Law in Contemporary Society

Thurman Arnold and the Bernie Sanders Revolution

-- By JohnsonD -

Getting the dragon out of his cave

Bernie Sanders uses the word revolution to define a political awakening where millions of Americans will rise up against their corporate masters and bring about a new era of democratic socialist politics. The question remains whether this new democratic socialist organization within the Democratic party will find political success in this election or in the near future.

As Holmes noted, there is no working out of our system from general axioms of conduct. We must therefore reject attempts to look to principles, or doctrine, or history for guidance, rather we must assess in what ways the structure of the system changes in the here and now, and why, at this time, the creeds of democratic socialism are finding more currency in the Democratic party than in any time in recent memory. We can then use our findings to predict whether this new acceptance of democratic socialist creeds represents a permanent change in the direction of the party itself or a momentary aberration.

Are we all socialists now?

It is clear that Sanders has struck a chord with many young and disenfranchised voters, but the seeds of his revolution, and the reintroduction of democratic socialist ideas into American society were planted long before his candidacy. The economic crash of 2008 and the failures of the Bush II administration weakened the creed of free enterprises which had long maintained that capitalism was the most rational and logical way to organize a nation’s economy, and that any “Thinking Man” would, through dispassionate study, come to see capitalism’s superiority as a universal truth. Further, the dissolution of the Soviet Union –our most threatening economic competitor – meant that there was no ready-made national foe to which critics of socialism could weaponized when the “heresy” of government action was proposed. These phenomena softened the silencing power of the socialist label on the left and brought back a political faction that had been suppressed under the weight of the old creeds.

Most importantly the crash signaled a reckoning with the right wing social and economic policies of the last few decades that had weakened government services and allowed capitalism to flourish unfettered. The promises of post-New Deal, post WWII “American Dream,” including affordable education, jobs for Americans willing to work them, and pension programs for the elderly and ill, essentially evaporated during this period.

After 2008, America experienced a leftward shift on social issues and saw the passage of legislation such as T.A.R.P and The ACA. These slight expansions of government power emboldened the democratic socialist wing of the Democratic party who felt these policies did not go nearly far enough in fixing the nation’s problems. This wing was accepted by Democratic voters because its creeds were familiar to their own and thus seemed harmless to the long-term health of the organization. Politicians like Bernie Sanders promised to replace quasi- socialist corporatist schemes like the ACA with true socialist programs like UHC.

A semi respectable wing

By focusing on purity and true belief Sanders gives voice to this new semi-respectable wing of the Democratic party. But as a semi respectable wing, his coalition currently lacks the necessary attributes to succeed in American politics. Sanders supporters make the mistake of believing that the creeds (both his and the Democratic party’s) matters more than the organization. But merely pointing out the contradictions of an organization’s creeds is not helpful because all creeds of successful organizations are inherently contradictory, they are incantations that tell us little about how an organization will actually operate. Arnold notes that in revolutions “ideas are advanced by “focusing attention on actual possibility of practical realization” (Arnold 13). Arnold also notes how organizational creeds are often purposefully disjointed. The contradiction resulting from these creeds is what allows them to be accepted by a large enough majority as to make the organization political viable.

This observation still holds true today. If an organization is to gain ascendency, then it must be interested in winning, and it is difficult, likely impossible to win right now with a platform as pure as Sanders’, and an organization as weak as Sanders’. Sanders misstepped by initially doing little to combat his image as a fringe candidate only running to push the eventual nominee to the left ideologically. By the time he realized he had a chance to win, he had already made so many political miscalculations that it was impossible to catch up in actual votes.

It is what it does

Sanders supporters may feel disappointed at the fact their candidate has no real chance at winning the nomination. If his supporters could focus on the organizations more than the creeds then they might see that America has made progress from a leftward perspective in recent years, and would likely continue to make such progress under Hillary Clinton. Placing an emphasis on purity may very well put that progress in jeopardy by allowing the right to reinstitute many of the policies that lead us to the situation in which the country currently finds itself.

Of course a scenario could arise that would leave democratic socialist ideas dormant for another 70 years, but based on the direction politics is currently headed, social democratic ideas are not likely going away. it is only a matter of time before the ideas gain enough strength to actually change the creeds of the Democratic party. The visible failures of unfettered capitalism, and demographic shifts along the lines of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and language increase the likelihood that soon a new generation of Americans will rise with a set of mythologies and creeds more receptive to democratic socialism. People like Sanders help this process along by introducing ideas into the mainstream. We may soon see a leader who can actually pull off what Sanders has attempted, expanding the electorate and bringing social democratic policies to America.

Word count: 988


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r5 - 13 Jun 2016 - 20:50:50 - JohnsonD
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