The Last Gasp of Neoliberalism: Or, Why a Vote for Biden is a Vote for Trump

by Ryan Joseph Slater

INTRODUCTION

Democratic liberals, from career politicians like Hillary Clinton to well-intentioned Dads in San Francisco, gasped at the sounds and sights of Donald Trump’s 2016 Presidential Campaign. They gasped at his mocking of the disabled, jerked at the dehumanization of refugees, choked at his bragging about sexually assaulting women, and so on. Liberals responded to each faux pas by announcing that he had killed his electability, but he always emerged unscathed. In terms of manners and aesthetics, Hillary Clinton embodied the opposite ethos, which was that, “when they go low,” referring to Trump’s disgusting ethics, “we go high.” But moral warfare is nothing like military warfare: the high ground is not necessarily advantageous.

It should not be so shocking that people turned towards humanity’s darker psychology rather than its higher aspirations. In fact, we should analyze the 2016 election in terms of rage — not love, not hope, not peace — since that emotion produced such a tremendous outcome. After all, in both behavior and policy, rage guided his campaign: rage against political elites, against media, against all those people and faceless entities that structure our pathetic lives. Such rage existed throughout America and it found myriad outlets — ultimately being the source for both Trump and Sanders. Because people desperately searched for new social possibilities, they were willing to forego their allegiance to politics as usual.

Now, several years later, and with new campaigns beginning, Trump has not mastered the rage he promised to harness. For hopeful Leftists, this means the source of social change is still prevalent and potent. Walter Benjamin’s statement that, “behind every fascism is a failed revolution,” is not yet true of the American 21st century. The future is open for Democratic Socialism, just as it is still open for the further disintegration of civil liberties, economic and racial justice, and ecological catastrophe. If a Democrat is to defeat Trump in 2020, they must remember that Rage without Love is senseless violence (Alt-Right), that Love without Rage is impotent (Centrist Democrat), and that Love and Rage must co-exist in any authentic political movement (Democratic Socialism).

EXISTENTIAL RAGE

In his 2010 book, Rage and Time, Peter Sloteridjk agrees with Plato in arguing that, thymos, which, “discloses ways for human beings to redeem what they possess, to learn what they are able to do, and to see what they want,” is a key component of the human soul (Sloterdijk, 16). We can translate this into secular terms by calling the soul the psyche, and by emphasizing that thymos orients us to ways in which we can feel whole and prideful. An unfulfilled thymotic impulse results in rage — which Sloterdijk sees as the unacknowledged moving force behind most of history.

A consequence of the unwillingness for social scientists, especially psychologists, to appreciate pride and rage is that entire swaths of human experience become erased from political discourse. Historically, Democrats fail to tap into “human pride, courage, stoutheartedness, craving for recognition, drive for justice, sense of dignity and honor, indignation, [and] militant and vengeful energies” as sources of political legitimacy (Sloterdijk, 14). Such talk is usually reserved for Military advertisements and War Hawks. Politicians hardly considered that these energies could engender social movements. The result is that while political parties focus on positive slogans like peace, prosperity, belief, reform, hope, etc. — to allude to recent campaign slogans — large amounts of resentment remained untapped.

This would not be a problem if resentment and rage were only marginal phenomenon in society. If anything, it appears to be an existential, not social, issue. Sloterdijk notes that, “human beings cannot cease to strive for specific forms of recognition manifested in prestige, wealth, sexual advantage, and intellectual superiority;” people who do not desire status recognition are the rare, eccentric artists and social outcasts — certainly not a majority (Sloterdijk, 40). And yet, “because such goods will always remain scarce, in liberal systems there will always be a large reservoir of distrust and frustration” (Sloterdijk, 40). The universal desire to have self-pride and social recognition is in obvious contradiction within any society that distributes status in hierarchical manners: be they in terms of attraction, finances, athletic ability, etc. Sloterdijk emphasizes liberal societies because those are the societies that appear to function based on polite civility, which hides darker, combative human emotions — even if it stokes them through its material consequences (more on that later). Frustrated people have no authentic, socially accepted outlets for their struggles. Movies like Fight Club (1999) can be read as politically explosive in that they undermine the liberal belief that discontent should be polite and non-violent. Retroactively, we can even read into its fanbase a keen enjoyment of a place for collective aggression.

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Peter Sloterdijk. ““Human beings cannot cease to strive for specific forms of recognition manifested in prestige, wealth, sexual advantage, and intellectual superiority.”

From the perspective of honest liberals and pacifists, rage appears to be dangerous and undesirable. Yet it carries profound existential implications that override so many problems associated with life under nihilistic global capitalism. From the canvases of contemporary art to the oeuvres produced in philosophy departments, to long grocery store lines to Twitter ironists, it is clear that we have nothing to live for. But anyone with, “a strong intention to practice revenge is, for the time being, safe from suffering problems of meaning” (Sloterdijk, 60). The praxis of rage solves the daily struggles with nihilism insofar as it provides, “a well-organized and well-planned existence” (Sloterdijk, 60). A vengeful person has a target, a purpose, and a sustained will. If we believe Nietzsche’s formula for happiness — “ a Yes, a No, a straight line, a goal” — then, paradoxically, raging people are also happy people (Nietzsche, 11).

Going forward, we can say (1) that thymos is a fundamental component of human existence, insofar as the vast majority of people are interested in self-pride and social recognition, (2) that rage emerges when people cannot satisfy their thymotic needs, which is nearly always true (3) that a raging person enjoys their rage. Consequently, (4) someone who can inflame and direct rage holds tremendous and previously untapped political power.

NEOLIBERALISM INFLAMES RAGE

Towards the end of his book, Peter Sloterdijk admits skepticism about rage’s future political efficacy. While it previously goaded global movements and worldviews (e.g. communism and Christianity), people no longer think in terms of continents and worldwide ideologies; this precludes any kind of totalizing political agenda for rage to serve. Nonetheless, the author admits that rage can motivate a series of parallel movements that occur in specific regions. So while Leftists in France and America, for example, do not share a party or a unified vision, they both operate via rage at the social order; this should come as no surprise, since the social developments of the last four decades have produced incredible amounts of rage that extend far beyond generic, existential forms of rage.

After all, Donald Trump did not arrive from another world, nor did he emerge from a Biblical hell; he emerged from another kind of hell: the Neoliberal World Order. It should be obvious that every politician appeals, “to our intuitions and instincts, to our values and our desires, as well as the possibilities inherent in the social world we inhabit” (Harvey, 5). Trump is no exception. Although he had vociferous opposition, he responded to the totalizing forces of American neoliberalism — which gave his political-aesthetic operation incredible traction in the minds of millions of Americans.

Because while thymos, and therefore rage, has an existential component, American social reality poignantly inflamed peoples’ sense of indignance. The most succinct summary of the neoliberal movement is, “the reclusion of the government from social welfare and an increased emphasis of business’ freedom and power” (Harvey, 168) A quintessentially neoliberal moment occurred with the Supreme Court decision on Citizens United v. FEC (2010), which ruled that corporations are people, meaning that they have freedom of speech, and that monetary donations are a form of speech — which means that it is unconstitutional to limit the influence of money on American elections. This effectively gave billionaires the right to purchase policies from politicians in the form of donations. Such measures cause corporate interests to be overrepresented in our political bodies; they exemplify, and create, a world in which the government bails out banks but fails to bailout ordinary citizens in the form of a debt forgiveness plan for citizens (student loan debt, mortgage debt, etc.). The neoliberal government’s attitude is that it should, “take a back seat and simply set the stage for market functions,” with the obvious exception that it provides support for the wealthiest sectors of the American economy when they need assistance in the form of corporate bailouts and low tax rates (Harvey, 79).

This amplifies the tendency for capitalism to distribute wealth unequally. A system in which people create money out of money (financial speculation, investment banking, real estate development), or can use their money to purchase labor at a price vastly lower than the actual value of labor, means that people who have money have an easier time of procuring more of it. One heavily publicized data point is that Jeff Bezos makes more per year than all 250,000 of his full time employees combined — even after the recent wage increase (Stolzoff). This is not an exception within the system. In fact, the phenomenon holds true nationwide and across time: in the last thirty years, the top 1% of America’s wealthiest people have added $21 trillion dollars to their wealth, while the bottom 50% has lost $900 billion dollars (Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System). And to make matters worse, economic inequality has risen simultaneously with the weakening of means of redistributing it. During the neoliberal era, “housing and healthcare costs skyrocketed, welfare provisions eroded, and access to equal opportunity embodied in public institutions — affordable high quality education for example — shrunk dramatically” (Brown, 2).

This left citizens profoundly vulnerable to corporate interest, and, over time, eroded their opportunities to achieve self-pride and social recognition, thereby creating a stockpile of rage. Popular discontent is an obvious result of the fact that Americans work more than any other country’s workforce, while also working longer hours than their 1970’s counterparts despite technological advancements that presumably exist to make labor easier and more efficient (Cover). Americans have worked harder and longer for less and less. Such economic stress — and the behaviors people must adapt to ‘overcome’ it — decrease the length and quality of sleep (The Sleep Gap in America: Why Rich White People Enjoy More Sleep). The greater the influence that capitalism has over peoples’ lives, the less freedom people have to enjoy their lives, to self-actualize, to have freedom in a meaningful sense of the word. While they have less to purchase goods to make them feel good, they also have less time to do life-affirming tasks. It genuinely seems pointless to prove this, since so many of us are on antidepressants, are burdened with student loan debt, pay exorbitantly high rents, and so forth. This essay is a good introduction to the social and psychological impact our economy has on us. And to make it all worse, wealth inequality shortens life expectancy for poor folks by as much as 20 years (Luscombe).

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“We’re the middle children of history…We’ve been all raised by television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires and movie Gods and rock stars, but we won’t and we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”

Rather than pity, people want revenge for what has wrongfully been stolen from them: their wages and salaries, their health, their time, and every other stand-in for their lives. People generally lack the time, stability, or energy to self-actualize in a meaningful way, and while we can fetishize the exceptions (e.g. Jay-Z, Joe Rogan, Kylie Jenner), individual effort cannot dismantle the systemic barricades between the middle and lower classes and their right to dignity. The neoliberal social world has no respect for any thymotic impulse: pride, courage, stoutheartedness, craving for recognition, drive for justice, sense of dignity and honor” (Sloterdijk, 14). As always, artists understood the situation most clearly. Nearly two decades before all this came to a head, Chuck Palahunik wrote that we are, “an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables, slaves with white collars, advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history…We’ve been all raised by television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires and movie Gods and rock stars, but we won’t and we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”

THE 2016 ELECTION: THE RISE OF RAGE ENTREPRENEURS

The tensions inherent within the neoliberal regime produced a rage that sought to overcome its source. Using a soft sense of the word ‘revolution,’ we can see that a ‘revolution’ and ‘counter-revolution’ emerged, embodied by the opposed positions of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. They both identified elites as problems and promised solutions that would restore the dignity of ‘ordinary Americans;’ hence they abided by the logic of rage, which is to identify enemies and propose tactics for vengeance. In other words, they are both Rage Entrepreneurs.

Much of Trump’s appeal was a purely aesthetic co-opting of rage. Under neoliberalism, words changed their fundamental meanings and language worked to coerce, not communicate. Most broadly, within neoliberal discourse — which is the language of the majority of politicians since the 1980’s — all speeches are pure bullshit. For example, “unfreedom appears in the guise of its opposite: when we are deprived of universal healthcare, we are told that we are given a new freedom of choice, namely to choose our healthcare provider; when we can no longer rely on long-term employment and are compelled to search for new precarious positions every couple of years, we are told that we are given the opportunity to reinvest ourselves and discover new, unexpected creative potentials that lurked in our personality…We increasingly experience our freedom as what it effectively is: a burden that deprives us of the true choice of change” (Zizek, The Relevance of the Communist Manifesto, 29). While most voters have never read 1984, people nonetheless recognize Doublespeak and have learned to distrust it. People learned to despise the squeaky-clean, polished discourse of politicians; even Barack Obama’s clear, apparently sincere Hope for America’s middle class was just the veneer of another corporate bailout. Therefore, Donald Trump’s apparently tactless mannerisms became further proof that he is not just another politician. Anyone who revists the 2016 Presidential Debates, before Trump became increasingly withered and anxious, will see a man who spoke with rage — a rage designed to mirror the population’s.

It naturally follows, then, that he began naming enemies. His slogan, “drain the swamp,” which meant removing the Political Elite’s influence on Washington’s politics, is a prime example. During the 1st Presidential debate, when asked about the source of America’s economic problems, he said that, “we have to stop countries from stealing our jobs” (News, NBC). He listed China’s currency manipulation and trade agreements with Mexico that incentivize companies to ship jobs out of the USA. He highlighted politicians as the crucial actors in these harmful trade partnerships with other countries, since they sign such policies into actions. Moreover, he implied that America’s poor economic outcomes are the result of political weakness in Washington; his answer suggests that American politicians stand idly by while their country gets robbed of its wealth. In his worldview, at least rhetorically, politicians are aloof, irresponsible guards of our nation’s economic treasures. Draining the Swamp, he said, would lead to better trade agreements and therefore more dignity for American workers. This simultaneously responded to rage and stoked rage: it gave popular rage an answer and a target.

The emphasis on American workers, the call-back to America’s history of racism and sexism, his unwillingness to accept immigrants, and so on, all point to the embedded racism of his campaign and politics. On one hand, many of Trump’s voters saw his xenophobia as an inessential aspect of his campaign: after all, of all the counties that swung towards Mr. Obama in both of his presidential campaigns, roughly ⅓ voted for Trump in the most recent election (Tavernise). Therefore, a chunk of Trump supporters found similar promises of hope in Trump and Obama. They co-signed but did not necessarily approve of his xenophobia (although many of them did, and Trump has certainly stoked White Supremacists and voiced their ideology, which is inexcusable). But, on the other hand, the often-quoted ‘economic anxiety’ of white working-class Americans does not fully illuminate the situation; neither does ‘economic rage.’ Sixty-four percent of whites without college degrees voted for Trump, compared to 18% for non-whites without college degrees (An Examination of the 2016 Electorate, Based on Validated Voters). It is therefore not only low-status that drives a person to vote for fascism; what linked Trumps’ supporters was not class, but race: 54% of white people voted for Trump, compared to 28% and 6% for Latinos and Blacks, respectively. And considering his perpetual vitriol for Latinos, it should be obvious that Trump confirmed a worldview held by white supermacists who had been hoping to express their racial hostilities throughout the 21st century. Neo-Nazis have been organizing and mobilizing on the internet since before Trump announced his candidacy.

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders drew millionaires of supporters as a Democratic Socialist — campaigning on Medicare for All, an end to American imperialism, the implementation of economic, racial, and gendered justice. All of these policies were simply unutterable on a presidential campaign trail in 2000. Instead of solely blaming political elites, he blamed economic elites: pharmaceutical companies, the 1%, multi billion-dollar companies like Amazon, etc. He acknowledged the deep rage within the population, understanding that we need a drastic change to the social order. Interestingly, political commentators have noted that, “people who vote for Trump are often, in their social situations and in their political stances, are often similar to those who vote for Sanders. They are anti-establishment people” (RT). On one hand, this proves that the popular rage in America is ambiguous in its outlets: America’s dispossessed people were open to anything but the status quo. On the other hand, it shows that the Left/Right divide is no longer applicable, since people clearly identify within or against the status quo; people who do not like the status quo are generally open about what changes they are willing to entertain. The primary issue, when comparing Trump or Sanders’ rhetoric, was whether it is political or economic elites who are primarily to blame.

Image result for bernie sanders

After winning/rigging the Democratic Nomination, Hillary planned to win by playing the Centrist position. Her team imagined that, in the face of the Alt-Right, she could win the Democratic Socialists, the Centrist Leftists, and the Centrist Rightists by promoting a centrist agenda. This involved constructing an ideological system in which she tried to unify all non-Trump positionalities. Slavoj Zizek remarks that, “She should not have played the role of the Big Unifier. He coalition was absurd: it was Wall Street and Occupy Wall Street; Saudi Arabian Money and LGBT and sexual liberation movements. [It was] brutal global capitalism with a human face” (RT). The move to the center was especially catastrophic, given that she was already perceived as an establishment candidate. She was the embodiment and advocate of a, “deeply pro-corporate ideology: one that makes taking money from lobbyists and accepting exorbitant speech fees from banks seem so natural” (Klein, The Real Issue…). It did not help that she belonged to one of America’s oligarchical families and has a long history of pandering to voters via flip-flopping. She represented the establishment against which Trump rallied, making her a kind of ideological punching bag. The cheers to “Lock Her Up” also echoed a desire to convict all other politicians like her.

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Political Theorist and Activist, Naomi Klein

More deeply, Hillary failed to name enemies, which is a crucial step to wielding rage. She, along with her political ilk, tried to argue that everything is already okay; their response to Trump’s MAGA slogan was that “America is already great” (Roberts). Not only did it fail to seize the populist rage, but it disavowed the rage by suggesting that it had no basis. Her polite, condescending aesthetics also starkly contrasted with Trump’s ability to act-out peoples’ rage. At the level of identification, which is a key component of political support, people were unable to identify with Hillary Clinton and her worldview.

Let us briefly recall that statisticians, most famously the beloved Nate Silver, completely failed to predict the election outcome. The problem was not that their algorithms were not precise enough; the problem is with statistics itself, which understands the world in rational, empirical terms, which is fine most of the time. Effacing the social context in favor of the cold reality of numbers isn’t necessarily bad. But it produces data that has no meaning outside of the social context, and when the social world is the variable, as it was in 2016, statistics will consistently miss the mark. In such contexts, political discourse should be understood in terms of moods and aesthetics — not numbers. While people would argue that nobody could’ve predicted it, the simple fact is that artists and philosophers and Alt-Right folks, ranging from David Foster Wallace to Chuck Palahunik to Hunter S. Thompson to Slavoj Zizek to Steve Bannon, predicted the rise of 21st century American strongman politics.

While Mrs. Clinton did win the national popular vote, she failed to win states with the most intense social divisions produced by neoliberalism. Swing-states are states with profound economic divisions and anxiety, which is precisely why they are not tied to either political party. These states are the most rage-filled and she totally dismissed their complaints by moving towards the Center. In sum, she lost the election by ignoring peoples’ rage by promoting an ethics and aesthetics that forbids social anxiety. In a nice paradox, Hillary Clinton was the more conservative candidate, since she campaigned to maintain the already-existing social order, while Trump was a true aberration in the political field.

DEMOCRATS IN 2019 AND 2020

Despite his association with populism, Trump has shown that he, “is not a rupture at all, but rather a culmination — the logical end point — of a great many dangerous stories our culture has been telling for a very long time. That greed is good. That the market rules. That money is what matters in life. That white men are better than the rest. That the natural world is there for us to pillage. That the vulnerable deserve their fate, and the 1 percent deserve their golden towers… That there is no alternative to any of this” (Klein, Daring to Dream in the Age of Trump). While this means his campaign was built on a series of lies, the more significant point is that the underlying material conditions that produce rage are still in effect.

The 2016 Rage Entrepreneurs are still in business in 2019. While Trump’s approval rating is 42%, which is low by historical standards, it still represents a very large portion of the population; it’s also worth noting that his rate has steadily been increasing since the 36% low of December 2017 (Silver). The tensions within his presidency have always been the tension between appropriate rage and senseless rage; and the more one looks at his policies, the clearer it becomes that his rage consists of senseless violence against the world’s most vulnerable people: refugees, people of color, women, precarious workers, and so on. While it is utterly disgusting and vile, Trump has already shown that he can win an election based off vulgar, low-level rage. 

At the same time, Bernie Sanders and the Democratic Socialist movement is stronger than ever. Membership in the DSA has increased over 5fold since 2016. The social sciences do not produce axiomatic truths, but, if anything, 2016 strongly signalled that only an authentically progressive candidate, who taps into rage and redeems love, can win the upcoming election.

DSA Membership has risen 5fold since 2016

Within the Democratic Party, it is now commonplace for politicians to voice policies that earned Bernie scorn and scoffs during the previous election. Several Democratic candidates voice support for free college tuition, increased minimum wage, 100% renewable energy reforms, and Medicare for All. This evidences the degree to which Bernie has shifted the Democratic party towards progressive policies and the left’s willingness to co-opt certain populist rage.

So while it is popular to criticize Trump for his divisise, us/them rhetoric, which otherizes folks, people should take a closer look at the practice. Critics are correct in deploring the other-ization of women, p.o.c., and refugees, but they are wrong to denounce drawing lines in the sand. After all, any transformative social agenda will displace the people and organizations at the top of the hierarchy. Therefore, it, “won’t all be win-win. For any of this to happen, fossil-fuel companies, [for example]…will have to start losing” (Klein). Raging citizens will not respond to any grand unification that talks, walks, and smells like neoliberal reform (e.g. Joe Biden). Such candidates will come across as out-of-touch, flat-footed, and political impotent. Politicians must be prepared to call-out social forces, special interests, and social psychologies that harm the population — and they must be clear in naming those enemies.

Let’s start with rage. What most profoundly differentiates a guy like Bernie Sanders from, say, an empty suit like Pete Buttigieg is his willingness to name his enemies. Sanders’ recent statement that, “Nothing will change unless we have the guts to take-on Wall Street, the Insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the military-industrial complex, and the fossil fuel industry,” is nothing new for him (Sanders, We Must…). Instead of trying to unify everybody, as centrists like Joe Biden and John Hickenlooper suggest, he constructs an enemy and produces a solution. Without such compelling arguments, people will fall victim to Trump’s rhetoric that immigrants and mainstream politicians are to blame. Candidates who try to engage the other side of the aisle through unification without change, such as Joe Biden or Mayor Pete, are unlikely to sufficiently tap into Americans’ grievances. And even if they succeed, they do not represent any substantial change to the world that produced Trump. 

Casting aside the rageless candidates and the slew of unlikely candidates, this gives us four candidates who work with sincere rage: Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Corey Booker, and Bernie Sanders. Although they disagree about who the enemies are, they all come forth promising to bring justice and name losers. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, in fact, have been the most aggressive critics of many of Trump’s policies, and they both have been vociferous about wanting to impeach the President (never mind the fact that neither of them have filled-out the impeachment papers). And they are both tremendous speakers, with the capability of tearing-into opponents. Looking at any of the hearings regarding the Cavanaugh appointment will prove this.

Although the older candidates are more mellow, Warren and Sanders still work with rage. Elizabeth Warren’s is less visible. But her policies are clear responses to ordinary folks’ experiences with skyrocketing healthcare and education costs. She unequivocally criticizes people who profit millions of dollars off the healthcare system. Bernie Sanders, in the most recent round of debates, said that, “Nothing will change unless we have the guts to take-on Wall Street, the Insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the military-industrial complex, and the fossil fuel industry. Or else the rich will get richer, and everyone else will be struggling” (Sanders, We Must…).

Any of these candidates can rile voters up — there’s no doubt about that; the only issue is if people will believe their promises to restore justice. And for this, rage is not enough. We need a loving politician. Let us recall Cornel West’s statement that, “Justice is what love looks like in public” (Supernegromagic). This is where Cory Booker’s history of flip-flopping and belief in the free market to distribute equitable outcomes will hurt him; it’s worth noting that he was literally the only candidate to mention the words ‘free market’ in the 1st night of debates (Phillips). It is also where we should part ways with Kamala Harris whose history of punitive policies as a District Attorney in CA hurts her (Baskin). Both Booker and Harris are entrenched within the neoliberal ideology, which benefits the wealthiest Americans and punishes the most vulnerable. They are more palpable than Trump, of course, but they nonetheless represent the social dynamics that elected Trump. They both represent corporate interests and they both want to reform (not abolish) ICE. They are neoliberalism with a human face. So while they are both potentially effective in gaining support, and they both would fair well in debates with Trump, neither represents a new, positive agenda.

After all, love requires enacting a positive, dignity-restoring platform. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are both sincere in wanting to improve Americans’ lives; they both have long, certified histories of working towards that end. And they are both friends and enjoy working with one another. While they both want to reform healthcare, education, labor rights, and so on, Sanders is a much more radical candidate. If we’re being honest, it’s hard to see substantial differences between Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton: both multi-millionaire white women support a global U.S. military presence, side with Israel over Palestine, are capitalists, and they both claim to support women, p.o.c. and LGBTQIA rights. Let’s also recall that Warren endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016. While Sanders sides with Palestine, for example, and is against continued global U.S. military presence, the most pronounced difference is economic.

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Democratic Socialists of America

While Sanders proudly calls himself a Socialist, Elizabeth Warren calls herself “capitalist to her bones” (Foer). Make no mistake about it: Warren’s version of capitalism is a vast improvement to the unbridled capitalism we live in now, and her student debt forgiveness is an incredibly meaningful and powerful policy, as well as her childcare proposal. But protecting capital, and therefore capitalists, means there is an inherent tension between labor and capital, and Warren’s position means that she will repeatedly side with the rights of the wealthier. By contrast, in a speech that might retroactively become historic, he laid out a 21st Century Bill of Rights, which is a strong, clear, and effective route to dignity for all Americans:

  • The right to a decent job that pays a living wage
  • The right to quality health care
  • The right to a complete education
  • The right to affordable housing
  • The right to a clean environment
  • The right to a secure retirement

Bernie’s love is intertwined with his rage. By being free to criticize Wall Street, the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the military-industrial complex, and the fossil fuel industry, he is entirely free to construct a world that is fair to the majority. The old adage that ‘a friend to all is a friend to none’ equally applies to today’s political landscape: an unwillingness to pledge allegiance in a social struggle is to affirm the current oppressive dynamics. Therefore, candidates can only love in proportion to their rage: without a clear sense of rage, they cannot know which interests they are trying to fight; without rage, they cannot tap into America’s dignified rage; and without that, they cannot win the 2020 election. And if they do not love, they are not worthy of the presidency.

CONCLUSION

The new political discourses that emerged in America roughly four years ago have not exhausted themselves. Previously unutterable phrases are now commonplace — ranging from calls to free college tuition to outright white supremacist remarks. Drastic social change is around the corner. We simply do not know which corner we are about to turn.

We have a Counter-Revolution (Alt-Right) and Revolution (Socialist), which both correctly criticize Global Elitism. But while the Right sees this as a political problem of nation-states being unable to assert themselves, as Bannon regularly repeats under the slogan ‘economic nationalism,’ Sanders sees the problem as intrinsic to capitalism itself. While we do have a variety of Democrats representing a Third Way, this re-branding of the neoliberal regime is not meaningful in any capacity: its historical moment has past.

The future is entirely open. Sanders has consistently defeated Trump in head-to-head polls for over 4 years straight now, and he represents the best bath towards a dignified life for nearly all Americans, but that is no guarantee that he wins the Democratic candidacy. If the Dems nominate a Third Way candidate (e.g. Biden), it may cost them the election. And if Trump serves two terms, he will pursue a third.

WORKS CITED/FURTHER READING

“An Examination of the 2016 Electorate, Based on Validated Voters.” Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 18 Sept. 2018, www.people-press.org/2018/08/09/an-examination-of-the-2016-electorate-based-on-validated-voters/.

Baskin, Morgan. “Kamala Harris’ Baggage Could Be Just as Big of a Problem as Biden’s.” VICE News, VICE News, 28 June 2019, news.vice.com/en_us/article/zmp74w/kamala-harris-baggage-could-be-just-as-big-of-a-problem-as-bidens.

“Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.” The Fed — Distributional Financial Accounts Overview, 22 Mar. 2019, www.federalreserve.gov/releases/z1/dataviz/dfa/.

Brown, Wendy. “The End of Educated Democracy.” Representations, 1 Nov. 2011, www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/rep.2011.116.1.19?read-now=1&seq=2#page_scan_tab_contents.

Covert, Bryce. “Americans Work Too Much Already.” The Nation, 28 Sept. 2018, www.thenation.com/article/americans-work-too-much-already/.

Foer, Franklin. “Elizabeth Warren’s Theory of Capitalism.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 29 Aug. 2018, www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/08/elizabeth-warrens-theory-of-capitalism/568573/.

Harvey, D. (2014). A brief history of neoliberalism. Brantford, Ontario: W. Ross MacDonald School Resource Services Library.

“Kamala Harris Confronts Joe Biden in Tense Exchange on Race Relations.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, www.nbcnews.com/video/kamala-to-biden-i-don-t-believe-you-are-a-racist-62834757857.

Klein, Naomi. “The Problem With Hillary Clinton Isn’t Just Her Corporate Cash. It’s Her Corporate Worldview.” The Nation, 6 Apr. 2016, www.thenation.com/article/the-problem-with-hillary-clinton-isnt-just-her-corporate-cash-its-her-corporate-worldview/.

Luscombe, Richard. “Life Expectancy Gap between Rich and Poor US Regions Is ‘More than 20 Years’.”

The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 8 May 2017, www.theguardian.com/inequality/2017/may/08/life-expectancy-gap-rich-poor-us-regions-more-than-20-years.

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