Now look, I still love Bernie, and I’m not going to call him a “fraud” or a “sell out,” nor am I going to get pissed at him for using the word “irresponsible.” And, honestly, I think that people who are pissed at him for these reasons maybe didn’t totally understand who Bernie is from the git-go. And maybe they’re taking the whole “irresponsible” comment a little too personally. Don’t get me wrong. I, too, was disappointed in Bernie’s performance in the primaries. I, too, thought he should have been way more aggressive and persistent. And also, you’re certainly entitled to your feelings. So, go ahead and feel them. Release them. Get them out. Just don’t wallow. And don’t hold a grudge. ‘Cuz that would be counterproductive and unhelpful, to say the least.
Here’s the thing though: a true “Socialist” would have been calling for much more than just Medicare For All and free public college. He would’ve been calling for nationalizing energy production and probably food production, too, as well as proposing not just UBI, but also Universal Basic Housing. I’m not a big foreign policy wonk, but he probably would have significantly different foreign policy proposals, too. And maybe he would’ve been calling for a move toward a parliamentary style of government instead of whatever it is we have now.
And if he were a true “revolutionary” he would’ve been calling for completely tossing out the old system and replacing it with an entirely new one. M4A is the one proposal that comes close to that, but it still would have been just phasing out one part of the current system while simultaneously phasing in and expanding another part of the already existent system. Not scrapping the whole system and replacing it with something entirely new, which is the definition of “revolution.”
What Bernie Sanders is, truly, is a Social Democrat and a reformer, which is not a bad thing. His policies certainly would be a huge improvement over what we have now, and I have no regrets about my vote for him or the money I sent him to support his campaign. And, if your state has not had its primary, yet, you should absolutely vote for him. Even still. But the guy has been a member of the US Congress for thirty years. He’s not an “outsider” in the way that you and I are “outsiders.” He’s also not an “insider” in the same way that, let’s say, Chuck Schummer is an “insider.” What Bernie is, and also what AOC, Ilhan Omar, Rhasida Talib and other progressives in Congress are, is “our person on the inside,” “our people on the inside.” But they are all still “on the inside” because they are the law makers. They just happen to be more responsive to what we, The People, the outsiders, the commoners, want from our law makers than the true “Washington Insider” law makers, who are way more responsive to the other insiders, the “Corporate Insiders,” than they are to us plebs.
So then why does Bernie call himself a “Democratic Socialist” when he isn’t one, and why does he call for a “political revolution” when he doesn’t really want one? Did he lie to us about these things? Was it stupid for him to use these words that have such negative connotations for people in the US? Especially since they are not an accurate description? No. I don’t think so. And here’s why:
Because people’s negative connotations of these words are the result of at least eighty years of gaslighting and manipulative bullshit. And because in a country where any run-of-the-mill neoliberal Democrat can be accused of being a “socialist” in a cynical effort to further brainwash and manipulate The American People, a candidate who bravely reclaims these words and redefines their connotations should be applauded for his efforts and encouraged to continue. And because in a country where we’ve been sold what is, in effect, no real substantive change at all as being “realistic, pragmatic, incremental, gradual change;” then actual, real, substantive change and reform is going to take the energy of a revolution to accomplish. So why not harness that energy by using that word? If it’s going to take a revolution for us to get any reform, then shit, let’s call it a revolution. Might as well.
Our view of “reality” in the US is so extremely skewed, perverse, and yes, unrealistic, that its going to take a lot more reclamation and redefinition of these words we’re so fucking scared of for no reason before we can see people like Bernie Sanders for what he truly is, a soft-hearted old man who just wants to do what he can to alleviate at least some of the suffering of his fellow human beings. He tried. And he’s still trying. You may think that the ways in which he is trying are doomed to be ineffective, and you might be right. You might disagree with the way he is going about it. Fine. But the one thing you should not do is expect him to be something he’s not.