The First Parish Blog

The New American Revolution: Role of the “Bern” in the massive social movement it will take

By , Published on August 5, 2016

Americans have an unreserved admiration in our historical mythical memories of the American Revolution that separated us from the totalitarian grip of the English throne.  “Taxation without representation,” the Patriots cried.  Creatures of their time, the nation’s founding fathers didn’t take into account all the peoples they were excluding from their representational scheme.

Is it not appropriate to launch a New American Revolution that will codify in law an inclusive society that embraces everyone equally?  The Clinton and Sanders campaigns worked successfully in the weeks before the convention to hammer out the most progressive Democratic Party platform in history.  It contains many of the key ideas that Bernie held out as revolutionary.  The obvious problem now is how to make it happen?  How to keep it from being ignored on the dusty shelves of history?

As a first step imagine that if Bernie had been able to win the nomination and become the President, his attention would have been massively distracted by all issues the nation faces and selecting the people to help him deal with them.  For example, think of how to manage the military with its more than 700 bases around the globe and its manufacturing and lobbying tentacles in all fifty states.  Lacking his electrifying leadership the social movement he mobilized would lose its force. 

Looking back to the day Barack Obama became President, we can only imagine how his head was spinning to keep track of all he had to deal with, including the fact that he was the first black President who couldn’t be seen to favor “his own people.”  He also had a vision to mobilize a social movement throughout the country, which he didn’t have the time or attention to awaken and maintain.  Lacking Bernie-like external leadership, the movement never reached critical mass.

And, though he accomplished a great deal, he couldn’t keep priority focus on many of the issues the country faced.  Think, for example of his deporting hundreds of thousands of immigrants each year, many of whom had valid claims for asylum.  His administration’s policy of imprisoning and deporting two million immigrants had the effect of breaking up a multitude of families—which certainly didn’t fit his core values or even the rights of asylum-seekers under international law.  Short of a Bernie-like social avalanche there was nothing sufficient to stop Obama’s destructive detention and deportation policies.

Hillary Clinton, one of the signatories of the Democratic platform, will similarly find her head spinning.  For starters, she represents another of the key “firsts” as the first woman to ascend to the office, which carries its own pressures.  Her effort to wrap herself around the huge number of issues and special interests will likewise keep her reeling without much bandwidth left to focus on the specific planks of the platform, all of which are controversial.

That leaves Bernie, the Motivating Force, who has already laid the foundations of a powerful, committed social movement.  He won’t face all the huge demands of the Presidency.  As the other signatory of the platform, he will be able to pour his whole energy into the movement necessary to mobilize the New American Revolution. 

So let the cry go up, “Bern on, Bernie, Bern on!  You will accomplish more for the Revolution than if you had been distracted by the Office itself.  And be clear that only you can do what Hillary could not have done if she had lost that Office to you.  So become your own critical “first” as the one able to stimulate others to do what FDR said to those demanding big social justice changes: ‘I agree with you.  Now make me do it.’”  Together the people who feel the “Bern” can effectively challenge a future President Clinton to respond to the revolutionary platform that she agreed to and could not have realized on her own.

Clark Taylor is a life-long social activist.  He is the founder and leader of the Needham (MA) Area Immigration Justice Task Force.  At First Parish in Needham, Unitarian Universalist, he participates in Racial Justice and Climate Justice activities.

One response to “The New American Revolution: Role of the “Bern” in the massive social movement it will take”

  1. Marguerite Robbins says:

    Right on, Clark! Bernie’s commitment and his supporters’ commitment will continue and facilitate enormous positive change for the USA, during this current election period and into the future. The progressive movement is not dead; it is very much alive; and it will soon be thriving for years to come. Perhaps you know Bernie has recently founded two new organizations: “Our Revolution” and “The Sanders Institute.” They are worth checking out. Thank you for writing this excellent analysis, Clark. And to Bernie Sanders, “Bern on Bernie, Bern on!” I know It will be so!!! 🙂