When Democratic politicians and their supportive pundits in the media accuse progressives and the Left of being “divisive,” they are ultimately the ones who are dividing. Whether consciously or not, they are asking voters to simply fall in line with their agenda―even if the voters disagree with that agenda. This is an expression of power more than an expression of justice.
It is pretty simple to see that mainstream Democrats and establishment media pundits are more concerned with blind loyalty than actual unity. Just look at the agenda of those who fought against Bernie Sanders and his supporters, and continue to do so.
Bernie Sanders was very popular in his home state of Vermont and was successful there largely due to his ability to listen to his constituents and work for them, and then reflect back in policy the solutions they wanted. Sanders was then a populist candidate for president (there’s no denying that, even if you don’t like him) and by some polls he is now the most popular politician in the country. If the goal were to “unite” the people, it would seem wise to let this person play a large role in the unification process―rather than fight so desperately against him, as the mainstream Democrats (who cry “unity”) are still doing.
The reasons underlying Bernie Sanders’ popularity are more important than the fact of his popularity. Sanders has been popular not because he rides around on a unicycle while juggling bowling pins and offering free unicorns to millennials, like some in the corporate media and political establishment have fantastically imagined (and disingenuously propagated). Bernie Sanders is not an entertainer, and he is not “promising free stuff” (unless a more efficient and preferential use of our own tax dollars is “free stuff.”)
Bernie Sanders’ popularity is due to his integrity; his decades of earnestly speaking truth to power; and the fact that his positions have been, more than any other high profile politician in recent times, shared by the majority of the American public.
Polls have confirmed over and over again that what we call “progressive” policy is largely just popular opinion. The public has a desire for programs that most people already enjoy in Europe and many other countries around the world. Sanders’ 2016 platform, criticized by the media as pie-in-the-sky, was more aligned with public polling than anyone else’s platform.
Is it really so hard to believe? People want paid sick and maternity leave. People want big money out of politics. People want a living wage. Students want to be free of debt after they get an education. Women want their “whole damn dollar.” And so on. These are the issues around which Sanders “united” so many in this nation, in a relatively short period of time.
The truth is that people in foreign countries (imagine caring about them politically) want shelter and self-determination, not bombs and US-installed dictatorships. The movement grows in the US against our industrial war machine, so an anti-war party (war as a last resort, rather than a fundamental part of our economic strategy) would certainly be something to unify around.
Everyone wants healthcare, and no one wants to lose it. The current moment in healthcare is a wonderful glimpse into the establishment call for unity. If the Democratic establishment were so concerned with “unity,” they would be jumping for joy that Medicare-For-All could unite the Left and the American people.
Healthcare, this one issue, almost on its own could make the Democratic Party strong again. It could bring millions of former Democratic voters back on board, spurring mass enthusiasm and leading the way to a true grassroots party.
And it is the right thing to do, from any angle, moral or economic. The evidence is overwhelming that Medicare-for-All would cost less, treat more, and improve health outcomes. If the establishment really wanted unity, like they say, single-payer at this moment in time is a political no-brainer.
Yet inconsistent with their calls for unity, single-payer is rejected or simply brushed aside by the powerful establishment. Jimmy Dore in a recent segment criticizes Al Franken, one of the most “left-leaning” Democratic politicians, who won’t even spare a moment to affirm support for single-payer. Dore says that unless you are bought, “you should take every instance, every chance you get, to make your case for single-payer.”
That is indeed what a real leader and “uniter” would do. In fact, someone truly concerned with uniting the people might even ask them what they think is the best way forward.
These are very simple and popular positions around which “we the people” could unite. Yet look how few politicians and pundits openly support these policies and principles, and genuinely fight for them.
Finally, and certainly non-negotiable, everyone who wants to, uh, live, wants a healthy and habitable planet. Why not unite around this big idea and a bold plan of action for securing our future?
The scientific evidence is overwhelming. Scientists are in great consensus that climate change is real, it is caused by human activity, and most of the damage is being done by the fossil fuel industry (specifically) and large corporations (generally). Yet those who cry for party unity do not seem willing to stand up to the real perpetrators of climate change, instead preferring to maintain fracking, shoot down the carbon tax, and keep a lightly-regulated corporate stranglehold on the industry. That is supposed to unite us? Inspire us?
The political and media establishment do not appear capable of articulating or even endorsing a bigger vision―exemplified, for example, in Canada’s Leap Manifesto. Imagine how much the American people could unite around such a simple and common-sense document as this (check it out)? One that is also powerful, revolutionary, and spans ideological lines?
As we see every day, even with great questions of human civilization on the line, the establishment is only willing to ask, beg, and demand for unity. They are, however, clearly unwilling to take the necessary actions for it.
They don’t want unity, they want allegiance. They want us to fall in line with whatever they’ve bought and whatever they’re now selling. Some of these pundits and politicians may truly care, in a certain way―they are still human, after all. But that doesn’t mean they’re doing the right thing.
They are doing the wrong thing. If the powerful establishment really wants unity, it is time for them to bend the knee to us: the public.
As public servants, that’s what they’re supposed to do. Otherwise, why would we vest power in them?