly champion forgiveness and Peace.

    Mammon or Morality?

    The four enlightened guiding words inscribed on the Scottish Parliamentary mace are sufficient to inspire a better World beyond the puppet show:

    Wisdom Justice Compassion Integrity

    Bernie, (and all other candidates) please heed…

    Global amnesty of Truth & Reconciliation…

    Amen & Awomen

  14. Art McGuinness says:

    Just like Obama, and Bill Clinton before him, we listen to the positive words and are disappointed by the outcomes. Were they not what they seemed or did they try but without control of both houses they were destined to failure? Could Sanders become president but have no control over the houses were the real power probably lies (apart from American big business of course)?

    Time will tell (again).

  15. Blair paterson says:

    To me Obamas true colours came out when as an Afro American president he told the people of Scotland the y were in effect better to remain slaves rather than seek Freedom I mean this from a person whose people fought for years to gain Freedom and through there courage did just that

  16. Penny says:

    If you are eligible to vote in the presidential primary and if you want to vote in the Democratic party primary, the Democrats Abroad-Scotland offer a way to do so. Simply register as a democrat living abroad and vote in the Global primary, either in person or by email. Full information can be found at http://www.democratsabroad.org/the_global_presidential_primary_is_now_vote

    We will have a polling stations in Edinburgh & St. Andrews and a pdf file with details of polling places and dates can be downloaded from the above site as follows:
    Edinburgh, March 1st, The Quaker Meeting House, 7 Victoria Terrace from 13:00-18:30
    St Andrews, March 5th Arts Faculty Bldg @Univ of St Andrews, The Scores, 12:00-17:00

  17. anon says:

    Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

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