Sunday, September 13, 2015

Bernie Sanders, Jon Stewart, Cornel West & Barack Obama

Jon Stewart. Yummy. Incisive intellect, fearlessness and creativity. Humble about himself and physically uninhibited. Fab to look at. And of course he's a liberal. Utterly delicious altogether. Totally irreplaceable. 

I like what he said about Bernie Sanders. “We’ve all become so accustomed to stage-managed, focus-group driven candidates that authenticity comes across as lunacy.” Ain’t that the truth. As always, Stewart illustrated his point beautifully in this clip.

Sanders says all the right things and seems completely uncalculating, but recently I’ve wondered. The jury’s out.

He has an incisive intellect. He’s also courageous, passionate, and is physically uninhibited. Appearances don’t count for him. What’s not to like and admire? 

If I was American he would have had my vote until I saw what he said on MSNBC, that he won’t repeat Obama’s biggest mistake, namely that after his brilliant campaign in 2008 he basically said to the voters ‘thanks for electing me; I’ll take it from here’.

I did a double take on that. Actually, this is [part of] what Obama said in his victory speech in 2008:

“The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term… There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as president. And we know the government can't solve every problem…

This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were.  It can't happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice. So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.

Let us remember that, if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers. In this country, we rise or fall as one nation, as one people. Let's resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.”

The ultimate truth-teller. He’s always said he can’t do it alone, that the road to change would be long and difficult but that together ‘we can’. He’s reiterated that message perpetually. It falls on deaf ears a lot of the time. I guess people don’t want to hear it.

Apparently Bernie Sanders doesn’t want to hear it either. He’s promising that when he’s president he’ll work with millions of Americans in a political revolution. He’s not acknowledging that Obama offered the same deal—which the people thought they wanted but actually they didn’t, perhaps because the reality isn’t as much fun as the idea of it.

What Obama inherited, together with a GOP Congress, are the root cause of what’s still wrong with America; it’s got nothing to do with Obama not being willing to work with the electorate. Who expected Obama to do it all in a day and blamed him when he couldn’t, then enabled a GOP Congress in 2012? The voters. Who allowed the country to fall into the hands of big corporates in the first place? Who allowed GW Bush to win? The voters. Nobody's stopping them from waking up except themselves.

A political revolution is about people freeing themselves from leaders who won't allow them their rights. That's very different from people who don’t want the hard work of keeping politicians in line, don't want to be responsible for their own actions, unrealistic expectations, fears and prejudices.

Obama has worked assiduously, with superhuman willingness, integrity, depth of understanding and focus, in the face of ongoing and phenomenal obstacles, to bring America back from the black hole. 

He’s done everything he could to not work alone. 

The country is doing better than any other country in the world affected by the Recession and there is unprecedented social change on pretty much every front—because of his leadership. He doesn't rest on his laurels, though. He continually says “it’s not enough.” 

Why doesn’t every voter acknowledge it and face the truth—that they are responsible for the problems that still exist, not him?

It’s not new that the electorate doesn’t want to take responsibility for maintaining democracy. It’s a human thing. We want our lives to change but we don’t want to face whatever we’re doing that creates that life. Change is hard. Obama acknowledges that.

Sanders doesn’t. He’s telling Americans that together they’ll create a political revolution as if it's the easiest thing in the world and then he slips in “I’ll do what Obama couldn’t, wouldn’t or didn’t.” The unspoken message is “It’s not your fault, it’s his fault.” That’s heady stuff, pretty seductive, but it isn’t truthful. 

More disturbing though is Sanders’ acceptance of Dr. Cornel West’s endorsement. West is a professor at Union West Theological Seminary, well known for his vitriolic diatribes against Obama, who he called the first niggarized President after Obama said this about racism to Marc Maron: 

“The legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution of our lives, you know, that casts a long shadow, and that's still part of our DNA... 

Racism, we are not cured of it, clearly. And it's not just a matter of it not being polite to say nigger in public. That's not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It's not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don't, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior.”

That seems pretty accurate. Not to West though, who has also called Obama ‘counterfeit’ and ‘the black face of the American empire’.  It’s not the truth about Obama; it’s West’s interpretation and he seems to have quite a chip on his shoulder—which is understandable, but dangerous in a leader of any sort.

So why is Sanders aligning himself with him? the obvious answer is that he needs the African American vote. By choosing West he can say he respects and admires Obama, but also garner the votes of people who hate/scapegoat the President. 

Is that deliberate? I don't know. I hope not. But roiling around in my brain are those uncomfortable words 'double standards'.

Sanders and Obama are both intelligent, passionate, courageous, authentic men. Sanders is genuine in what he says and believes and he deserves the admiration and respect he's gotten for it. In today's political climate he's a giant. But so is Obama and he's paid dearly in many ways for standing his ground. I wish Sanders could acknowledge that and veer away from seeking votes from people who can't see it and who scapegoat Obama.