Saturday, October 31, 2015

Harold Meyerson — Can Bernie Sanders’s followers create a true leftist movement?

When Sanders says — as he does in every speech — that he’s seeking to build “a revolution,” that’s not just rhetoric. What Sanders understands in his bones is that every period of progressive reform in U.S. history has come as a result of massive street heat, of energized movements that push policymaking elites to the left. Abolitionists pressured the Lincoln Republicans toward a policy of emancipation. Militant workers and a socialist left, whose general strikes shut down several major cities in 1934, prompted Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Democrats to legalize collective bargaining and create Social Security in 1935. The civil rights movement enabled the Kennedy-Johnson Democrats to pass the landmark legislation of the ’60s. Progressive reform doesn’t happen absent a large and vibrant left.
A large and vibrant left, however, has been missing from the American political landscape since the ’60s. Precisely because Sanders has staked out the most distinctly leftist terrain of any major candidate in decades, and because so many Americans (young Americans in particular) have rallied to his cause, his campaign holds the promise of recreating that missing left.…
Both promise and problems. If he wins, much more promise and less problems than if he loses. FDR created a long-lived legacy. The McGovern left fizzled after his loss.

The Washington Post
Can Bernie Sanders’s followers create a true leftist movement?
Harold Meyerson

2 comments:

Dan Lynch said...

Only to the extent that Bernie succeeds in shifting the Overton window such that whoever wins the WH adopts some of Bernie's policies.

Hillary's rhetoric has shifted to the left in response to the threat from Bernie, but the Clintons have proven over and over again that they don't stand for anything and will sell us out in a heartbeat. If Hillary wins the WH, any movement that Bernie started will be as dead as a doornail.

Our best hope for progressive reform may be a pragmatic Republican like Nixon. Trump, for all his faults, may be that person. That's what winning looks like -- when the opposition co-ops your issues.

Huey Long's "Share The Wealth" movement continued to push FDR to the left, and pushed Louisiana politicians to the left for several decades after Huey's death in in 1935. The Louisiana "Longites" were not sincere about helping the poor as Huey had been, nonetheless the Longites continued most of Huey's policies because they were popular and successful.

There are differences between Huey and Bernie, though. Huey had been a successful governor and had proven his policies in Louisiana before he became a Senator and possible presidential candidate. As a senator Huey was responsible for Glass-Steagall as we knew it. Huey had a national "Share The Wealth" club, radio show, and newspaper. He was the 3rd most photographed man in America (after FDR & Charles Lindbergh).

On the other hand most Americans had never heard of Bernie until a few months ago, he had no national organization until a few months ago, and Bernie doesn't have much of a track record of actually getting stuff done. All in all it's hard to take Bernie's campaign seriously.

Bob said...

Didn't Obama say that people should take to the streets if they wanted him to get something done?
I doubt that Bernie has what it takes to get people to put down their popcorn. I doubt that Trump has it either.