As much as we hate putting their names in the same sentence, there is a parallel between the campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump: both candidates are whipping up the enthusiasm of their followers. In Bernie’s case, of course, we see this as wonderful, a genuine progressive movement that could lead the country a long way toward a focus on people rather than profit.
Trump, on the other hand, is whipping up the enthusiasm of the gun-loving white supremacists. At first he was funny, so outrageously out there it was a joke. But then we discover that no, actually, it’s his followers that have the extremely racist and xenophobic world view. Already a Latino homeless man was viciously beat up by two white men in Boston, one of them claiming he had been inspired by Donald Trump.
Does anyone else hear armies gathering?
Every situation is unique, and it’s the very uniqueness of the moment that ultimately defines it. Which is why the pundits incessantly comparing this election to previous elections are just blowing hot air. That said, a glance a history might be instructive. In the 1932 elections in Germany, the Social Democrats (the Sanders of their day) received 22% of the vote. The Communist Party candidate received 14%. Hitler received 37%. (It might have been a good idea for the Communists and Socialists to make common cause against the Nazis (duh!) – as they later did of course – but even so, Hitler beat them 37-36%).
Now the left has thrown the fascist word around almost as much as the right has thrown the word socialism around. And frankly, I’m not a fan of ism-ism. I don’t care what you call it, a riled up mob of racists is not something I am looking forward to facing.
Not to be alarmist or anything.
I didn’t feel this way yesterday. And God knows, I hope I’m wrong. But some of us anyway gather supplies in case of an earthquake, and all of us know we’re supposed to. It might be prudent to be prepared. At this point, I mean politically, not logistically.
What does this mean? It means that we should begin seeing ourselves as an army of the left, at least in terms of the seriousness with which we take the encroaching battle. At this point, it’s still largely a battle of enthusiasms. Reduced to its essence, it’s a battle between Black Lives Matter and White Lives Matter (with all the All Lives Matter folks being in the middle). I hasten to add that these are not parallel movements by any means. Black Lives Matter is the organization of the oppressed fighting for their survival, and, achieving that, their liberation. The white supremacists are doing the work of the Billionaires to keep the racial divisions going to prevent people from uniting against them. Which, given the white supremacist movements deep penetration of the police and criminal justice system, means a lot of Black people are going to die. And with the new hysteria concerning immigrants, they will shortly be followed by Brown people. And then, who’s next?
This means that building the movement to get Bernie Sanders elected president is not just a nice idea, as in wouldn’t that be cool. It’s a matter of life or death. I emphasize the word movement. Bernie says he can’t do it alone, that his whole campaign is about building a movement. It also means that the Sanders movement needs to fully embrace the Black Lives Matter movement. We need to see ourselves as one movement. At least with Trump it should be very clear that the dismantling of systemic racism is the absolutely primary goal. With the markets in free-fall, the scenario I’m describing could develop quickly.