By Chuck Morse (September 23, 2015)
Bernie Sanders is running for president and I know people who say that, given the options, he’s the best choice. I understand this position, but I think it confuses things. We should ask less about what type of president we’d like and more about what type of political culture we want.
Presidents are like captains of huge battleships: they may be able to speed or slow the ship a little, or turn it slightly more sharply, but they cannot do much more than that (given the constraints of their vessel and the nature of the sea). Presidents are similarly limited by the nature of the presidency as an institution and the larger political and economic context in which it operates.
However, we do have the capacity to change the political culture (through discussion and debate) and I can say without hesitation that it would be better if American’s understood the limitations of Sanders’s mildly reformist approach to social change. We cannot tame the forces that are destroying the environment and spreading inequality with hot air and tepid gestures. European and Latin American politicians have tried to do so and the results have been disastrous.
Fortunately, Sanders’s campaign offers us a good opportunity to talk about the limits of his mild, Democratic Party reformism. And we can also build upon the momentum generated by Occupy Wall Street, the Black Lives Matter movement, and other movements that have been pushing for a more radical approach in recent years. This is great. Doing this won’t be good for Sanders’ political career, given his moribund worldview, but it will be great for the rest of us.
Championing Sanders or freaking out about Trump are sort of flip sides of the same coin: we need to focus on us—not them—and building the sort of world that we want!