CULTURE

Our Vermont Savior: Bernie Sanders Ended His Presidential Bid, but His Impact Will Persist

Bernie Sanders is no longer running for president, but he had an indelible impact on American politics.

Bernie Sanders dropped out of the presidential race on Wednesday, April 8th. The news broke at around 11AM ET, and Sanders addressed his supporters in a live-streamed press conference starting at 11:45.

Standing inside his home, flanked by framed photos of bucolic houses, the Brooklyn-born Vermont senator thanked his supporters—specifically mentioning his campaign staff, all the people who called and texted for him, and all the artists and writers who did their best to promote his unprecedented campaign for president.

"The greatest obstacle to social change is the corporate and political establishment," he told the audience as comments flickered down the side of the screen—a Trump 2020 troll, then a Biden supporter, then a disappointed fan calling for him to re-enter.

Sanders, broadcasting from Burlington, Vermont seemed calm, yet focused. He referenced the Nelson Mandela quote, "It always seems impossible until it's done." He reminded his followers that while Medicare for All was a fringe idea in 2016, now multiple democratic candidates supported it in the presidential race, and now progressive ideals have pervaded mainstream American consciousness.

"Few would deny...our movement has won the ideological struggle," he said. "A majority of the American people now understand that we must raise the minimum wage...that we must guarantee healthcare as a right...that we must transform our energy system away from fossil fuels...and that higher education must be available to all, regardless of income."

Bernie was always a policy candidate, fixated on the issues at hand, clearly tormented by the idea that people are still sleeping on the streets in the richest nation in the world. The rest of the image surrounding him—the toxic masculinity, the Internet trolls—may have been true in part, and perhaps that played a role in his campaign's demise, but the truth is that Bernie's campaign failed for the same reason it won the support of millions of young people and working class people across the country: It was always about supporting and uplifting the working class.

"A member of Congress for nearly 30 years, Mr. Sanders has been bitingly frank about the way that money strangles American democracy," wrote Elizabeth Bruenig in a rare pro-Bernie New York Times op-ed, published conveniently after Sanders dropped out. "Rich individuals with a vested interest in defanging egalitarian politics donate to campaigns, PACs, universities and think tanks in hopes of purchasing lawmakers' loyalties and rigging the legislative process in their favor. These oligarchs — the Koch brothers, the Mercers and Michael Bloomberg, among others — exert control over our politics that far exceeds the one vote accorded to each citizen."

In a nation that worships wealth above all else, and that's truly led by massive corporations, perhaps this was a doomed endeavor. Sanders certainly invoked ire across political parties; and sometimes, Bernie supporters did exhibit somewhat cult-like behavior—though from personal experience, this cult mostly consisted people who were deeply inspired and committed to healing American society.

For some, that Sanders dropped out in the midst of the coronavirus crisis only adds insult to injury. As Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor wrote in the brilliant New Yorker article "Reality Has Endorsed Bernie Sanders"—published a week before he dropped out—coronavirus is starkly illuminating the validity of points that Bernie has been making all along. "The class-driven hierarchy of our society will encourage the spread of this virus unless dramatic and previously unthinkable solutions are immediately put on the table," Taylor writes. "As Sanders has counseled, we must think in unprecedented ways… The Sanders campaign...has shown public appetite, even desire, for vast spending and new programs. These desires did not translate into votes because they seemed like a risky endeavor when the consequence was four more years of Trump. But the mushrooming crisis of COVID-19 is changing the calculus. As federal officials announce new trillion-dollar aid packages daily, we can never go back to banal discussions of 'How will we pay for it?' How can we not?"

Though Bernie's acquiescence to Joe Biden is a devastating loss for many of his supporters, particularly those who were never able to even cast a vote for him, in many ways Sanders' decision to drop out was a logical and even ethical choice. As Sanders himself stated in the broadcast, there was no clear path to his election—a crushing Biden victory on Super Tuesday made that clear—and in addition, holding primary elections during the coronavirus crisis poses its own unique health dangers and inevitably would distort the results.

Now, for all intents and purposes, Biden is the Democratic nominee. Though he fell short of actually endorsing Biden, Bernie called the former vice president a "very decent man" and promised to do his best to promote his progressive ideals in the forthcoming campaign.

The road ahead will be long and difficult, regardless of who wins this November. But our Vermont savior, who symbolized such a potent and promising new world, at the very least laid down some seeds. We may not see them this season, but maybe in future years, the ideas Bernie Sanders planted will be able to grow.

"Now is a moment to remake our society anew," Taylor writes. To say Bernie made an indelible impact on American politics is an understatement. In a critical and volatile moment, he inspired a new wave of young progressives to organize, and made millions of voters question the status quo. He prioritized morality in his campaign in an era that seems entirely devoid of it—not morality in terms of tolerance that disguises inaction, but morality defined by what we truly owe to each other.

These ideas will not die out after Sanders exits the primary. If anything, they'll become more local, more grassroots, more rooted in people power. After all, mainstream political parties in America have never been at the forefront of radical people-focused action. That kind of change will always have to come from the actions of everyday folks, organizing and fighting tirelessly for people they don't know.

TV

Judge Judy Thinks Revolution Is "Fiscally Impossible"—It's Actually Inevitable

In an appearance on MSNBC on Tuesday, Judith Sheindlin made a weak case for Bloomberg and against Biden and Sanders

Judge Judith Sheindlin—better known as Judge Judy—appeared on MSNBC on Tuesday to advocate for her preferred "Democratic" candidate, Mike Bloomberg.

As well as being an actual judge, Judge Judy has won over 25-years of daytime TV viewers by dispensing no-nonsense "justice" in a "small claims court" that essentially awards small cash prizes to people willing to air their dirty laundry in public. It was recently announced that this year will mark the final season of Judge Judy, but that doesn't mean that Sheindlin is done inflicting her pithy opinions on the public. Until her new show Judy Justice arrives next year, she will have to content herself with appearances on cable news in which—in her signature fashion—she can dispense with any suggestion of nuance and reduce complex issues to gut reactions and snarky quips.

judge judy smarter

Using those methods on MSNBC on Tuesday, Sheindlin quickly dismissed the candidacies of Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. Sanders, in her view, only offers "a fantasy," and Joe Biden is "a really nice guy" who will be vulnerable against "a street fighter" like Donald Trump. According to her, as soon as Trump gets on stage with Joe Biden, he will "bring up all the things that the other Democratic candidates at debates did not" and likely tank his candidacy. That may be true. Joe Biden is older than Donald Trump and has a history of supporting racist policies and interacting with women in ways that make them uncomfortable. Trump could use that ammunition to deflate enthusiasm for Joe Biden and undermine many of the strongest arguments against Trump himself. But what about Mike Bloomberg?

Somehow Sheindlin seems to have overlooked how all of these criticisms apply just as well—if not more so—to her favorite candidate, whom she refers to as "a man who knows how to see a problem and incrementally get it fixed." Not only can Bloomberg be attacked on the basis of a record that suggests both racism and sexism, he is also an out-of-touch Wall Street elitist who banned soda in NYC. On top of that, he has already shown himself ill-equipped to respond to those criticisms coming from the likes of Elizabeth Warren—so he's not exactly a "street fighter."

Judge Judy umm

So why has Sheindlin decided to endorse a presidential candidate for the first time in her career? Maybe Sheindlin, who makes around $50 million a year as the star of Judge Judy, has another motive in supporting the only ultra-wealthy candidate who is still running as a Democrat. Hmm… Perhaps her opinions on Bernie Sanders will clarify things.

What would it mean if Sheindlin referred to Bernie's policy proposals as "fiscally impossible" and claimed that it has failed "wherever it's been tried on a large scale"—despite the fact that similar policies can be found functioning in nearly every developed nation on Earth? Could it be that Sheindlin is out of touch with the ordinary struggles she pretends to adjudicate in a fake court room for a salary of tens of millions? Is it possible she's just promoting the candidate she thinks will defend her nearly half-a-billion-dollars of wealth against the grubbing hordes she lords over on TV and in life?

Sheindlin went on to cite Bernie's limited electoral accomplishments as proof that he can't get things done, because he has only passed "seven bills in 30 years … [which] is not a really great track record." Having pushed for decades for the kind of sweeping change that was anathema to the political establishment, it's true that Sanders' name appears on far more amendments than full-fledged bills. While his supporters see this as an argument for giving him the power to force the establishment to grapple with his progressive ideas, to Sheindlin it means that Bernie is "fooling the people out there who are struggling into thinking that he's the answer. He's not the answer."

Judge Judy shut up

Whatever the case, 2016 proved that voters are not particularly impressed with people who "get things done" within a system the public sees as corrupt and diseased. While Sanders' electoral and political "revolution" may not come to pass, revolution of one form or another is far from "impossible"–it's inevitable.

During her appearance, Sheindlin noted that young people always seem to want revolution. As long as there is injustice, and as long as young people are divested from the status quo, that will be the case—as it was in the American colonies of the 1770s, France of the 1780s, Russia of the 1910s… Young people push for revolution, and every once in a while revolution actually happens. It's inevitable in every culture, and it's been creeping closer around the world. Short of political change on at least the scale of the New Deal, a generation faced with the prospects of catastrophic climate change and a lifetime of economic serfdom will not quietly settle for business as usual.

Revolution—in one form or another—is coming for your wealth, Judith. And Mike Bloomberg can't save you.

New Releases

MILCK's "Into Gold" Videos Will Make You Cry (and Inspire You to Change The World)

MILCK's new EP is accompanied by a quintet of videos.

Atlantic Records

MILCK launched her music career as an activist, singing for justice and for unheard voices.

After her song "I Can't Keep Quiet" went viral at the 2016 women's march, she became an unofficial voice of the Trump "Resistance" movement. She connected deeply with many fans by being open about her history with eating disorders, mental illness, and sexual assault, and her music emanates the same kind of honesty, vulnerability, and love that informed her online confessions.

Now, the artist behind the magic—Connie Lim—is turning her attention inward, an act that she believes is "essential to create the outer peace we long to see in our modern world."

Her new album, Into Gold, is a raw, moving, wide-eyed tribute to change in all its forms. "I've realized in my journey that the only way to bring change into this world is by first healing and respecting myself," she said. "And I hope my music is the soundtrack to each gentle rebel's journey towards becoming the change he/she/they wants to see in the world."

Each song on the EP is accompanied by a video. All together, the project follows Lim as she journeys past heartbreak, deep into her own pain, and finally into the light of possibility and hope.

These are delicate, optimistic songs and videos, carefully crafted and made with love. Together, they tell a story, beginning with the end of a relationship and following the protagonist as she looks inward, begins to heal, broadcasts her story on television, discovers a group of women who carry her weight alongside her, and ultimately takes her throne and presents her vision of a better world.

The videos are refreshingly minimalist and always hopeful, avoiding colorful maximalism and the negativity and desperation that defines a great deal of today's pop music, exchanging weight and dissonance for soft lighting, clean tableaus, flawless production, and simple arrangements.

The art of Kitsungi is a method of fixing broken pottery by filling its cracks up with gold. With Into Gold, MILCK performs a kind of Kitsungi on her own wounds, spinning them into jet fuel for her own healing journey, painting over her scars with gold leaf. "It took me years to turn these tears from water into gold," she sings on "Gold." "Yeah, I worked for it. I'm proud of it."

As Leonard Cohen said, "There is a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in." MILCK's work is an exercise in mining those cracks and in willfully opting to let the light in.

The videos and songs of Into Gold are earnest and idealistic, but MILCK has clearly worked for her right to hope "If I am to rule, then may I submit to love," reads the pull quote at the beginning of the final song, "If I Ruled the World," which features lyrics about faster WiFi, naptime at work, and universal healthcare. Now there's a movement to get behind.

Watch the videos here:

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