The only thing keeping Hillary alive right now is the large faction of Democrats who prefer Bernie’s platform but think Hillary is more electable.
The belief in Hillary’s electability is based in a set of theories about the American electorate that held true from roughly 1968-2006, but have since lost their explanatory power.
The conventional political wisdom says that Americans will always believe themselves to be capitalists waging a Cold War with communism. It says that Reagan ushered in a permanent conservative political era, and that leftist candidates are forever doomed to lose McGovern style. It says that to win the presidency, politicians must appeal to the “center” and get the financial backing of the corrupt, corporate establishment.
This is no longer true. The times have changed.
In the past 15 years, we’ve had the failed Iraq war, the crash of 2008, and the blossoming of the internet; climate change has become an undeniable fact and gay rights and marijuana legalization have become mainstream. These factors, and many more, have contributed to a total re-shaping of the American political landscape.
The American ideological distribution has polarized. Centrists are rapidly evaporating. And this is in spite of the fact that there are now almost as many independents as Republicans and Democrats combined.
In the past 8 years, we’ve seen 5 massive political movements: Obama in ’08, the Tea Party in ’09, Occupy Wall Street in ’11, Black Lives Matter in ’15, and now Bernie’s movement in ’16. We haven’t seen political movements like this since the 60’s.
What this all points to is a widespread and deep dissatisfaction with centrist, establishment politics. The success of Sanders, Trump and Cruz is evidence of this fact. They offer the two competing explanations for why establishment politics and economics have failed.
The explanation on the right is that Bush, Bush Sr., Reagan and Nixon all weren’t conservative enough. They believe it is all these immigrants, gays, PC-liberals, Muslims, blacks and Mexicans that are destroying America. They believe we need to make America great again by returning to the “good ‘ol days” (aka white-man America). Needless to say, the right is wrong.
The explanation on the left is that the past 40 years have proven the failure of neo-liberal economics and hawkish foreign policies. The belief is that we need to return to European/Roosevelt style economics and diplomacy based foreign policy. Needless to say, the left is right.
Millenials are the first generation to accept this fact. We are Bernie’s internet army. We are the reason Bernie has continued winning, even as the entire mainstream media has only ignored and mocked him.
Creative commons courtesy of Gage Skidmore
Millenials are really good at collectively spreading Bernie’s message and destroying counter-narratives. Consider that in just 9 months we have succeeded in making democratic socialism a permanent fixture of American politics. We got the DNC to reverse their decision overnight on locking Bernie’s campaign out of the voter databases. And it took us about a week to squash the narrative that Hillary is the choice feminist candidate.
We are currently in the process of dismantling the narrative of Hillary’s African-American firewall. The signs are there: Michelle Alexander, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Cornell West, Erica Garner, and Shaun King have all recently spoken out in favor of Bernie.
Politics is now real time. As media narratives arise, the internet responds to them – and very effectively. The establishment may control TV and newspapers, but millenials control the internet – and that’s why we are winning. We control the comment sections. We have thousands of prominent pro-Bernie social media pages that are generating millions and millions of views every single day.
Howard Dean was heralded in 2004 for revolutionizing politics by using the internet. Obama was similarly hailed as a digital innovator in 2008. Bernie has now broken Obama’s fundraising records. He raised $3M in the 24 hours after Iowa and then $6.4M in the 24 hours after NH. He received more votes in the NH primary than any politician in history.
So let’s be clear, it never was Dean, Obama or Bernie that broke those records and revolutionized politics; it is the internet-left that has repeatedly started these movements. We are the ones changing the rules of politics.
Conventional political wisdom said that Obama, a black man with Hussein as a middle name, couldn’t become president. It said Trump couldn’t win Republican primaries while insulting veterans, making sexist comments about Fox News anchors, and saying racist things about blacks and Mexicans. It said that a Jewish democratic-socialist could never be more than an obscure fringe candidate.
Conventional political wisdom is dead.
In the new political world, Hillary is no longer the safe bet; she is the liability that embodies the failed political past.
It’s one thing to fight against Bernie’s revolution because you don’t believe in the cause. It’s another thing to believe in the cause, but to fight it because you believe in an outdated set of theories about the American electorate.
The rules of politics have changed.
It is time to stop asking “how can Bernie succeed?” and start asking: “how can I help Bernie succeed?”
2 thoughts on “The Rules of Politics Have Changed”
I don’t think the liberal-conservative divide is very useful when 20% of Democrats are open to Trump and Sanders won the write-in vote in the NH Republican primary with over 2,000 supporters. A class-based analysis I think is more useful: https://pplswar.wordpress.com/2016/02/17/the-class-roots-of-trumps-and-sanders-startling-success/
Yes this is very true… I definitely glossed over what the new ideological dividing lines are and definitely gave a misleading impression by using that chart. Ultimately I didn’t want to get into what you write about here, which is totally valid, so I mostly just tried to focus on calling into question the old wisdom rather than presenting a theory for what the new wisdom is.
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