Saturday, January 30, 2016

Evolution vs. Revolution, Hillary vs. Bernie

Guest post by tybinka

· Evolution: a process of peaceful, progressive change or development, as in social or economic structure or institutions

· Revolution: a forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system

So which is it young progressives? You may be the ones to decide.

Revolution sounds sexy and exciting and one gets a sense of personal power just talking about it. But guess what? Revolutions seldom work. People suffer. And the poor suffer most.

Evolution is much less sexy. It is slow. In the social arena, it takes painstaking hard work and then some more hard work. One step forward can feel like two steps back. Proponents of this approach often feel powerless, but they keep going, driven by dreams. They try this;,they try that, whittling away, building up, little by little until the Berlin Wall comes down, LGBT couples legally marry, dreams of racial equality seem possible.

Bernie tells us he wants a revolution, but he has no plan to create a new system of social democracy other than to talk about it. He waves his arms and expounds on all that is wrong with the social order. But before he unravels the system he deplores, he had better have a good idea of how to put the new order into place. Bernie is running for president, not emperor. That means he will need the backing of the very representatives and senators he has accused of being bought by special interests.

Hillary’s approach fosters evolution, the step-by-step approach. Put a plan in place, see how it flies, modify it, compromise, get something that is better than before. . . not perfect - far from it - but better.

Assume that Bernie’s supporters fuel this revolution that Bernie talks about, that they get behind single payer health care, redistribution of wealth, and taking big money out of politics...the signature issues of the Sanders campaign. How does it actually come about? Do they bust down the doors of congress and demand to put new players into place who favor what they favor? Do they appoint new Supreme Court justices? What do they do with the current ones who serve life terms? Or maybe they decide to have 10 or 11 instead of 9 so the balance swings? Do they give the executive branch whole new powers? How do they do that? How do they get around the constitutional guarantee that the three branches of government are designed to reign in such abuses?

Government is the quintessential catch-22. We won’t change decisions like Citizens United without a different majority on the bench. To create a different majority on the bench, we need a different configuration in the house and the senate as well as a democratic president. To get a different configuration in the house and senate, we need to undo the gerrymandering of districts and elect more democrats to office. That takes painstaking step-by-step hard work and a plan for restoring integrity to American elections. That takes activism. And it takes money.

I’ve been getting more than frustrated about this revolution rhetoric. I’m angry. It’s usually Republicans I’m angry at, but I expect no more from them than they are dishing out. I’m angry at progressives who claim to be for progress but don’t take the time to understand how government works, who have never read the Citizens United decision and the dissenting opinions, who want to create a utopian world through this so-called revolution but don’t want the hard work of activism, who want to stop momentum where it already exists, risk undoing what is already good, risk turning things back. Fuel a revolution? Tear things apart. Where is the imagination? Where is the hard work of democracy?

Progressives are for progress. For instance, progressives I know take a deep hard look at the political realities of the day. In federal, state, and local elections, they target individuals who have a chance to win, they back those individuals, they fund them, they get them elected, working step-by-step to change the balance of power so that there are enough representatives on the progressive side to pass legislation and appoint judges that they favor. I find it appalling that Bernie has no history whatsoever of helping like-minded candidates get elected while Hillary regularly throws her considerable political weight and fundraising ability behind candidates she favors.

So lets look at this picture realistically. Is a revolution really what we need in this country? More importantly, are people ready to back a revolution? Or is this revolution talk just rhetoric to get people fired up and get a candidate elected?

I hear it bandied about that Bernie has the big vision while Hillary is a tactician. Just what is Bernie’s big revolutionary vision? I still don’t know and its not because I haven’t been listening. After we break down the current social order, what do we put in its place? What do things look like when we have succeeded? Are we all happy? Healthy? Do we have jobs we love? Are our elected officials in agreement with us? Have we rolled back climate change and solved our immigration issues, our racial inequality, threats from terrorists? Have we instituted fair and representative prison and police reform? Have we taken care of the mentally ill and the mentally impaired? Do we stand tall in the eyes of the world?

Will we get to liberal outcomes faster with a revolution? Will we get to them at all with a revolution? Or should we put one foot in front of the other and walk the evolutionary path, the slow step-by-step path, the boring day-to-day struggle path? We should elect a president who has plans for tackling the issues of our day and a big vision that progresses gradually as we put proposals into place. As the future evolves to something better. 

Maybe this is the only way to proceed in our very complicated world.


  1. If you listen to progressive radio you may be familiar with frequent caller Paul from Woodinville, Washington. Paul a Bernie Sanders supporter is an intellectual realist. On the Alan Colmes radio show Paul put forth a most sensible reason why Hillary Clinton is the only person on either side capable of serving two terms. Any republican elected will destroy the economy and create such turmoil in the world he or she could not win re-election. A Bernie Sanders administration would end in abysmal failure due to a Republican controlled congress allowing Fox News and right wing pundits to say a big "I told you so." This would set back the social progressive movement years if not decades setting 2020 up for an even worse candidate than Donald Trump to be elected. Hillary Clinton working with a Republican congress would make slow but steady progress much in the same fashion as President Obama. With Congress likely to turn democratic in 2020 a second term President Hillary Clinton will have the leverage to move the progressive agenda forward.
    Paul points to Howard Zinn's book "People's History of American Empire" where he explains the function of the presidency is to bring forces together to work together. This includes Wall Street and business interest because they are part of America. Under a Republican controlled Congress a balanced approach by the President is required and not an overthrow approach which would mean a four year stalemate. Paul believes Hillary Clinton is the only candidate who truly gives us that balanced approach. All this from Paul a Bernie Sanders supporter.

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