It’s been a while. After seeing some very promising coverage of recent developments in the US 2016 election campaign, I felt compelled to comment.
Like most readers of this blog, my social media feeds are jam-packed with #FeelTheBern enthusiasts. And this is to be expected as the Democratic primary elections ramp up till the Philadelphia Convention in July when the party’s nomination to lead the election in November will be decided.
Personally, as a leftist and someone who assumes that politicians are some combination of liars, crooks, etc, I have mixed feelings about parts of Bernie’s political history, not least of all support for the useless $1 trillion fighter jet program and comments he made about the democratically elected government of Venezuela. However, on balance, and in pragmatism, I am excited about his campaign for a number of reasons. Firstly, I reject any insinuation that the Clinton Dynasty is in any way at all progressive (NAFTA, China-US free trade agreement, TPP, Crime Bill which led to Mass Incarceration, etc etc). Secondly, Trump is going to win the Republican primary, so I refuse to choose between a fake progressive and a neo-fascist. I’ll go into this in another blog post soon, but, for now I wanted to briefly highlight the events in Chicago: see Al Jazeera coverage.
Many of the protestors who shut down that Trump rally will have been from groups with no support for any candidate in the race. Black Lives Matter as a movement announced early in the campaign cycle that they would not formally endorse any individual or party. And there are sound reasons for such groups to keep the forces of potential co-optation and demobilization at bay. But it’s worth noting that after the announcement that Drumpf wasn’t coming, thousands of people inside that arena were jumping up and down and shouting in unison “Bernie, Bernie” etc. See video
Two things. Firstly, no group has ever or will ever be this excited about Hillary. That sounds superficial, but it is actually quite profound. She represents the same old corrupt establishment politics which has turned so many people (not just college kids) to completely disengage from active political citizenship. Bernie’s campaign has sparked a fire which excites massive numbers of people, well beyond Chicago alone. The myth of the perpetually conservative working class being scared of “reds under the bed” has been put to bed as a result of his use (however misleading) of the idiosyncratic phrase “democratic socialist”. Many of these people will not vote in November if Clinton prevails in the primaries.
Secondly, and this goes beyond the mainstream Bernie supporters, it’s fantastic to see a broad-based anti-racist movement begin to coalesce in opposition to the Trump campaign. The social movements and their chapters around the US will be watching and planning similar #ShutItDown events whenever the Great American Fascist comes to town. This is very promising, and could lead to a politicisation of the youth well beyond the expectations of even the Sanders campaign (with their talk of a superficial “political revolution” which is limited to a lot more people voting, but doing nothing else). Potentially this more radical activist subculture could even collide and collaborate with the Bernie campaign, hardening it’s militant, direct action, anti-imperialist and anti-fascist politics.