Could Sanders soon lose any chance of becoming the nominee? Sure. Could Biden become the nominee and then lose to Trump. Sure. Even if Biden beats Trump, will his presidency usher in great benefits, beyond removing Trump (which is certainly an essential step). Not a chance.
For that matter, if the Democratic Party implodes because Biden loses to Trump (or because it uses Super delegates to sideline Sanders), could that induce a path toward a better future with the creation of a new party, albeit over the corpses and battered bodies of all those afflicted by Trump’s second term, assuming that the ensuing devastation isn’t cataclysmic and that the solidification of authoritarianism isn’t irreversible? I suppose so, perhaps, but what a long shot and what a price paid. Only supreme callousness roots for this.
Does proclaiming the inevitably of calamities like those mentioned above advance positive prospects? I don’t see how. Does spelling out paths that lead toward all of the above or even Coronavirus escalations leading to elections being cancelled while not spelling out paths that lead to better outcomes contribute to averting any of the above or to achieving anything better? I don’t see how.
Before South Carolina, millions were seriously optimistic and even focused on seeking really significant advances and laying groundwork for winning still more. Then the Black community in South Carolina voted for Biden. Was it fear of Trump beating Sanders? Was it loyalty to Biden/Obama? Was it to support local leaders worried about their own positions? Whatever the reasons, like in 2016 Sanders badly lost the South Carolina primary.
Then on Super Tuesday, propelled by South Carolina plus some added wrinkles like voter suppression in Texas and escalated media and Democratic Party establishment assaults, plus the choreographed withdrawal of leading moderate candidates, Sanders had another bad day and the post South Carolina tailspin among left commentators escalated into an all too prevalent swan dive into apocalyptic predictions. Not everyone, went that route, but many did.
Could the groundswell of depressing predictions be right? Sure, not least because predicting calamity itself contributes to calamity’s likelihood. So why do it?
Maybe you want to be a commentator in the mainstream or even on the left? You also want to be deemed morally worthy and objective. You look around. You highlight pain. You predict worst outcomes. Global warming will drown us. Media manipulations will channel us. Advertisements will lure us. Bureaucrats will bedevil us. Spies will pigeonhole us. Suppression will suppress us. It turns out if you promise audiences disasters you will very often be correct – after all we do live in an upside down world – and you will sound properly ethical and outraged, and appear to be morally above the fray, and therefore, finally, you will be considered astute. Best of all, if something better comes along that reveals that you were wrong, no one will ever question you for not foreseeing the unlikely or for not contributing to the good. On the other hand, predict good outcomes which do not happen and you lose credibility. You are deemed stupid and naive. If you foresee the worst, predict the worst, and certainly don’t try to avert the worst, even if better occurs, you will go unscathed. If you naysay, it will never cost you. It is a safe writing strategy. But I don’t see any other virtue of it.
And so I wonder what if events conspire that Sanders wins Michigan and then a week later Illinois and Ohio? All of a sudden the skies clear and the tone and tenor of left wisdom reverts to optimism. Wouldn’t it be better both in moments of surging hope and in moments of threatening fear if progressive and left writers would try to find possible paths to preferred outcomes?
I am myself not sure what path can reach preferred outcomes in our current context, but in short, and in general, wouldn’t it make a lot more sense for those favoring change to always write about topics and in ways that have a chance, however slight, to contribute to positive change? Why do we so often instead snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?
So here is a different take.
First, the situation. Bernie Sanders has campaigned without elite money, on a people’s platform, and, more important, clearly enunciating that future major gains require people organizing and fighting for change, and he is nonetheless even with the former Vice President who is the favorite of media, of the Democratic Party establishment, and of pundits galore, and more so, he is even despite being blasted on all sides. Further, Sanders isn’t winning convincingly only because the Black electorate in South Carolina and across the whole South, despite being the group who has most to gain from his election, has not so far aggressively supported him, though in a final election against Trump it would support him 99%.
Sanders, in other words, isn’t currently well ahead, and worse may lose, because, despite polls showing that he is electable, he has been labeled unelectable so often and so strongly and moderation has so often and so strongly been labeled electable, that the false claim has overwhelmed the true claim. So it isn’t just that fear is beating desire. It is that fear is favoring what will likely fail against desire favoring what would likely succeed.
What then of a positive path?
I am no electoral strategist. I have no polls to consult. And not much grass roots anecdotal first hand evidence either. Still:
Path one. In the next debate, Sanders versus Biden, Biden is so moribund and confused that in the eyes of even his moderate supporters his prospects of beating Trump drop to zero and Bernie becomes the only path forward. Sanders gets the nomination. Sanders beats Trump.
What can we do to help that path happen? Nothing much needed.
Path two. Elizabeth Warren strongly supports Sanders and strongly critiques Biden. Warren’s endorsers become Sanders endorsers. Prominent Black leaders going into Michigan and thereafter counter current community trends and aggressively support Sanders – Michelle Alexander, LeBron James, Maxine Waters, Shaun King, Danny Glover, Steph Curry…. Sanders demolishes Biden in the next debate and by March 18th holds a growing delegate lead that demonstrates he is the better candidate in swing states and the only candidate that can not only beat Trump but excite prospects for real change. A massive groundswell of support fueled by young volunteers and by older folks rediscovering their roots and admitting their kids’ wisdom evidences that stopping Sanders at the convention will not only lose the election to Trump, but also guarantee that the Democratic establishment loses all stature and control over the Party. The stop Sanders project loses enough support to fail. Sanders runs and wins, even with much of the Democratic Party establishment not helping and even opposing him.
What can we do to help path two happen? Push Warren. Push and welcome various Black leaders. Grow the Sanders groundswell.
Path three. Biden continues to climb on a tower of false expectations, media machinations, and voter fears, gets the nomination, and runs. Sanders campaigns against Trump because he isn’t so callous as to ignore the misery and danger of a Trump re-election. But Sanders also acknowledges that real, lasting, positive gains require on-going grassroots activism, whoever is elected. Coronavirus malfeasance weakens Trump. Biden’s Clinton-like overconfidence and flawed record weakens him. While campaigning against Trump, Sanders advances his own positive program and builds its grassroots support, hoping to fight for it against Biden newly in office, but prepared to do so, if necessary, against Trump still in office. Then Sanders uses his immense popular support and his grassroots financial power to form a Shadow Government to not only evidence the benefits his administration would have implemented, but to also fight on for those benefits and either win control of the Democratic Party or see it implode while Sanders and tens of thousands of activists together form a new people’s participatory party.
What can we do to help path three happen? Work against Trump. Urge and then support Sanders and the shadow government against whoever winds up President.
Path four. Oh, what the hell, for those who prefer wild scenarios, Coronavirus escalates. First meetings, then concerts, ball games, and mass rallies are cancelled to avoid breeding grounds. Then the election itself is cancelled. Wild in the streets follows. And somehow, instead of individualist top down fascism dominating sanity into oblivion, the people united rise up and implement participatory democracy based in grass roots assemblies throughout the land and finally pandemic survivors establish a participatory economy.
What can we do to help path four happen? Seriously?
May caring souls, sharp minds, and energetic campaigners carry on. No retreat. No surrender.