Living in Society

You Say You Want a Revolution

Easter 1946

In Iowa presidential candidates attempt to generate hope. Not just hope of winning in 2020, but to make our country a better place beyond the next election.

So much has changed in our lives and not for the better.

Progress will be difficult for Democrats when the hegemony of wealth and business touches most of us. The hold libertarians and conservatives have on us is based on influence in our jobs, health care, energy companies, transportation, retail stores, and social institutions. Whether we know it or not, we mostly work for them. Something’s got to give in our politics because as the richest get richer, society is not working for the rest of us.

“Establishment politics is just not good enough,” presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said at a CNN Town Hall in 2016. “We need bold changes, we need a political revolution.”

If the shine came off this trademark Sanders claim and the revolution has stalled according to the Washington Post, it may be because a number of candidates, including Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, and even long shot Marianne Williamson, are all calling for profound change in American life.

Warren calls for “big, structural change to rebuild the middle class.”

Buttigieg wants a “fresh start for America… It’s about more than winning an election. It’s about winning an era.” He’s thinking of the millennial era.

Williamson wants evolution to a politics of love, saying on her website, “Our task is to generate a massive wave of energy, fueled and navigated by we the people, so powerful as to override all threats to our democracy. Where fear has been harnessed for political purposes, our task is to harness love.”

Presidential candidates need something to elevate their campaigns, which is well and good. I recall a time when I looked for that in a presidential candidate. The nomination of Hubert Humphrey in 1968 cured me. I’m looking for something else and question the idea of remaking everything. We are in pretty deep for that.

A main issue is libertarians and conservatives, the Radical Right as Jane Mayer calls them, would undo everything progressives have accomplished since the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration. Under President Trump they have a shot at that, maybe the best shot ever. What do they believe? As Mayer pointed out in her 2016 book Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, “taxes are a form of tyranny; that government oversight of business is an assault on freedom.” Things we take for granted — Social Security, Medicare, the Environmental Protection Agency, OSHA, the National Labor Relations Board — would all be dissolved if the radical right had their way. To the extent a revolution is called because of changes in this status quo, it is too little, too late.

The radical right already owns us. Whether we consume their media, buy their fuel, use their electricity and natural gas, invest in their financial services companies, or shop in their stores, a percentage of each transaction finds it’s way to the wealthiest people in the country. We don’t care if using Wells Fargo, shopping at Amazon or Walmart, using fossil fuels, or working at their jobs is bad for us. We have chosen a way of life and if the radical right is behind it, they have been out of sight, out of mind for a very long time. Not only are we owned, we have been hoodwinked into believing the status quo has been good to us.

During Summer 2019 the Democratic candidates for president will be putting their best foot forward to persuade Iowans to caucus for them. A bright light should shine on the idea of remaking everything in a candidate’s framework. The last time Democrats had a mandate for change was after the re-election of Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Given the structural problems with our government — the electoral college, gerrymandered congressional districts, voter suppression, to name a few — it is unrealistic to expect any political revolution, evolution, big structural change, or winning of an era.

When in 2016 Hillary Clinton said we are stronger together, the phrase was not new. Among the challenges of the 2020 election are for Democrats to maintain control of the House of Representatives and elect a Democratic president. The extended presidential primary season works against us on both of those goals pitting good Democrats against other good Democrats as we promote “my” candidate. Our goal should be to stop the radical right from further bleeding a Democracy on life support by winning the election. It will take all Democrats to get this done. Once we do that we can talk about what’s next.

It is hard to keep hope alive. The problem with our democracy is logic no longer applies when it comes to voting or to almost anything else outside the purview of the richest Americans.

You say you want a revolution. Well, you know, we all want to change the world. Unlike the Fab Four, I’m not sure it’s gonna be alright.