Thursday, October 15, 2015

Conceal the Bern

I heard someone say politics is more interesting than music right now. Probably true.

We all know polls says relatively nothing, just as we know debate "winners" are in the eye of the beholder and are definitively skewed when they are announced to us.  I think what this link speaks to more than anything is a continued undermining of our intelligence by the punditry, who believe it is ultimately their authority to tell us what we believe, what we stand for, and who we should vote for (because everyone else is "unelectable").  They believe they define the parameters of the future. And it's shocking and saddening to see how many of my smart friends fall prey to this iron cage reasoning.

I've seen time and time again tons of friends reflect on the tainted fatalism of how they support Bernie but "he won't win", perhaps because the mouth-drooling plebes will never possess the masterful will of theirr superior intellect and know who the correct candidate to vote for is.  But the only reason he couldn't win, or any candidate couldn't win really, is from exactly this kind of pathological insistence on the everlasting durability of the power structure, which is actually so fragile that its funny money scheme to generate pretend-growth nearly collapsed the entire world economy by itself Jenga-style in 2008. It's always been a key strength Capital and control to make its enemies do their jobs better than they could have. 

That said, here's my take on the debate.  Hilary performed very well, and the key word is performance.  She's been practicing for this role for about 20 years and she seemed as plasticine and rehearsed as ever, which fell to her advantage. She did little to evade her reputation as an establishment politician, but she came off as likable as she's ever been and did a fairly decent job bullshitting some good bullshit on why establishment candidates make the best leaders.  Her attempts to answer for her complicity in the dominance of disaster capitalism, the Iraq War, the mass incarceration state, targeted killings, silencing of whisteblowers, and other issues were distractifying, if not edifying. 

I think the left and right come down a bit hard on moderators, whose job should be to ask hard questions.  Case in point is Anderson Cooper's attacks on Sanders's relatively weak stance on gun control, which is a huge concern, particularly since it's an issue something like 90% of the country is in agreement on.  This is fair game and Sanders needs to own the fact that his votes against various gun control measures has cost countless Americans their lives.  It’s something we, as people who could vote him into office, could hold him to account for.  This is something Black Lives Matter activists knew when they crashed his speech a few months back.

But it was clear before anyone even walked on stage that CNN's role that night was to essentially hand the primary to Clinton and discredit anyone who got in her way.  With Chaffee and Webb, all that meant was handing them shovels and asking them to dig. But there were a number of moments designed by Cooper to be gotcha moments for Sanders that spectacularly failed- pressing him to denounce socialism and praise capitalism, asking whether he'd ever use force or just sing kumbaya and try to levitate the pentagon, denouncing the democratically elected Sandinista government our government overthrew, and equating Bush's disastrous and dehumanizing immigration plan with Obama's.  Each time, Sanders swung right back and didn't try to backpeddle into some flimsy middle ground that the half-wit fence sitters who can't tell the difference between a democrat and a republican until election day might find slightly more satiating. 

My favorite response came when Cooper made the rounds asking each non-dynasty candidate why they were even wasting our time since his sponsors had already announced the winner to him before the taping.  Sanders shat all over the electability question by rightly pointing out that elections should always- every single time- not be about the people who've made up their minds or those who've decided to flip a coin, but about the half of the voting public who each time an election rolls around sees no one on the ballot worth voting for, sees nothing ever changing, and sees only their culpability in the whole mess by voting for it.  Studies have repeatedly shown that the vast majority of those who do not vote are of the largest growing portion of the population- the poor and working class- exactly the people Sanders has been advocating for his entire 40 years in politics.  It’s easy to see these people as apathetic, lazy, uninvolved, what have you.  It’s far harder to accept that choosing not to vote is a form of protest.  It may not be one that you agree with, but choosing not to vote is a deliberate choice.

Cooper’s only gotcha moment that actually landed was when Cooper weirdly asked Sanders to reply to a comment by Lincoln Chaffee in which he wasn't mentioned, which caught Sanders, who clearly wasn't paying attention, off-guard.  And maybe this is a telling moment.  Maybe it's not.  It would never happen to image hyper-conscious/image-mediated Hilary, who was both on the ball and in her element.  Sanders has remarked before that he dislikes campaigning, whereas Clinton clearly thrives on it (lord knows why- she of all people she be puking at every aspect of the sick charade by now). What Sanders has hinted at though, and what all of us secretly know, is that the presidency is largely a symbolic position. In many ways, as we've seen with Obama, it’s often one of the more powerless offices you can hold.

That's why Sanders has been adamant that he alone is not going to change things in Washington.  Towards the end of the debate, Sanders called for a "political revolution", as he has done in many stump speeches.  The line got a huge applause at the podium and immediately after the mic was then handed to Jim Webb, who promptly and definitively, like a dad cancelling the trip to the rock concert, said "I don't think there's going to be a revolution".  Nah, son.   Here Webb echoes what we've all been saying ad nauseum as we repeat the line CNN and their corporate oligarch buddies have been feeding us; "It's cool to believe in things, but Bernie's not going to win. Let the grownups talk.  We’ll let you know when we’re ready for you to get married, or to get paid a fair wage, or to not be killed by assault rifles, or…"

It's hard to buy in to this fatalism given that Sanders is already changing things.  He set the terms of the debate.  He refuses to go negative on Hilary, but instead would like to cordially and respectfully debate and let the people decide who the better candidate is. All night, each of the candidates clamored to bark about which one of them would fight the hardest for income inequality, which was the most progressive, which was going to be the most pro-government/anti-business.  Anderson Cooper wasn't the only struggling on stage to prove Bernie's candidacy irrelevant.   

Maybe he won't win, but if we can't at least entertain the notion that something new is possible perhaps we should just give up and join that giant block of non-voters.  In that case, I'll see you at the next mass shooting.  See you at the next police lynching.  See you at the next recession.  See you at the next war.  See you at the next overdue insurance payment.  See you at the next unemployment line.  See you down in Arizona bay. See you at the bottom of the trick-down shit shower of the next rich president's toilet.  And see you next Tuesday, motherfuckers, because our planets about one pipeline or oil subsidy away from turning into a sweltering hellhole of biblical proportions.  We can't wait one more day for the media to give us permission to dream something new.

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