by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Taxing the rich, regulating corporations, protecting abortion, expanding Social Security, Medicare and welfare. A casual observer of Bernie Sanders might think these issues are the heart of Sanders’ campaign and the progressive movement he has inspired.
But something else drives the Sanders revolution more than any of these policy matters do. You can tell when you talk to the Sanders delegates, and the protesters on the streets of Philly. You can tell when you count the signs that listen to Sanders speak.
“If this campaign is about anything,” Sanders said at a rally in New Hampshire back in February, “it is about revitalizing American democracy — making sure that every American knows how powerful he or she is to determine the future of this great country.”
The Sanders revolution is primarily about something prior to the issues. It’s about democracy and civic engagement.
Sanders’ main issue throughout his campaign was campaign finance reform — which is almost a meta-issue. “Overturn Citizens United” was Sanders’ most common refrain, referring to the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that struck down some campaign-finance restrictions.
Ask Sanders’ delegates what they care about most, and campaign-finance reform is tops. Voting rights is up there. The Trans Pacific Partnership is up there, and one of the biggest complaints is how it creates unaccountable institutions.
And the Bernie delegates who caused a ruckus at the convention’s first two days — their complaints were as much about disenfranchisement and superdelegates as they were about Hillary’s unacceptability. …
… The average conservative or moderate might look at these Bernie people — with their sit-ins, their chants, their talk of organizing — and call them busybodies. And some of them are. But busy-bodiness is merely an extreme of a virtue. The virtue is civic-mindedness.
Man is a political animal. By nature, we want not only to live our own lives, but also to shape the world around us. This is politics, in the old sense of the word. It’s how we fulfill our duty to love our neighbor, and it’s how we fully actualize ourselves as human.