Lots of people seem to think that this is the moment to “go big”, to finally:
- Get big money out of politics
- Close the loopholes that have insured that the 1% is too well taken care of while the middle class is losing ground
- Break up the big banks who have done wrong and deserve to be punished
- Regulate Wall Street
- Make sure American workers have certain protections like paid leave and a living wage and equal pay.
The “go big” people, the “feel the Bern” people, feel that the folks who advocate incremental change are killing the buzz. There is rarely a mass movement to address the way our supposedly democratic society has been set up to favor the wealthy and to widen the gap between social classes, they reason, and there should be because this is not the way we expect our democracy to operate.
Why would anyone back an incremental approach when there is all this momentum pushing the moment in the direction of “we the people”? It seems like the times are ripe for big change, revolutionary (peaceful of course) change. It looks as if this is the moment when “we the people” could force a fairer economic distribution, could take back some power that has been awarded, piece by piece, more and more to the elites in America (the wealthy).
The elitism in our election process, which has been recognized and bemoaned for decades, is suddenly being discussed and critiqued as if it was slipped by us secretly just last week. (How could Bernie Sanders, in Congress for 3o years, although not a member of the Democratic Party, not have known about super delegates?) It is good, however, for a new generation of voters to be aware of the true depth of actual disenfranchisement of voters who do not serve in government, to see how the government has set things up so that those who govern are chosen by the wealthy and by those who govern. This is actually true to the designs of our forefathers who did not trust the masses to govern well. Perhaps we will persevere and actually fix this this time, or perhaps we will get distracted by shinier objects and be surprised all over again in the next election cycle.
Trying to predict whether “go big” is the way to go, the way to get the best results from the next 4-8 years, or whether we will gain more ground from patiently working bill by bill, issue by issue is as fraught as any attempt to predict the future ever is. Arguments favor incrementalism. If we look at the makeup of Congress, if we look at years of tantrums that Republicans say will not end until we get “small government”, six long years of “go small”, will we end up with just two dug-in sides yelling conflicting messages at each other. Bernie feels that Americans will rise up, demonstrate, protest and tip the balance his way. This is not patience; this is passion. It is good to see such passion, although the fire has not spread to all of “we the people”.
Plodding through Robert’s Rules or whatever regular order governs Congress, watching the bargaining, vote counting, seemingly cynical compromising certainly does not sound as sexy as an impassioned storming of the elitist gates of governance, but it is the process, it is the way the system is designed. Can we make the system less elitist gradually (but not too gradually) and stay within the system as it exists? I think people will be so disappointed it Bernie loses that they may be even more likely to push his goals, which would help so many non-wealthy Americans. The objectives that make education affordable or even free are particularly appealing. Money is being extorted from young people at expensive trade schools and internet “colleges” taking advantage of high unemployment and fears of economic failure for the underprepared.
Bernie’s “go big” list of objectives tends to be a bit narrower than the vast pool of issues that we have been unable to address for the past six years. He does talk about infrastructure but rarely has a wider approach to the economy and he almost never talks about climate and environmental matters except to advocate banning fracking, although some people feel climate concerns should be the most pressing issues on our agenda (salt water is flooding Miami.)
It looks like a pragmatic, incremental attack on the wish list of “we the people” is going to win out. The problem is that once a path is chosen, you can’t, at least for a period of time, go back and choose the other path, so there will always be those who feel cheated. Hillary Clinton, so determined to win, had better be prepared to serve the people well if elected. “A word to the wise should be sufficient,” isn’t that what we say?
By Nancy Brisson