A case for political revolution: The neoliberal project has left us with one choice
By Jeremy Toback
We are living at an inflection point. 43% of us cannot afford the basics. 78% live paycheck to paycheck. UN scientists give us twelve years to get our climate act together. The neoliberal project that has dominated American political and economic structures since Reagan cannot deliver the basic human material needs and meaning to hold us together as a culture. It cannot deliver the domestic cohesion or international cooperation necessary to decrease our carbon impact with the seriousness required to avert global human catastrophe.
We either begin to create the democratic socialist structures that can deliver that necessary material dignity and solidarity, or new authoritarian structures will arise in their vacuum. While Trump does not represent the break from neoliberal norms that many claim, his nativist performance is a harbinger of a very real, authoritarian apocalyptic future. We either do this work now or there will be a wall with drones to mow down refugees fleeing from climate chaos and desertification. All of our current pluralist, performative concern for separated families will disappear into murderous necessity. Count on it
My friends on the so-called Left understand this. We understand that at minimum we need Medicare For All, a federal jobs guarantee, a Green New Deal, free public college and trade schools, criminal justice reform, and unprecedented international cooperation on this planet or we are—to put it technically—fucked.
What we need to win those policies is an unprecedented discipline of purpose and action, beginning with the immediate presidential election cycle. We must begin by doing everything in our power to help Bernie Sanders win the nomination and presidency. There is only one Democratic Party contender currently who has the historic record and exhibits the ideological commitment and movement-building practice necessary to win the election and the following fight for policy.
Now, we must take the next step forward and guarantee every man, woman and child in our country basic economic rights — the right to quality health care, the right to as much education as one needs to succeed in our society, the right to a good job that pays a living wage, the right to affordable housing, the right to a secure retirement, and the right to live in a clean environment.
We must recognize that in the 21st century, in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, economic rights are human rights. — Sen. Bernie Sanders
If you can give money, give money. If you can volunteer, volunteer. If you can do the social media dance, do it. If you can clarify the discourse, clarify the damn discourse. Every increment matters.
Despite the wide array of DEM candidates, choice is an illusion for those who can afford to lose. Despite the widespread attempt to blur distinctions between Sanders and other performatively progressive candidates, those distinctions remain deep. They are differences in kind, not degree.
Sanders is building his campaign around a clear commitment to transformative universal policies that create the solidarity necessary to win them. The others are not. Sanders is using his campaign infrastructure and volunteers to create solidarity on the ground with workers and unions. The others are not. Sanders is coalescing the movement necessary to win the fight against powerful, monied interests. The others are not. None of the DEM candidates allegedly in Sanders’s lane exhibit even the most rudimentary understanding of the scale of this fight or the political power needed to win it. Sanders has made political revolution a mantra.
If this distinction remains unclear, one only need look at the example of indisputably popular policy, like Medicare For All and its fever pitch industry opposition. Every other candidate, Warren and Harris included, are either outright opposed to M4A or flip-flopping and/or confusing the discourse with dishonest “multiple paths” claims… All in an effort to win points for support without a commitment to deliver. M4A will never happen under any of the current candidates other than Sanders. If you can afford to lose on M4A, you have a choice. If you can’t, you don’t.
If confusion persists, see the powerful forces/individuals arrayed against Sanders. See the-behind-the-scenes anti-Sanders scheming among DEM organizations and candidates. See entrenched liberal organizations and media, like the Center for American Progress, MSNBC, Third Way and even the NY Times bad faith attacking, misrepresenting and/or expressing their explicit support of anyone but Sanders. They are not playing three-dimensional chess. They have identified the one candidate, who can help us transform the fundamental power relationships in our country. They will do everything in their power to stop him.
We should thank them for their clarity and practice that clarity ourselves. Every elected official or organization, who claims to be committed to the aforementioned structural reforms needs to endorse Sanders and they need to do it now. Cardi B gets it. She’s leveraging the power of her celebrity for our movement early and often. AOC, The Squad, Justice Democrats, Brand New Congress, any allegedly left publication worth its weight needs to do the same… Now.
I encourage every one of us to cease donating to candidates or organizations, who can’t muster the solidarity to fight with us. Let them know why our hard-earned ducats are going elsewhere. Let them know that they will win back our trust and support by committing to fight in solidarity with Sanders and us.
There are no present-tense coalitions to be made with the other DEM candidates, no lessons to be learned from their performative policies and narratives. There is no using their neoliberal reformism to push Sanders to be a better democratic socialist, no Overton window shift benefit. All of this is idealistic denial of the material necessity of a Sanders presidency, which our movement absolutely requires.
We should all re-familiarize ourselves with Amber A’Lee Frost’s excellent “It’s Still Bernie” call to arms from way back in January:
There are no “impartial” spectators on this one; only partisans and compradors. This is not some college debate where you get extra points for novelty and precocious dissidence, and it’s not some office pool where heated but distant speculations on the tournament are an amusing pastime with colleagues around the water cooler. This involves nothing less than the real, live fate of every single person in America (and most people outside of it). —Amber A’Lee Frost
We must be disciplined, follow Sanders’s lead and ground our arguments in material analysis and benefit. Medicare For All will guarantee the expansion of reproductive rights to all women in our country, not just those with money in blues states or elite urban enclaves. It will do so in a way that no other performative legalism or narrative can touch. We will create more material dignity for working class and everyday Black Americans, people of color and women via universal material policies like M4A, Federal Job Guarantees and Free College and Debt Forgiveness than any perfected ally speech or means-tested policy can touch.
What we need instead are policies to eradicate the structural factors that preserve the relative status of dominant groups, including intergenerational resource transfers and exclusionary practices. One such policy — as William Darity, Jr., Alan Aja, Daniel Bustillo, and I have advocated in these pages — is a federal job guarantee, which would go a long way toward addressing racial disparities and building an inclusive U.S. economy. —Darrick Hamilton
Surface identity arguments will be weaponized against us, no matter the measurable diversity and pluralism of our movement. While making clear that nobody gets left behind—"everybody in, nobody out"— let’s also recognize and deconstruct ruling class identity discourse. Obviously, we are fighting for afflicted communities to participate equally in human thriving. Obviously, we welcome diversity of any and all kinds. Obviously, we reject bigotry of any kind. But our movement is not about diversifying the winners in a game of craven Monopoly. Our project is about changing the damn game.
The Squad is not politically relevant to our movement just because they are women of color wielding power. They and any other political players are valuable to the progressive movement to the extent that they fight with us in solidarity to win policy that transforms people’s lives—policies that guarantee universal healthcare, jobs with living wages, high-quality education, and the habitability of our biosphere. That is material. Everything else is idealistic distraction that drains our movement.
We are committed to something more transformative and more lasting than fleeting alliances. We are committed to working together to make the lives of everyday Americans livable, to make them meaningful… And then to extend that to every citizen of the planet. If we’re at all serious about maintaining an inhabitable biosphere, it will require unprecedented global cooperation, as well as the human thriving necessary to make that cooperation possible.
Our movement understands this.
It is not nihilistic. It is not idealistic. It is an embrace of the material reality we all face and the solidarity we need to generate in order to navigate that reality. It is an embrace of us.
Time to wake up and win.
There is much to do. The hour is late.