Activism, Civic Spirituality, Grassroots, opinion

The Great Divide: Sanders’ Revolution vs. The Apathy of Pragmatism

Bernie Sanders and his revolution have failed. What’s worse, is that it was all a con that Sanders perpetrated on the young and impressionable. Disgusted and dismayed they will now abandon the progressive movement and fracture the democratic party.

Bleak isn’t it? This is the current political landscape as seen by Kevin Drum of Mother Jones. In his article released this Friday, Drum takes aim at Sanders and his supporters, and in one fell swoop manages to portray Sanders as a fraud, his supporters as naïve and facile, and the political world as a quagmire where, “You have to buy off interest groups, compromise your ideals, and settle for half loaves.”

As I read his article though, instead of feeling rage and indignation at the cheap and distorted characterizations used in his attack, I actually felt something else. I felt pity. I thought, here is a man who must wake up on a bright and beautiful day, look up at the sun and think: One day that ball of fire will blowup and take our entire planet with it. What a grim and colorless world in which he lives!

Drum’s main argument is that Bernie Sanders knowingly misled his supporters, selling them on an impossible revolution. There can be no revolution, Drum argues, because economic revolutions do not occur absent a dire financial crisis, and what we are experiencing today pales in comparison to the economic desolation of the Great Depression. And, to be fair, he’s right.

What he fails to grasp, however, is that the movement Bernie Sanders has catalyzed isn’t an economic revolution, it is a political one. Of course, it has strong economic consequences, but these are secondary to the primary tenet, which is simply this: Our democracy is not for sale. Our economy does not need to be overthrown, but we the people do need to take ownership of our democracy and stop the wealthy few from turning it into a plutocracy. If this is idealistic, then I am proud to be guilty, because it is not the naïve optimism of a fool. Rather, it is the dream of the disenchanted who have awoken to remember that what is, is not right.

Drum doesn’t see this. He sees the movement as a fad, a toy which children discard once the sheen of novelty wears thin. There are, however, two great insights hidden in the dark corners of Drum’s worldview.

The first, is that he is not alone in this belief. In fact, he clearly articulates the perspective of a great many people in this country. These are the voices you hear so often who, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, claim that Hillary Clinton is the superior candidate because she is pragmatic. She sets her sights on the attainable, strikes deals, and compromises as is necessary to achieve a modest outcome. That’s just politics, they say. Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders wont be able to accomplish anything at all. His lofty goals and refusal to compromise will inevitably lead to failure.

Ignoring the questionable validity of these arguments (Bernie fought for decades in the trenches and knows exactly how the system works, see here for an incredible read), Drum blindly presents us with a false dichotomy. Our choice is not between pragmatism and delusion. It is between the apathy of accepting the status quo and the bittersweet joy of knowing that though you may have fallen short at least you fought for what you believe in. Change does not come easily, nor does it comes quickly, but it certainly does not come at all if you surrender before you have even begun. Imagine what would have become of the Civil Rights Movement if leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. instead of saying, “I have a dream,” said, “dreams are for children.”

This is The Great Divide. It is the divide between those who have decided that what is, is not right and does not have to be, and those who have chosen the apathy of pragmatism, believing that what is, is the best we can do.

The second insight, can be found in Drum’s claim that, “Most likely Bernie will have no lasting effect, and his followers will scatter…” This point is critically important because it holds up a mirror to the revolution, revealing a great truth: We do not know its future. We hope this is the beginning, but cannot say for certain, and right now, when we try, those words ring hollow in the ears of those who still stand across the divide. The story of our revolution is as yet unwritten. And that, my friends, is truly a beautiful thing. It means we each have the power to shape that story.

If time proves Drum right, it will be because we crossed The Great Divide to join the masses like Drum, inert and dull with the apathy of pragmatism. However, if he is wrong, it will be because millions of people took ownership of a movement. Bernie struck the match, but we are the flame, and every day we must make a choice: Does the fire of our revolution still Bern? If we answer in the affirmative, then time will prove that no matter the result of this election, that the revolution will have indeed won.

About Joseph Bisoglio

Joseph graduated with a BA in English from UCLA. He worked in entertainment for 10 years before deciding to pursue a career in science. Joseph studied Psychology at Columbia University and worked in cognitive neuroscience research at the Columbia University Medical Center. He is currently completing his pre-med coursework at UC Berkeley in preparation for a career in medicine. Joseph is a passionate progressive whose strongest political beliefs center on climate change, voter rights and campaign finance reform.

8 Comments

  1. Chris wood

    I marched with Democracy Spring i can tell you that the revolution is very real. And happening and growing. There is organized marches on the DNC convention happening as well.

    • Joseph Bisoglio

      Amazing! So good to hear! I’m in CA and was not able to make it out there, but I look forward to joining in on upcoming events.

  2. Julia Bonds

    This is awesome and so true. before I learned about Bernie, I remember thinking, “where are all the rebels for the 60’s and 70’s that changed the way people think, that stood up and said no to the establishment and yes to humanity? we are not all dead; where are my compadres?”
    We fell in love with JFK, Bobby Kennedy , Martin Luther King, Ralph Nader, Gloria Steinem, and countless others that brought into law and social reality our rights and pushed the ideas of peace, love, acceptance, tolerance, dignity and equality for all.I fell in love with Bernie for the same reasons and more.
    The social revolution happened, and now the financial and ecological revolutions still need to happen. We have to live in harmony with nature or we will not survive. The 1% Lords of Wall Street and the good old boy network in DC (including Hilary who bought off the superdelegates before their constituents even voted) need to understand we are not their serfs. This is not England in 1700, but America in 2016 and we are Sovereign American citizens. Thank you Bernie, for showing me where all my compadres are, young and old and for a future to believe in. In the white house or not we need your leadership. We are not for sale, will not sell out to “win” and we are not dead yet !!

  3. Buffy NotAVampireSlayer

    FEC fundraising deadline tonight @ midnight ! We need to show our strength and commitment to Bernies platform by putting up good $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$#s ! Donate NOW https://berniesanders.com/ !

  4. Linda Brittain

    “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” ~ JFK

  5. Great read and understanding of the social science involving our political realm right now. I agree with you completely and wrote an article describing our multi-generation commitment to not settling. It’s an open letter from “Millennials”-wrote it when there was a lot of hype surrounding young people being the only supporters of Bernie. It might interest you and it’s a fast read as well.https://communicatus.org/2016/04/01/establishment-blues-a-letter-from-millennials/

    • Joseph Bisoglio

      Thank you for posting the link to Establishment Blues. It’s a really touching and insightful statement on changing the multigenerational narrative of settling for “that’s life.” Very well done!

  6. Rustam Nizamov

    Who’s better, real #Trump or fake #HRC? Who wants to watch #DemolitionDerby of both Parties? Enjoy! #BernieOrBust