If History Repeats Itself, Who Is Bernie Sanders?

Bernie Sanders is like Jefferson or Adams defying the King of England at the very beginning of the American Revolution. Many upstanding and reasonable citizens felt that it was far too impractical, too radical, or just plain mad (because of the violence that would ensue) to seek such independence.

Now present day corporations and other powerful elite constituencies that heavily influence American politics and economics are basically just as corrupt and restrictive as England was on the Colonies back then. A crucial difference is that it's not a matter of land and course taxes, but plausibly deniable subjugation that runs deep at the systemic level, while parading a story of progress and western, white, humanistic triumph (it is everything but humanistic).

Behind the scenes, Hillary may personally detest the overall circumstances we are in, she may have a strong conscience and simply feel justified in "doing what needs to be done," as the saying goes. This is also the view of many practical and centrist-progressive folks who really like Bernie, but feel he will wreak havoc, just like the pre-States Continental Congress members refused to support the revolution even as they sympathized with the cause.

The problem with Clinton and her centrist-progressive supporters, like the ambivalent pre-States Congress members, is that they respect and cooperate far too much with these overarching powers. This yields a defeated politics, where supporters practically, if unwittingly, accept and enable the pervasive influence of a detestably wealthy and astoundingly small minority (you know, that small portion--1/10th of the one-percent--possessing more wealth than 90% of the nation, as Sanders likes to repeatedly call out). "What other choice do we have?" ask the realists, libertines and centrist-progressives? "We've got to be practical," they plea. "We've got to be realists," they swear.

It's a strange predicament - so many American commentators and friends preaching the pragmatic gospel, as if everyone else is totally missing the boat, either gone crazy or fascist. Historically speaking, it's worth noting that pragmatism was not central to the nation's core political principles, practices, civic virtues and distinguishing features; at least, not in an explicitly formulated way since it didn't yet exist. Can you imagine what striking persuasive force pragmatism would have had on the pre-States Continental Congress? Surely, we'd have delayed Independence indefinitely!

It was not pragmatism or a species of realism that defined the American way of life and political landscape in its beginnings. Rather, it was Republicanism (which essentially means making civic engagement indispensable to governmental agency, organization and legislation), old-fashion liberalism and ongoing civic procedures for interrogating and ending corruption and subjugation--these were some of the founding principles, practices and virtues that distinguished the American political landscape.

However the nomination trajectory unfolds, Bernie's dynamic influence has only just begun in terms of future potentials of revamping and empowering American democracy and civic life. In the wake of Sanders, I am convinced that we will see many initiatives and even a movement spawned, one that mobilizes vibrantly around Sanders' mission and voice. Further, as Senator (rather than President) he and his Team could have serious impact in the Senate; they would also be far more available for fostering ground-up change in robust, organized ways that are directly motivated by Sanders' uncompromising moral vision and sober commitment to social transformation and justice.