Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Seven Stages of Grief and the Bernie Sanders Campaign

During yesterday's primaries, Trumpmania continued to run wild and Hillary Clinton's march towards the Democratic nomination continued largely unabated.

As the 2016 primary grinds to a conclusion, the Republican Party's elites are continuing their hand wringing about the political poison pill that is Donald Trump, and how such a charlatan carnival barker reality TV show proto fascist rose to power. The answer is not complicated: Trump's ascendance is 1) the inevitable result of a political ideology where conservatism and racism are now one and the same thing and 2) how the Right-wing hate media echo chamber has constructed an alternate reality for those ensconced in it. Contemporary conservatism is a political religion. Trump is simply its most persuasive cult leader and political necromancer.

The Democratic Party faces a challenge in this moment as well...but one that is not as dire or extreme as that faced by the Republicans. Intraparty competition between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton means that the respective factions will have to unite behind the chosen candidate for the general election. These factions have different levels of enthusiasm, somewhat different demographics, and distinct (while often overlapping) policy goals. Moreover, the Democrats' political strategy is complicated by how Bernie Sanders polls higher against Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP candidate, than does Hillary Clinton.

Alas, our fates are not in the stars but rather in the hands of men and women--voters and delegates--who have decided, to this point, that Bernie Sanders will not be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016. This is a hard fact for many people to accept. Realpolitik deems that they should.

The 7 stages of grief are a helpful framework for understanding the political malaise and frustration that some voters are experiencing as the path to victory for their respective candidates shrinks into oblivion.

These stages are:
As a practical matter, the Democrats have a "good" problem. If the polling data is correct, either Clinton or Sanders will defeat the 2016 Republican Party candidate. Bernie Sanders' campaign has also done a public service by broadening the political issue space and educating young voters (and others) that there is a third way outside of the tired, stale, neoliberal, plutocrat-serving, and anti-democratic policies that have come to typify American politics since the end of the 1960s.

Bernie Sanders and his movement captured political lightning in a bottle. This was no small feat. It was both inspirational and aspirational.

The question now becomes, how should the healing begin within the Democratic Party and what is the best way to proceed going forward to the convention? Ultimately, is there a way to leverage the spirit, energy, and critical insights of Bernie Sanders in such a way as to force Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party leadership back to the Left as opposed to being dragged farther Right as they have since the 1990s?

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