Oh, Bernie. Bernie, Bernie, Bernie. Beloved of the millennials, Killer Mike and the songbirds. Bernie the idealist. Bernie the street activist. Bernie who couldhave beaten Donald Trump. Why do you let me down so?
You probably – or improbably, given how right-wing the South African reading public is – remember Senator Bernard Sanders as that dimunitive Jewish socialist who lost the Democratic nomation to Hillary Clinton at some point this year. You know, the man who waved his arms about a lot, yelled about inequality and Wall Street. The man Larry David was born to satirise on Saturday Night Live. Well, if you're a socialist and care even a bit for global affairs, then you may at some point have thought to yourself, "I kind of like Bernie..."
And what wasn't there to love? He cares about the working class. He thinks that the world is being bought and sold by the elite, to the detriment of everyone else. He once got arrested for protesting segregation! He's an old school socialist! In AMERICA!!! He ran on a platform of free college education, narrowing the income gap, public investment to create jobs, restoring a people's democracy as opposed to the glorified oligarch that the USA currently is, women's rights, a living wage, LGBTQI equality, empowering America's First Peoples, an expansion of social security, reforming Wall Street, and on and on. You know, everything that you have been told by a rich man at some point was dumb and unattainable. (And I can't stress this enough, the songbirds love him too.)
And he ran against Clinton, an Establishment Democrat, perhaps the Establishment Democrat, leaving aside Chuck Schumer. Someone who offered layers upon layers of complexity and inch-forward-progress in the age of street revolution. Someone who promised to do a little bit better when the people wanted to flush the whole thing down the toilet. Someone who literally shooshed #BlackLivesMatter. Someone who promised to keep Barack Obama's vast surveillance programmes, illegal covert wars and cozy relationship with Wall Street and Silicon Valley brodude billionaires.
Bernie was the world's cool grandpa. He told us to dream big. We shouldn't have trusted him.
It is important to tell children they can be whatever they wish to be, so that they will learn not to trust authority figures.#Twertzog— Slavoj Tweezek (@SlavojTweezek) September 5, 2016
He didn't let me down when he lost to Clinton. The Democratic election was so laughably rigged that he never really stood a chance. He took the L like a boss, and told America that faced with the Republican nominee, a sentient 4chan meme, as the only other choice, he was going with Clinton. There's nothing to argue about there. There are not enough superlatives to describe what a screaming disaster Donald Trump was, even before he won. There is no way that a reasonable human being looks at those two and chooses the swastika-emblazoned bag of Doritos dust.
No, Bernie lost me when he said that he could countenance an alliance with Trump if he decided to take on Wall Street. He said, "If Mr. Trump has the guts to stand up to those corporations, he will have an ally with me."
Is Bernie seriously blind to the fact that Trump could not have won without stoking the flames of white supremacy that bubble beneath the surface of American society?
This cannot be stressed enough: there cannot be any workable alliance with this wildly racist, misogynistic crook who has done everything in his power to alienate, smear and otherwise engender hatred against practically every minority group in America. Is Bernie seriously blind to the fact that Trump could not have won without stoking the flames of white supremacy that bubble beneath the surface of American society? Well, the brutal facts are that there is no winning Trump's white working class without first confronting and defeating the spectre of white supremacy that led them to choose racial rather than class solidarity in this, and so many previous elections. Yes, the white working class can be won back to the left again, but not without requiring them to abandon white supremacy first.
Trump does not care about Bernie's constituency. Dear Bernie is an idealist, and I will always love him for it, but this is folly. Trump is going to be a disaster for the working class and all marginalised peoples.
This is a good point to segue to my other beloved idealist, Slavoj Žižek. Man, Žižek done brung me up. Remember that old Communist Party ditty: my mother was a kitchen girl, my father was a garden boy, that's why I'm a khomanisi? That's me, minus any connection to any organised progressive movements in my childhood (thanks to growing up deep in IFP country). Studying Living In The End Times was my university.
What in the hell is he doing saying that Trump is the option he'd choose in the US elections?
Look, generally speaking I get his point. A Clinton presidency represented a genuine threat to global progressive forces, and had she won, we would have needed to mobilise to defeat her plans. And she also stands for what is generally wrong with the global balance of forces. But again, what kind of a mad psychopath thinks that Trump was a 'better' option?
Yes yes yes, Žižek objects. Trump is horrifying and he's a bigot and all of that. But he represents a break from an oppressive global power structure and all of that and we should view it as an opportunity and so on and so forth.
Except no. Žižek, check your privilege for God's sake. First of all, precisely what is your reading of a Trump presidency? That he hastens the sharpening of capitalism's contradictions? It is one thing to analyse and conclude, as one ought to, that the conditions for revolution are baked into capitalism's inherent collapsing nature. It is another thing entirely to seek to hasten the sharpening of these contradictions. That is Stalinism. Here be dragons. A disastrous Trump presidency may be gratifying in this detached, mischevious sort of way if his plans don't pose an existential threat to you. I imagine the idea is less funny to Mexican Americans, African Americans, female Americans, and so on.
I suppose Žižek wouldn't be a true philosopher if he didn't turn into a cantankerous troll in his old age.
Oh well. I'll always keep his beautiful elucidation of trolling (and the creation of the revolutionary being): "The truth we are dealing with here is not 'objective' truth, but the self-relating truth about one's own subjective position; as such, it is an engaged truth, measured not by its factual accuracy but by the way it affects the subjective position of enunciation... This is also how one should (re)read Marx's Thesis XI: the 'test' of Marxist theory is the truth-effect it unleashes in its addresses (the proletarian) in transforming them into revolutionary subjects".