A revolutionary path within the system

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a town hall meeting at William Penn University in Iowa.
Associated Press / Charlie Neibergall

Because the 2016 campaign, thanks to the circus that has been the Republicans’ search for a presidential candidate, has so extensively concentrated on the outrageous, there’s been not nearly enough attention paid to other aspects of the upcoming vote that figure to be quite consequential. One such is how composition of the Senate and House could become reconfigured after the election, in light of all the dissension in the GOP ranks, much of it arising from negative and downright acid reaction to the frontrunner for the nomination.

Even prior to all of the chaos within the GOP that the Trump candidacy has ignited, it was felt by many observers, as well as Democratic Party chieftains, that there was a good chance the balance of power in the Senate would shift back to Democrats after voting takes place in November. Barring something unforeseen, the high unfavorable numbers for both Trump and Ted Cruz in the electorate, beyond their guaranteed support from the rabid right, portend a Republican top of the ticket that could have some kiss-of-death impact on other Republicans running for office.

If it is to happen in the Senate, Democrats will have to make those pick-ups from among the 34 seats due to be contested this year. Senate majority rule being determined by a small and sometimes even razor-thin margin, that has more or less become the norm, will no doubt continue. At a time that the current Republican majority is holding hostage the president’s Supreme Court nominee, the question of what does or doesn’t get acted upon lends an added poignancy that bubbles up every so often to how the Senate does business. Catching up in the House is a much heavier lift, Republicans having made their cushion there even more comfortable in the 2014 mid-term elections. The Obama-era gerrymandering done by Republican-controlled state legislatures to shape GOP-friendly congressional districts will require action on several fronts to overcome. Democratic voter apathy, especially in off-year elections, doesn’t help.

Actually, how the Capitol Hill numbers stack up is a core concern that one would think to be very much a part of the stump riff of one Democrat battling for the nomination, but is instead strangely absent. In his now familiar packaged rap about “revolution,” Bernie Sanders wants us to believe, it seems, that some of his heavy-duty agenda items will come to fruition simply because of his being in the Oval Office. You would think the guy is angling to become leader of some faraway state whose rubber-stamp assembly must toe the line or else! How much Capitol Hill support does Sanders really believe there would be for the outlier “revolution” ideas he sees as a fix?

Somehow, the fundamental verity that this is a country of process and of divided government, and that there’s no provision here for whimsically changing this, seem to have gotten lost in the hysteria. Sanders and his minions ought be reminded that even the great FDR got check-mated when his social revolution was thought to be getting a bit ahead of itself. In a campaign ad about breaking up big banks, Sanders intones that the banks don’t like him, but would have to respect him as president. And so, voila; there go the big banks. This is fantasia. We want to think the authors of this stuff have been out in the sun too long.

What’s really required of reform-minded folk, to start a practically actionable revolution, is serious strategizing to rid the Congress of those brazen obstructionists of whatever stripe (we know they’re predominantly Republicans), who have no compunction about being across-the-board pro-business. They never favor minimum wage increases. Paid family leave is not a concept they embrace. Ditto, equal pay for equal work. They’re opposed to any proposed new taxes on business. They’re not particularly thrilled about workers’ right to organize. They very much favor big business continuing to enjoy government subsidies, even when there’s no demonstrated need for this. And they stubbornly oppose any tax increase on individuals whose incomes can afford it. All of that and quite a bit more.

Against such perpetrators is where revolutionary zeal first needs to be directed. We have within our grasp one of the tools of revolution — a new level of engagement — that could be utilized to our greater advantage. Revolution need not involve bumping up against and being stymied by the Articles of the Constitution. A pragmatically grounded revolution of spirit, albeit less dramatic or romantic than campaign razzle-dazzle, can be a lot more sweeping in what it achieves.

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