The problem with political campaigns in a democracy is very similar to the problems faced by the Red Faction Army (the group of urban guerrilas that the press labeled the Baader-Meinhof gang). The RFA began attacking industrialists and policemen because they believed Germany was still a proto-Nazi state and they wanted to bring about a revolution. Put off to one side the lunacy of the tactic – this, at least, is what they believed and how they acted. But – as was inevitable – certain of their comrades were captured and imprisoned. A true Red Faction Army would shrug and recruit more. But instead, the RFA turned from militating for Revolution to directing all their efforts to freeing their comrades. Freeing their comrades meant nothing to anybody but the RFA. In the moment they turned to that activity, letting, as it were, the feudal value of group loyalty trump revolutionary activism, they were lost not only as revolutionaries but as anything but another pathological criminal gang.
Brecht’s Three penny opera gets the criminal mindset down – these people are the bulwark of the capitalist system, its truest believers.
Similarly, campaigns start out ostensibly not just to elect person X, but to institute those changes in the lives of the electors that X believes are warrented.
Yet, very soon after the campaign starts, candidates start bickering about the campaign itself, the campaign their opponent is running. This is understandable, but it is also tactically advantageous to the candidate who most wants to stick with the status quo.
This is why, I think, Clinton’s supporters in the press seem much more obsessed with Bernie Bros than with, say, the lead in the water of Flint Michigan. Clinton herself made a very good speech about Flint, and in a debate pledged to get the lead out of water and paint within five years if she was elected. An excellent pledge, and one she should hammer on. But instead of that hammering, Clinton’s followers are still doing the rounds on Bernie Bros, even after polls have shown that in Sanders’s strongest demographic, the 18 – 35 set, women outnumber men by a considerable number. That is according to the latest poll on these things by USA today: “Millennial women now back Sanders by a jaw-dropping 61%-30% while the divide among Millennial men is much closer, 48%-44%.”
In any case, while there are surely thousands of Sanders’ supporters who are all about sexism, Sanders isn’t. And there are millions of Sanders’ supporters who are not about sexism – in fact, these supporters view Sanders the way Gloria Steinem once described him (when he was running for the Senate): as an honorary woman. Trust Steinem to put a sentiment cringeworthily.
Still, who cares? What matters, obviously, is what Sanders and Clinton propose to do for the vast majority of men and women in the US and – given the onerous presence of the US around the world – in the middle east, South America, Asia, etc. What’s in it for the teacher in my son Adam’s class, or the woman who is on her feet eight hours a day as the cashier at the local Vons? Cause really, that is all I care about. I don’t care about freeing prisoners of the campaign. I care about inverting the structures of oppression and bondage that crush our imagination and emotional capicity every day of our lives in this moment.