I don't campaign for Bernie Sanders. He's better by far than anyone else who stands a chance of becoming US president and I'll probably vote for him, but I don't believe endorsing the current political system by my participation in it is a valuable way to spend my time. Change always comes from outside the system. It's forced onto the system by mass movements -- the Labor Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, the Women's Movement, the Anti Vietnam War Movement, the Gay Rights Movement, the Counterculture of the 1970s -- and by massive changes in public attitude that result in good measure from what those movements do. The political system is designed to co-opt mass movements and render them powerless, and to find ways to profit from the changes they cause. My focus is on bringing about change from outside the system and on changing the system, not on electing politicians who are part of it, so I'm not actively campaigning for Bernie Sanders.
But I'm posting a video someone made from the very end of one of Sanders' stump speeches to make the point that to settle for anything less than what Sanders is talking about here is a grave mistake. Sanders might not be the vehicle for obtaining it, but he's saying what it is.
I read a column in the Albuquerque Journal yesterday by a guy named Winthrop Quigley in which he bemoans the loss of the US political "center," which he associates with politicians like Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, and complains that we've become divided between the extremes of right and left as represented by Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.
Quigley is 65. I looked it up. So he grew up in this country when one person working in a family could support the whole family, buy a house, a car, maybe two cars, when all the kids who wanted to could attend college and graduate debt free or at the most with a couple thousand dollar student loan debt, and a world in which that person could retire in dignity, and security, with Social Security and probably a pension, too.
These centrists he talks about, particularly politicians like Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, are responsible for replacing the world of Quigley's childhood with the current world, where both partners have to work, and work on average 47 hours per week, the most in the industrialized world, and who in most cases have gone deep into debt if they are maintaining anything like the lifestyle they grew up under. Their children, if they are among the decreasing percentage of kids who can attend college, will graduate with an average student loan debt of more than $35,000, and are entering a world of increasingly "casual" and "precarious" work -- which are economics jargon for part time, and non permanent, employment. Pensions in Quigley's centrist world are almost all gone, and his centrist heroes, who have constantly shifted the center to the right during his adulthood, are forever rhetorically undermining, and looking for ways to privatize, Social Security, which is perfectly solvent and could pay out a lot more if high income people paid in more -- they only pay Social Security tax on the first $113,700 of their incomes. For decades we've been warned that there won't be enough younger people working to pay all those retiring Baby Boomers' benefits. Guess what? Millennials now officially outnumber Baby Boomers.
Most of the details about this current, centrist world, go unmentioned by people like Quigley, and so do what they signify on the whole; which is the huge difference between this world and the one people like Quigley and I grew up in. Instead, people like Quigley spew forth idiocy that emanates not from any facts -- there are none in his column -- but from the emotions. His is an emotional outburst, a manifestation of the anxiety he feels over he doesn't know what -- perhaps the loss of his growing up world -- and he expresses it with words and cliches that arise out of the claptrap floating around in his brain that's the natural result of consuming mainstream media day and night for decades, and is the result of refusing to think critically about the current, centrist system, if at all.
Quigley is a perfect example of how our entire sense of what's possible has been downgraded and how our confidence in being able to do what we can image has been downsized. Sanders, if you listen to him, will say that he's running for president to restore that sense of possibility, but most of his supports, who grew up in the same world Quigley did, don't really hear that part. They think he'll change things. He won't. Only we can make this a more just, less violent, more fair, less racist, more friendly, better world.