By Adrian Marie Jones
From the onset, I was intrigued by Bernie Sanders. He spoke my language. Single payer healthcare, college for all, cost of living wages, etc. That’s perfect. I’m a communist. And I don’t mean that figuratively. At one point, I was a card-carrying member of a communist organization. But Bernie was a Democrat. I cast my last ballot for the blue team in 2012 when I voted for Barack Obama for the 2nd time. In 2008 I wanted to see what he could do. So I voted for him. Hillary was out of the question for me. By that time, I was well versed in her resume. In 2012, I already knew what Obama had done. But I voted for him anyway.
Obamacare wasn’t the worst but it was very far from being the best healthcare plan for the public. Especially considering that not one Republican voted for it. Why did we need the concessions? Drone strikes, continued wars, private prisons, unarmed Black men, women, boys and girls being shot…. Guantanamo Bay.. So why did I vote for him? The lesser of 2 evils. Yup. That, coupled with the fact that if you support Capitalism and imperialism, he was one of the best Presidents in history. Doing what needs to be done to further America’s reach. So all of the disdain that I witnessed during his first term and during the 2nd election was mostly due to racism. How could it not be? Crime was down, employment was up…In a sense, my vote for Obama, was a protest vote. In another sense it was more of the same. It was at that point, where I was voting for someone that I didn’t believe in, that I decided I wouldn’t do it again. I was not voting Blue or Red again. America needs options.
So when Bernie came along, sounding like the people’s champion, I applauded. But I always had in the back of my head that Bernie was a Democrat and that the party is a machine. An entity by itself that runs over anyone who isn’t in line. Dems court poor people’s votes but don’t deliver anything concrete to help them advance in society. They vote against higher wages, choose to subsidize corporations instead of homes for poor people, they house undocumented immigrant families in crowded facilities after raiding their homes.
So, with Bernie running as a Democrat, I realized that he didn’t have a chance. They, the establishment, would not allow him to win. And they didn’t. Anyone still shouting #BernieWouldHaveWon while simultaneously believing that the DNC colluded to ensure his loss needs to get a grip on reality.
The idea that the forces that wanted so badly to stop him would support him in a general election is preposterous. Bernie may have won if someone in the establishment supported him. None of them did. They preferred an orange celebrity to him. This was not only about the party supporting Hillary. This was absolutely about the party not wanting Bernie. Even if that meant losing both houses, the Presidency and the SCOTUS nomination. This is what they gave up in order to ensure Bernie didn’t win.
Bernie Drew large numbers to his rallies. He galvanized millennials, who seemed not to want to continue down this disastrous path of the best of 2 evils. And yet, he didn’t win. He was bullied and the public was railroaded into supporting the breaking of the glass ceiling.
Bernie was forced to endorse a candidate that he didn’t believe in. If you look at the pictures of him while he announced his support for Hillary, he looks grief stricken. He looks like someone stole his family dog and requested a ransom that he couldn’t come up with. His face mirrors that of a person who was led to believe they won the lottery, and was allowed to celebrate and was later informed that it was all just a prank. His face looks like the public’s face. Bernie’s face represents us. For every candidate we voted for just because the other candidate was worse. Not that our candidate was good. But that the other candidate is worse.
So why Progressivism if I’m a communist? Because America is not ready to believe and trust that we don’t need rich people. And that poor people aren’t poor by choice. Or that everyone getting their basic needs met is a right. Or that unemployment is artificial. Or that nations are a social construct and that humanity should extend beyond our borders. Or that war makes rich people richer while killing off our poor population who “fight for our freedom.”
The real problem with Progressivism is the rate at which we progress as a society. Who gets to determine when unarmed Black people stop dying in the streets at the hands of cops? Who determines whether 2 years in solitary confinement for a minor is cruel and unusual and at which rate it needs to be stopped? How can we call our experiences progress if MLK and Malcolm X, who died 50 years ago, are still relevant? At what point do we acknowledge that our advances in American society are mostly…. Superficial? That’s Progressivism.
Something has been in my mind for a few days; liberals and progressives. There was a NYT oped article about how “liberal” has become as much of a bad word from the left as well as the right. I was confused because from the words of MLK to Assata, progressives and liberals have been obstructions to progress. This is mostly due to class.
I’m always saying “check your privilege.” Because the idea that a Black person in this day and age, where Black men, women, girls and boys are being killed by police, can still call themselves progressive is because they know that ALTHOUGH any Black person is a target, poor Black people bear the brunt of this abuse. Those Black folk who have arrived, who have made it, do not need socialism to even the slate. They can wait. They’re not food, home, or health insecure. Their basic needs are met and then some. So telling poor folk to wait on legislation doesn’t seem unreasonable to them and it’s really selfish.
But this op-ed was basically a complaint about how mean it is to use liberal as an attack. Well why can’t we? We should always call people out. The truth shouldn’t be seen as an attack. But yet it is.
So why Progressivism? What’s the alternative? Going backwards is not an option. “Advances” made in civil rights, women’s rights and LGBTQI rights can be reversed. Worker’s rights can be obliterated. The push back is too great. The Mayor of Baltimore ran her campaign, supporting a $15 minimum wage. When her legislative body presented her with the bill, she vetoed it. It is exactly this type of representation that we don’t need. Her constituency is largely poor and underpaid. They need relief.
These young people want relief now. They are tired of waiting. They are witnessing a corrupt government and systemic global injustices thanks to the internet. This much thirst for a better society hasn’t been seen since the late 60’s when protests erupted around the world.
The problem with Progressivism is that it’s too patient. it leaves room for regression. We are always worried about what the next President is going to do because they can always reverse gains as there has been no change in the structure of government. We can no longer wait to gain things at a snail’s pace only to have them reversed with the stroke of a pen. Progressivism will be the end of us all.
Adrian Marie Jones is a communist/activist in New York.