I lived in Egypt from 2008 to 2015. That put me in the country during the 2011 Revolution.
After the Egyptians flexed their collective muscles, others, including the Americans, were inspired to follow suit. (Everyone remembers the Occupy Wall Street movement, right?) Activists squatted in Zuccotti Park just like the Cairenes had done in Tahrir Square. Then the movement metastasized.
Eventually, though, the occupiers dispersed or underwent a metamorphosis. (Energy of that sort never fully disappears.)
Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about Zuccotti Park and Tahrir Square. And I’ve gained some insights about what happened in those places. For example, I’ve come to see revolution as a metaphor. It is a kind of human flowering that occurs even during a drought. Actually it occurs because there’s a drought. That makes it very ironic.
Revolution is an ending. It is a beginning too.
It can also be seen as an expression of that which can’t be fully expressed.
Listen up. Bernie Sanders has a good chance of becoming the nominee of the Democratic Party even though many see the favorite—Hillary Clinton—as a shoo-in.
Even some mainstream pundits—a group often seemingly blinkered by conventional wisdom—are beginning to figure out that Sanders has a better-than-average shot. Those making such an argument are, of course, right for a number of reasons. I’ll lay them out.
President Obama changed everything. He’s often been a disappointment for progressives like me, but he has benefitted the nation in at least one very important way. His winning the election (twice) opened the door for other “unconventional” candidates to walk through. Who’s going to be next to step across that threshold? A woman? A true progressive of Sanders’ ilk? Anything seems possible now. “Democratic Socialists”—Sanders calls himself one—certainly benefit from Obama successfully smashing through all sorts of barriers.
People are angry. I’m an American who lives in the Middle East and can testify to the fact that many folks, here and elsewhere, including those in the US, are simply fed up and not going to take it anymore. Noteworthy examples of this exasperation would include recent protests against abusive police practices in the US. Another would be the “Occupy Wall Street” protests of 2011 and 2012. When the OWS movement fizzled, lots of analysts attributed the fact to a lack of leadership. If Sanders can step into that role and re-energize those in the 99 percent, his popularity could snowball because he’s the right guy for this moment in history.
Honesty and passion will resonate. Most Americans value authenticity in politicians. What we often get is pre-packaged candidates who are taught not to turn people off. They don’t say anything terribly controversial because they want to appear to be all things to all people. Their strategy is to win elections by not losing them. Sanders is certainly not pulling any of his punches so far, and I don’t think he’s going to change his tact no matter what happens. That’s not Bernie Sanders. He tells it like it is and lets the chips fall where they may. His honesty and energy are going to inspire millions of voters. Whenever he encounters opponents of the sort I described earlier, he’s going to appear genuinely principled in contrast. Americans have been dreaming of a guy like Sanders for a very long time.
Sanders has put his finger on the problem—inequality of wealth distribution in America. He realizes that many of society’s ills are caused by wealth hoarding by a tiny fraction of the citizens. This is a simple message that most people viscerally understand to be true. Sanders is going to hammer it home time and time again. His opponents are going to argue that he’s a radical for saying this. But he’s not and most will know his message isn’t either. I’ve heard ordinary Americans say what Sanders is saying all my life. And they know, again very viscerally, that the super wealthy own the political system. He’s going to play up the unfairness of all this and win many converts. Americans, of all political stripes, are united in the belief that fair play is what matters.
I’m going to finish with a video I want everyone to watch, especially since it was filmed in Austin, Texas, a place near and dear to my heart. If you do, you’ll see the Bernie Sanders I’ve written about in this blog.