Sanders rails against the 1%, against rising inequality, against the big banks, against the way campaigns are financed, and much else. But we rarely hear him say why there is so much inequality. What are its causes? Why do the billionaires capture most of the nation’s income growth? Might it not be just as reasonable to argue that dedicated activists within the working class, through years of hard and tireless efforts had already built militant, albeit not radical organizations, and it has been these that have energized the Sanders’ campaign and not the other way around? And even if we suppose that it is the candidate who has galvanized the workers, won’t the new recruits be spending their time for the foreseeable future trying to win converts to the election cause? When exactly will the movement building begin?
If Sanders and his supporters genuinely wanted a “political revolution,” wouldn’t his campaign be a process of radical education. No political event, no protest, no rally would be fail to have an educational component. Sanders’ talking points could be used to deepen understanding, by asking questions and pushing the discussions toward fundamental causes. And connections between inequality and a host of other problems, including the environmental catastrophes that threaten the viability of human life itself, would be made so people grasp that it is capitalism that is the root cause of all social ills. Sanders’ version of “socialism” is capitalism with a stronger social safety net and stricter government regulation of business and for him qualifies as socialism. A social movement has a larger aim that settling just particular grievances. It is not enough to protest discrimination and inequalities that are embedded in the economic, political, and socio-cultural institutions, even though such protest is essential. Instead, we need to practice self-reflective collective action that benefits not only our fellow citizens but also those struggling around the globe for social justice and environmental security.
Unlike workers who have only their own personal voice to influence conditions, a workers’ movement uses its collective organization to make change. It is impossible to cure all the ills of capitalism by gradual piecemeal reforms. The problems too far wide spread across the whole political and economic spectrum. To carry the fight forward we must be demanding together, an end to capitalist domination over our lives.
Attaching the label of “movement” to the Sanders’ campaign mistakes appearance for reality. Sanders’ rallies have certainly attracted large crowds – even larger than those of Obama in 2008. But an audience is not a movement. In order to create a movement people must belong to an on-going organization where they participate in the important decision-making of that organization. In this way they play a significant role in defining the direction of the organization, and thus it becomes a part of their own identity as well. Even more, they establish relations with one another where they discuss and debate issues of policy, allow themselves to be influenced by the arguments of others, and influence them in turn. Participants are transformed from isolated individuals into members of a collective will. The Bernie Sanders campaign is top-down — like virtually all institutions in capitalist society — where Sanders dictates policy to his supporters. He is operating within the Democratic Party, an entirely top-down organization that offers little more than lip service to working people. Although Sanders was elected as a U.S. Senator, no one elected him to run for president, and he is not accountable to his supporters in his campaign for president. Sanders has borrowed the rhetoric of democracy while waging an undemocratic campaign in an undemocratic party surrounded by an undemocratic economy. Even in the very unlikely event that he was to win the presidency, Sanders’ would go very little further than Obama in producing “change.” Sanders is a flawed candidate to a flawed electoral system that is designed to prevent the ruling elite from losing political power.
When anyone enters the voting booth, he or she is free to cast a private ballot for any candidate he favors. On the surface, this seems rather obvious, and easy. We each privately vote for the candidate we wish to support. We choose based on our preferences. We call this “voting correctly.” So we vote correctly, right? Well, maybe not. Over the past 10 US presidential elections, an average of 26 percent of voters admit to voting incorrectly – that is, for a candidate who doesn’t actually match their political beliefs or expectations. In primaries, when candidates all share the same party affiliation, the percentage of incorrect votes is far higher. In primaries and elections, many people aren’t getting what they think they’re voting for.
Why do a quarter of voters end up picking candidates that don’t match up with their own opinions? When people end up voting incorrectly, it’s typically because they’ve made assumptions based on little information and/or faulty impressions. In striving to vote correctly, the most useful connection question is not “how much do I like or relate to the candidates' personalities?” Instead, the very best question may be “what is each candidate’s vision for the future, and how will they work with others to achieve it?”
“It is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don't want and get it.” Eugene V. Debs