It’ll be one of the great mysteries of the historically-long, never-ending 2016 primary season: “what went wrong with Bernie’s revolution?” Yes, how did the “shocking” defeat of a candidate who was never leading in a single poll happen? Now I have my own theories about that (which I’ll be happy to get into later this week, hey, gotta fill the time some kind-of way). For now, I’d like to focus on the second, logical half of that question: “Why did Bernie’s revolution fail while Trump’s succeeded?”
I’d just like to point out the simple, base truth that Democrats Don’t Need a Revolution, Republicans Do. Trump is an unqualified, brash tabloid figure whose positions range from nebulous (most of his issues, that change depending on who he’s talking to) to set-in-stone ones you wish he didn’t mean. Yet there’s no denying he wound up in the exact right place at the right time: a Republican Party that is as an obstructionist boil on the ass of America and is in desperate need of popping.
Sure, he’s doing it by playing up racial divisions, no question. But there’s also little question that the Republican Party would be dog-whistling racist sentiments with or without Trump. [Cruz and Rubio are the kids of Cuban immigrants, and they spent every debate arguing over who will deport more Latino immigrants and do it faster.] What Trump is also doing (or pretending to do) is speak to the white working class Republicans have taken for granted. And what he’s really doing is hammering “the political class” of foppish, entitled heirs—of which Jeb Bush is perhaps straight out of central casting for as the perfect foil—and “do nothing” politicians. At a time when we have the least productive congress since The Civil War, it’s a message that can’t help but resonate in a party that’s causing the problem.
Republican party officials have grown dumb enough to believe that Americans actually want small government. [They don’t, and never really have.] While Trump can see that a party that talks “small government” while wanting a huge military, the world’s biggest economy, socially conservative laws, and always backs the police over civilians was ripe for a Teddy Roosevelt/Andrew-Jackson-style takeover: the big dick president getting stuff done vs. a congress of pouting, worthless nay-sayers. [Of which Ted Cruz is straight out of central casting for that role.] Watching Trump take down the Cruzs and Roves and Bushes and Kochs delivers the cathartic excitement people have been waiting for, and if it were any other man alive doing it, I think Trump would be getting more credit from liberals for effectively reforming/destroying the existing, beyond-toxic Republican Party.
Bernie’s message of “revolution” to fix the problems inside the Democratic Party assumes that there is a problem inside the Democratic Party. It assumes that Democrats actually want to spend hours of their week fundraising or that they personally lobbied for Citizens United or that they just have no interest in actually backing poor people over “the millionaire and billionaire class.” As Hillary famously said “We tried to pass the Public Option when [Obamacare] was first being drafted, and we couldn’t get the votes.” Bernie is assuming—wrongly—that the only impediment to everything liberals want is them not wanting it badly enough or—worse—a corrupt, big money loving DNC that is actually a stealth Republican Party.
You can’t look at all the good Obama, and Clinton, and Carter, and LBJ, and even Bernie’s hero FDR have done and not see the fingerprints of the DNC all over it. Democrats have not been “sold out.” They have been held-hostage by a Republican Party that routinely raises multiple times more money than they do. If Bernie’s revolution had started inside the Republican Party, he’d be a hero. The fact that it’s dividing the party that actually works makes it an unnecessary distraction.
It’s easy to forget that Democrats are actually not in power: they are not in control of the Senate, the House, the Supreme Court, two-thirds of state legislatures and Governorships, and are at their lowest point numbers-wise since the 1920s. Yet Bernie acts like Dems are omnipotent and the country’s failures are because they simply haven’t wanted things bad enough. It’s inexcusably naive and divisive and too-often lets Republicans off the hook. To paraphrase the famous line: if it ain’t broke, don’t have a Revolution for it.