What is the political Revolution that Bernie Sanders is talking about? Is he asking that we take to the streets, block traffic and commerce until the wealthy agree to share their riches? How about, we congregate at nearby military bases and police stations and block all the exits until the various government agencies agree to make the wealthy share their riches? What is this revolution about, how does it work, and will the US be the new Soviet Union after it’s all over? I have no doubt that as the 2016 Presidential campaign continues, this is a subject that Senator Sanders will discuss at length. Until then, here is my take of what a political revolution in America is about.
As Bernie Sanders has pointed out, our political system is broken and it’s in danger of collapsing under the weight of oligarchy. An oligarchy is where all the functions of state are managed by a few. In the case of America the oligarchy manages the state covertly to its own financial gain. To do that, they have strategically manipulated the voice of the people to either agree with their agenda or be unaware of its existence. Take a step back and consider how we would like the system to work without an oligarchy. Then consider how the system actually works, and the existence of an oligarchy becomes plain. If you are like me and nearly everyone I know, no matter what political persuasion, the system does not work how we would like it to.
The political system is the processes we follow in order to select the people to administer our various governments. But for this entry, lets just stick to the federal government. It is this political process that Bernie Sanders wants to revolutionize by reinventing it. We can also call the revolution he is championing as a reinvention of the political processes used to elect members of the House, the Senate and the Presidency. Currently our elections require (unofficially) for candidates to belong to one of two parties, obtain funding to mount a campaign and devote themselves almost 24/7 to campaigning and funding. Running for elected office forces one to compromise their principles and ignore morality in the belief that you can overcome the compromises and amorality. But once you enter this world and make your first bargain, you are forever in the debt of the oligarchs that supplied you with the money to buy some newspaper ads, and a few TV ads. And you can say whatever you want, but don’t actually do anything that will jeopardize the oligarchs. Over and over, well-meaning people choose a party, get some funding and suddenly find themselves having to choose. The hardest part is avoiding that first compromise.
The political revolution will change that. The very fact that Bernie Sanders, a Congressional Independent, who claims his political leanings are toward a Democratic Socialist system, can legitimately run for President as the candidate of one of the two established parties is itself a political revolution. Sanders is in a unique position to be able to this. He began as a mayor of the largest city in a state that at the time really did have more cows than people. However he won that position without going the party route and won by a razor-thin margin. When he decided to try for a promotion to Congress, he refused to use a party, refused big money and he won. Then he went on to become a Senator using the same model. Now he is running for President following the same revolutionary model and undertaking a long shot revolutionary takeover of the Democratic party. He can lead the revolution because he is not compromised by the oligarchy.
But, Sanders has never been about himself. He is the well-meaning person, except he never had to change his mind on issues just to keep getting elected. He wants to alter the system so that all the well-meaning people don’t have to join a party, their campaigns will not be dependent on who can get the most money for the most ads. Public financing of elections and outlawing Super Pacs are two of his campaign platforms. That alone will revolutionize the political process.
The revolution can expand from there. The idea that government is limited by what it can do to help people live up to their potential will also be changed, because women and men of vision and integrity will be able to serve. A recent newspaper column claimed that Sanders is turning the phrase that JFK spoke at his inauguration from ‘ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can for your country’ around to ‘ask what your country can do for you’. The writer is wrong, Sanders is doing exactly what JFK was talking about. He is not asking that the country elect him president for himself or even the oligarchs, he asking that the country elect him for what he can do for the country. He is trying to revolutionize how our political process works, a process nearly everyone agrees is broken and corrupt. Without a reliable political process with integrity, how far away are we from handing it all over to an elite that only think ‘don’t ask what your country can for you, ask what you can do for us, the oligarchs’. We can stop that from happening by a political revolution, because if we continue to elect people who have chosen the party and big money route we will need a revolution that won’t resolve at the polls.