Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Where Sanders Lost Me

There are things to like about Bernie Sanders.  His strengths - a blunt candor that is equal parts Brooklyn and Vermont - are Clinton's weaknesses.  But his weakness is Clinton's strength.  The problem is that her strengths are not the sort of thing that soar with the lyricism of the base of the party.

Sanders lost me when he started talking about revolution.

I've spent a fair amount of time studying revolutions - from the American to the French, the Mexican, the Russian, the Chinese and the Iranian.  I have come to one inescapable conclusion: Revolutions don't work.

"But the American Revolution worked!"

The War for Independence was won, but the more revolutionary impulses were sidelined at the Constitutional Convention.  What happened instead was 50 years of democratic evolution, culminating in the Age of Jackson and the rise of popular democracy - that was evolutionary rather than revolutionary.  And evolutionary change is precisely the change that Obama and now Clinton have promised.  Evolutionary change is at the heart of liberal philosophy.

The other revolutions fall into the same pattern: dramatic, violent and profound change that engenders a backlash and eventually becomes the thing it tried to overthrow.  Louis XVI becomes the Reign of Terror.  The Porfiriato becomes the PRI.  The czar becomes the Party Secretary.  The emperor becomes Mao.  The Shah becomes the Ayatollah.

Even evolutionary change creates its own backlash, but just as evolutionary change entails more moderate change, it entails a more moderate backlash.  Evolutionary change is two steps forward, one step back.  Revolutionary change is ten steps forward, ten steps back.

The most revolutionary period in this country was likely Reconstruction.  And while the persistent obstruction and racism of Andrew Johnson subverted any hope of positive change, the fact is, that change happened at a speed that the political system had difficulty coping with.  It did, obviously, set the stage for the civil rights movement a hundred years later, but few would argue that it enjoyed immediate success.

Sanders has invested this campaign with needed left wing populism to counterbalance the right wing populism of Il Douche and the Trumpenproletariat.  But he should not be allowed to be the nominee, because his basic political idea of change is beyond suspect.  It is non-functional.

No comments: