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A revolution is coming, but in values

Well, it’s a little like déjà vu all over again, innit? Joe Biden is 2020’s Hillary Clinton, and it appears he will mount the blue charger to slay the orange dragon.

Bernie Sanders, as in 2016, will excite America with new ideas that a President Clinton would’ve have avoided like the plague, had she taken office; and Biden certainly will if he does.

But no matter. Biden is an acceptable candidate to beat President Donald Trump, especially after the primary in Michigan — an absolute necessity for a November blue wave. Voter turnout was historically high in that state. Indeed, Biden seems to have a comfortable level of support among all the Democratic Party base, except for those under 35. But that is the demographic least likely to vote for Trump.

So, hope should be returning to our hearts, in the short term. But I am even more excited and hopeful for the long term as well. For it seems there are two great tectonic plates shifting under our feet, altering the political landscape in what is truly an earthquake.

The history-making influence of Sanders’ two presidential campaigns is that he has, almost single-handedly, introduced the ideas of democratic socialism into your body politic, like a vaccine, and its effects will not go away once Trump is defeated. Indeed, had there been no Trump we might already have elected a President Sanders.

But I am glad we did not.

To see this bright new day, we first have to settle a few things about the Democratic primary and party. We already elected the first woman president in 2016. If Hillary Clinton is not in the White House it is not because of sexism nor misogyny, but that “We the People” have let our democracy’s infrastructure — like the Electoral College — become as skeevy as our roads and bridges.

Like the I-95 in a summer downpour, our republic is in chaos — due to rain! So, for the last three presidential elections we did indeed elect and reelect our first African-American president, followed by out first female president. But we struggle under the yoke of an antiquated, anti-democratic, 18th century electoral system we have allowed to live on long past its usefulness, if it ever had any. And that is on all of us.

The danger we face is that liberals and progressives will continue to try and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory with an unstoppable wave of complaints: #Toowhite; #Toomale; #Too-old. Not that that doesn’t matter! It just is not our focus this election cycle.

For the truly tectonic shift under our feet, deep in the mantle of our political core, is that we are right now at the end of one long evolutionary chapter, and another is beginning.

When the Cold War ended a generation ago, a renowned (and now much embarrassed) liberal intellectual of the Clinton/Biden variety wrote an essay declaring “the end of history.” His point was that with communism gone, liberal, capitalist democracy was the final stage of human development.

Instead what we got was a generation of gross economic and political inequality, Wall Street kamikazes, and, as the inevitable result, the rise of authoritarianism we and the world are living in. That is why they are popping up like mushrooms in an outhouse: there is no ideology nor philosophy to oppose them, except for the intolerable coddling of oligarchs and billionaires.

Bernie Sanders has begun the process of introducing the next chapter of our politics: democratic socialism. That many of his supporters believed Bernie could leap-frog right into the White House and effect a “revolution from above” is, I recently learned, called, “accelerationism.” The unsound belief that you can “accelerate” history through a presidential campaign.

And here we might yet again fail to learn from Republicans. After the trouncing of the extremist presidential candidate Barry Goldwater in 1964, the right-wing spent the next 16 years joining the GOP and bringing their extremism with them: first in state legislatures and then on to Washington as the Tea Party and Freedom Caucus. (Which is why in the 1980s under President Ronald Reagan, Klansmen like David Duke rose up from the muck and ran on the GOP ticket.)

The left, the actual left, meanwhile, spent decades wandering eyeless in the Gaza of identity politics. And what did that get us? Camps almost tribal in nature from which we stare suspiciously at the other. So, the left wing sat on the sidelines, poo-pooing electoral politics and condemning both parties as “Republo-crats.”

Hence, the impatience in wanting Bernie to let us skip over all the organizing work and leapfrog into the White House.

And it did not work, twice.

But what we are living through is a kind of “revolution” — but a revolution in values as Martin Luther King famously called for. Just as the “Reagan Revolution” was really about values — a psychological revolution — that shifted a center-left America to a center-right one dominated by the right wing. So, too, Bernie Sanders has launched a psychological revolution that is beginning to shift American back to a center-left nation, one just now willing to embrace democratic socialism.

This seismic shift is a little scary, the ground rumbles and rolls beneath our feet, we are not sure if we should panic or not. Don’t. Stay calm, and carry on: elect Biden to clear our minds of this orange miasma, for what comes after Trump is the stuff that dreams are made of.

Joe Gannon, novelist and teacher, lives in Easthampton. He can be reached at opinion@gazette.net

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