A conservative friend of mine recently quipped, “You have to admire Bernie’s honesty.
“He tells you up front that he’s gonna take your money.”
Even conservatives who loathe his ideas still grudgingly admit that they respect Senator Bernie Sander for his character and for the candidness of his candidacy.Latin candidus, ‘white’ or ‘pure’: a frank, uncolored opinion; or the bleached, ‘unblemished’ toga the Roman vote-seeker wore. The man is simply a phenomenon.
Actually, he is two phenomena. And neither of them are getting much coverage.
Why they get little coverage is key to the considerations here. Hillary says Bernie is a one-issue candidate. That’s not really true, but his overarching issue of campaign finance reform is arguably the most pressing issue facing the country. All of our other issues – terrorism, immigration, crime, education, international tensions, environmental threats, economic challenges – are heavily colored by the financial influence openly bought and sold through campaign donations. Part of the reason that Bernie (and Donald Trump for that matter) have appeared out of nowhere, is that the electorate is becoming increasingly frustrated with a government simply doesn’t work for us.
Government works for big money, it works for greed. And greed will gleefully sell the whole country down the river for yet bigger money.
Bernie’s supporters complain that Hillary and Debbie Wasserman Schultz are manhandling him (you have to love the reversed sex stereotypes in that one). They also complain that the media isn’t fairly covering him, his issues, his support, and his unfair treatment by the Democratic National Committee.
Well, go back to Bernie’s ‘one’ issue. Cherchez l’argent.
The sexist French phrase, chercher la femme – to look for the woman – means that when a pattern of problems emerges, look for a scheming woman/wife. In a more generic sense, it suggests that when you see a pattern of problems, look for the single person or group that connects it all.
So look for the money: cherchez l’argent. Ask yourself, if Bernie were to enact true finance reform, who would lose? Obviously, big greedy money.
Keep going. What big greedy money would be the biggest losers?
Campaign finance reform would hurt a lot of big greedy money, but it could wipe out much of the big greedy money of media.
Where does most of the campaign money go? To purchase media presence. In the waning days of his candidacy, McCain lampooned both himself and the problem on Saturday Night Live: since he didn’t have the financing Obama did, he was looking for exposure on a home shopping channel. And in a largely unrecognized nested joke, at one point he was hawking McCain ‘fine gold’ jewelry – a reference to his own efforts at campaign finance reform that were badly failing him.
The point is, without predictable and dependable windfall campaign money, all media would lose money, and many would instantly become unprofitable.
And without other government money as well; the local paper in Lafayette takes in about a quarter-million dollars per year as a legislatively protected ‘paper of record’ for the city and parish of Lafayette. Those tiny governmental notices that appear in the paper? They are a cash cow. Or rather, a cash herd: nationwide this scam amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars.
That is why the media is not going to cover Bernie. They have more skin in the game than anyone.
So the first Bernie phenomenon is his supposedly daring message: campaign finance reform, universal education, re-reforming medical care, and his frank – and seemingly reckless – admission to being socialist. To be honest, for the rest of the developed world those planks are hackneyed, decades-old ideas.
It’s the second Bernie phenomenon that is the truly revolutionary and unprecedented one. That phenomenon is the way in which Bernie continues to pull in populist financing and populist votes, despite the media muzzling, despite the underhanded party politics, and despite his ‘reckless’ policy proposals.
Because Bernie has changed political campaigning. Everywhere. Forever.
Populism is hardly new; but a major campaign, run exclusively on populist financing, is unprecedented. There will never be another major election where there isn’t at least one dark horse candidate who runs on small donations. Populist financing is fascinating in itself, but the underlying processes are the real revolution. Bernie has done nothing less than reinvigorate and renew the American experiment. He has found a way to restore the eroding balance of powers.
Bernie is overwhelming the fourth estate of the realm — i.e., media — by unleashing the fifth branch of government.
Our civics and law classes only describe three branches of government. But my kids and I just started watching Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Watch the first two minutes; way back in 1939 it was already quite clear that there was a 4th branch of government, big greedy money. In fact the whole plot of the classic movie revolves around dishonest political machinations to make the rich even richer.
In 1961 as President Eisenhower left the White House, he used the occasion to fire a Parthian shot, and to warn us about ‘the military industrial complex’. But in the last moments Ike changed the phrase he originally wanted to use: military–industrial–congressional complex. Government was, and is, a dysfunctional revolving door of influence peddling.
So there is nothing new about the pulled strings that overly influence our democracy. The rich and powerful have always meddled in government; many U.S. wars were instigated at the behest of large economic interests, robbing us of our lives as it robs us of our money. And today, our squabbles between liberal and conservative are largely clever diversions to keep us from watching what is really going on. Here too, the media is making great profits from dividing us.
Today I suspect the difference is that the public has only recently become fed up with it, perhaps because the greed has become too obvious, too heavy-handed.
Anyway, if big money is the fourth branch of government, what is this fifth branch that Bernie has unleashed?
We, the People.
And so the fifth branch is really the first branch of government.
Bernie isn’t running for the first branch of government, he is redefining it. And as he does so, ‘Bernie the Socialist’ is restoring our balance of powers by becoming ‘Bernie the Fundamentalist.’ The irony is effervescent.
And he is using populist financing to match big greedy money, and to circumvent big greedy media.
And we will exam the impacts, and possibilities, of his daring campaign experiment in future posts.
If you are a Bernie supporter, or just a supporter campaign finance reform, share this on social media and eMail it to your friends.
United States Constitution courtesy of Wikipedia.
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