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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Audacity of Audacity

You know, for a progressive, self-identifying Democratic Socialist, Senator Bernie Sanders is rather conservative. Not as conservative as his Democratic Party nemesis, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but conservative nonetheless:

  • Sanders, and supporting economists, are operating on the tenets of economic growth.
  • Sanders is operating a jobs-driven rehabilitation plan for the nation's infrastructure. 
  • Sanders is operating health care reform within the modes of professional health care (and, presumably, insurance, even if it is a single-payer system). 
  • Sanders is designing education reform based around college, rather than alternative forms of education (such as technical school. apprentices, trade organizations, high schools. etc.).
  • Sanders is even attacking wealth inequality through jobs-driven platforms that will inevitably rely on a financial system driven by private banks (even if they're "broken-up").
In a liberal society, none of these policy proposals are categorically bad. By contrast, one could even argue that Sanders is aiming to expand the web of institutions that comprise the USA's security net. Even if one desires more progressive solutions than those Sanders is offering, there is a sense (even in resignation) that Sanders's USA would be easier to build upon than other candidates' respective visions....

...Which hardly makes Sanders some audacious, unrealistic, pie-in-the-sky candidate. In fact, the very fact that Sanders is regarded as -- somehow -- some kind of unrealistic, fairy-tale-spewing communist who won't accomplish anything in office is as much an indictment of the USA's situation as Sanders's very candidacy. 

While thinking about criticisms of Sanders -- that he's basically expanding the premise of a protest vote into an untenable institution, that he's not conservative enough to be a Democrat, that he's going to tarnish the legacy of a President that once deported more people in a single term than any other American President [ever!], that he's a poor bum who never was good at a real job in life so he could only become a politician, that he's not qualified for the USA's highest office despite four decades of public service, that he's going to repeal a massive health care reform act that he helped to craft, that he's not going to accomplish anything with a GOP Congress because he's not as conservative as any other candidate, that he's a single-issue candidate that does not have a well-rounded platform to address the identity politics of the 21st century, and so on -- it occurred to me that Americans are largely mistaken about the role of this particular protest candidate in this particular election. 
  1. If Secretary Clinton is as liberal as she claims to be, she won't get anything accomplished with a GOP Congress, either. 
  2. [After the obstructionist Congress that faced President Obama, one must question the potential outcomes of the policies of a practical "Liberal" President that can compromise or "work with" a truly dysfunctional right wing.]
  3. The idea that a worthwhile Presidential candidate should be judged based on the fact that they will "get things done" is largely equivalent to the problematic idea that the populous should be concerned with "electability" (rather than, say, asking an absurd question like, "What are the best possible policies for the USA? Does any candidate offer those policies? If YES -- who should I vote for? -- If NO -- who should I vote for?").
  4. The idea of a populace concerned about "winning an election" and voting for "the Candidate that can win" is a populace that deserves Candidate Donald Trump (and this is the same populace on a smaller scale that was concerned about "voting for the winning candidate" in Chicago, for example, and ended up gladly and handily electing a Mayor that was basically sitting on a [at least] a trio of scandals). Citizens should care less about "winning" than any other electoral issue. 
  5. Do you want the Democratic Party to be the Party of Chuy Garcia or the Party of Rahm Emanuel? This is literally your choice this election, again. This is your groundhog's day. 
  6. Senator Sanders is slowly expanding the types of questions that can be asked [once again] in large political debates. Free college? Hell yes! Free health care? Sign me up. Maybe this type of society will be one that eventually stops subsidizing sports arenas or mortgage interest tax credits for the wealthy. 

Audacious QuestionsHow do you want to redistribute wealth? Why should we work at all? How can we build an economy that contracts and declines and becomes sustainable, instead of an economy that grows? How can we get the government out of job creation? How can we get our bosses out of job creation? Why do we need health care at all? Why do we need tax credits? When will the wealthy be forced to refund all of the economic benefits they have received over, say, the last 150 years? Can we, the citizens, recall en masse politicians that refuse to perform their Constitutional duties and replace them? Why do we care about the Constitution at all?

What is the most impossible question you could ask of every politician? What is the most impossible task you want public policy to grant? Ask those questions, and then consider why those questions are important, and where our own assumptions [and therefore values and policy outcomes] lie in comparison.

And so on. These are audacious questions of audacity, questions that probe monopolies, questions that probe the lure of professionalism, questions that probe the requirements of the government, the assumptions of the economy, and the relationship we have with ourselves, others, and the earth [compounded]. A President Sanders will be conservative insofar as a President Sanders will be working entirely outside of this type of framework -- afterall, he's a socialist that's not even promising to abolish all private property and eventually dissolve that state! A President Clinton won't get us to this point, either. The question you must then ask: how much do I value our current economic, workplace, health, environmental, etc., assumptions? What will I do to change them?