Even for an imaginative writer, such as myself, it is hard to conjure up any political course that would seriously threaten the Deep State, that is, the real-power infrastructure embedded in the United States. To be sure, the theatrical value of the current presidential race is unprecedented in its farcical quality, all the while raising some disturbing questions about the qualifications of the voting public to even participate in this democracy mime. That said, all the drama aside, the campaigning on the left and the right is still theatre…not revolution. Or am I wrong?
Now that both the Democrats and Republicans have their presumptive nominees, the slow-end of the news cycle is killing time with banter about the inevitable “unification” of the parties. While watching John McCain and his ilk eat crow (or some other substance) is pure comedy, the parallel performances on the Bernie-side bespeak the tragedy of an abortive, albeit illusionary, revolution. The media has uniformly charted-out Bernie’s obligatory course down the Howard Dean path to a place on the platform committee at the convention where he can put a progressive accent on a meaningless document. Bernie probably isn’t eligible for the other traditional runner-up prize for progressive contenders (chairmanship of the DNC) because the ink is not yet dry on his party membership card.
But wait! The Bernie diehards say the show must go on. Why Bernie Sanders Should Stay in the Race---and How He Can Win. It is a must read. From a political strategy point of view, the argument put forward by Patrick Walker and Kevin Zeese is well-reasoned and compelling. In my experience there has always been a well-reasoned strategic calculus like this at the beginning of every failed progressive campaign. That said, as always in launching a campaign it comes down to a question of whether it is worth the risk. Obviously, I think it is…in fact, I will go the authors one better…there is NO risk. This is a sure thing! (wait for the shifting of goals at the end of the piece).
Again, let me say, please read the Walker-Zeese article for yourselves, but in summary their argument goes like this:
1. The American political demography has turned the corner with respect to voter loyalty and for the first time independents represent 50% of the voting populous, leaving the other half to divvy up between the shrunken parties. Significantly, because of closed primaries in many states, the real show of independent support for Bernie Sanders can only be unleashed in the general election.
2. Never in history have both presumptive nominees been so unpopular. The perennial, vague lessor of two evils calculus has this year been sharply defined in the public mind as a choice between corrupt or crazy. And that predicts a massive hold back on participation from both of the traditional party bases.
3. In the absence of an inspiring alternative to corrupt or crazy, crazy just might squeak through…it comes down to a toss of the coin, and the comedic theatre of the primaries suddenly has all the makings of an epic tragedy in the general election.
4. Add up the three variables and you have what the authors call the perfect storm for launching a winning third party campaign. A Green Party ticket of Sanders & Stein will mobilize and consolidate the non-corrupt and non-crazy populous and make real history, as distinct from the deceiving first-black and first-woman presidential playbills offered up by the long established impresarios of American political theatre.
Where does all this go, assuming Bernie Sanders decides that platform coaching is not his forte and applies for a Green card to continue his work in the fields of “revolution”. Consider three scenarios:
1. A replay of the Nader experience; the white hat vote splits and the dreaded black hat gets in. This seems unlikely because Sanders is already more popular than either of the other candidates, with the kind of national recognition Ralph Nader couldn’t not have dreamed of.
2. Bernie out distances his two opponents in the popular vote and garners the necessary 270 Electoral College chits to move into the White House. Amidst ecstatic celebrations of (“revolutionary”) mission-accomplished, the Deep State prepares its own welcome-to-Washington party for the new POTUS, while the progressive cognoscenti hold their breath to see how Bernie handles the inevitable who’s-your-daddy conversation.
3. The popular vote is fractured sufficiently that nobody receives the necessary 270 Electoral College votes to assume the presidency. Constitutionally, the (Republican dominated) House of Representatives would then perform the anointing rites, undoubtedly with much the same results as rendered by the Supreme Court in 2000…unless….
....Unless Sanders and Clinton play a “revolutionary” trump (pardon the expression) card by forming a compact before the Electoral College ballot, which doesn’t come until December 15. This would propel them down Pennsylvania Avenue in some form of coalition government (more on this in my next blog post).
This is the win-win, no risk calculation that should bind Bernie Sanders to a course of coming out the other side of the July Democratic Convention all dressed in Green. Firstly, this three-way race is the only guarantee that The Donald is stopped. Second, even if Sanders polls less than Clinton, he will still have infinitely more leverage to push the progressive agenda than he would have had writing marginalia on the Democratic Party platform, or even cooling his heels as VP.
Progressives, naturally, would prefer the second scenario above. However, from a “revolutionary” perspective, I would argue that in the long run the third scenario is even more promising. American democracy has been pathetically dumbed-down at the bottom and totally corrupted at the top, rendering all of the nation’s institutions incapable of generating intelligent (not to mention “fair”) public policy. The quadrennial recasting of the “star” on the theatrical playbill does not alter the script, let along change the tragic end of the American political drama. There needs to be a structural change of the no-going-back sort. America’s democratic Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall in 2016. The two-party system of what Sheldon Wolin calls inverse totalitarianism has fractured; long live third (and fourth) parties…it may not be quite a revolution, but empire never had it so bad!