“There is only one way in which the murderous death agonies of the old society and the bloody birth throes of the new society can be shortened, simplified and concentrated, and that way is revolutionary terror,” – Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto
For the past year, the Democratic Party has gleefully watched the Republican primary, essentially licking their lips watching prominent conservative senators and governors fall to the inexplicable, unpredictable and capricious Donald Trump. With the electoral map leaning in favor of the Democrats, women and minority voters that Republicans generally lack in the general election, and a candidate for the opposite party who has some of the highest unfavorability rankings in history, the Democrats appear confident that Hillary Clinton will sit in the Oval Office for at least four years – provided they do not get complacent.
But the scene at the Missouri Democratic Convention in the middle of June displayed a much different picture.
Even with Missouri Democratic Party chair Roy Temple presiding over the convention, a contingency of Sanders supporters effectively ran much of the operation. Clinton supporters only brought 321 delegates to the convention, and those delirious and determined few still seeking a Bernie Sanders presidency, in spite of primary election results across the country, brought 453 in an effort to instill their ideas in the platform and secure prominent party leadership positions. Not only did they succeed, as democracy says they should, but it reinforced the Sanders campaign’s narrative that Clinton cannot excite even her own base of supporters.
It also gave the Sanders delegation a disproportionate amount of control. This group of voters, as many on both sides of the aisle have articulated, have cast aside any notion of establishment politics, politicians, media or corporations. Sanders supporters call the campaign a political revolution designed to give political power back to the working class and away from elites in Washington and Wall Street. Their progressive platform calls for a Western European or Scandinavian-style socialism, non-interventionist policies and a campaign system with as little outside money as possible. They chanted “Not me, us,” a Sanders rallying cry, at multiple points in the convention, extolling the ideals of the collective.
As Americans and free people, they have every right to their beliefs and substantiating their ideas with policy.
Many Democratic officials commented Saturday that they had succeeded in bringing more people to the event, and they respected that. In fact, they seemed excited at the prospect of so many liberals, progressives and political independents ready to represent their party.
Yet Democratic leadership does not seem to realize that the Sanders movement wants to accomplish their goals in spite of the party. Many Sanders supporters say they will not support Clinton and instead opt for a third party candidate like the Libertarian’s Gary Johnson or Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Some may even vote for Trump, just for a new flavor in politics. Many of these people allege the Democratic National Committee has actively rigged the election for Clinton with voter suppression and election fraud, and most have little or no loyalty to Democrats.
That contentious attitude was on display when Sanders supporters attempt to change rules at the convention that would have allowed the open election of pledged delegates from the floor, which would have essentially given Sanders more pledged delegates in a state that voted for Clinton (albeit not by much).
Later in the day, an instance illustrated the exact problem with the revolutionary mindset.
State Sen. Shalonn “Kiki” Curls, D-Kansas City, was one of the four Clinton supporters who put her name up to serve on the Democratic National Committee. The other three serve as officials within the party at the state level, but let’s focus on Curls. Here is a woman that is a 10-year veteran in the Capitol, serves as the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, and is highly regarded by her colleagues on both sides of the aisle as a capable legislator that cares about her constituents and represents her party well.
In the last year alone, she has fought against Stand Your Ground legislation, opposed photo voter ID measures and was a part of the filibuster against SJR 39, the religious liberties amendment many on the left feared would allow discrimination against same-sex couples. Those actions put her right in line not only with most Democrats but also with most liberal progressives.
When Curls gave her speech before the vote on to send delegates to the DNC, she was booed by Sanders supporters because she said she was voting for Clinton.
She lost fair and square.
Those four candidates offered by the Sanders camp who all won were lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Winston Apple, amateur wrestler and candidate for state representative Curtis Wylde (Wells), St. Louis alderwoman Megan Green, and Mid-Missourians for Bernie Sanders founder Persephone Dakopolos. Among those only Green has any experience as an elected official, and she’s served as an alderwoman since just Oct. 2014.
No doubt they all bring a fresh look at how the party should function, and many of them, especially Wells, stood out for their energy and bringing forth a rejuvenated enthusiasm for politics. But does that need for something new mean throwing out the baby with the bath water? Does it mean forsaking people who have fought for decades for progressive and liberal policies?
As cited earlier, Marx and Engels wrote in their capitalist critique, the Communist Manifesto, that the transitory period between capitalism and communism would be something called the dictatorship of the proletariat. The working class, the proletariat would rise up against the bourgeoisie, those that control means of production like tools and resources, via means of glorious bloody revolution to achieve a classless society.
While the Democratic Party has yet to see bloodshed, and in no way am I saying that Sanders supporters are advocating violence (nor that they should) the infighting between supporters of Clinton and Sanders supporters, could prove to be politically bloody with a Democratic Party beaten and bruised from punching itself for months on end.
The revolutionary language used by Sanders and his supporters is troubling in that the perceived need for revolution implies a completely broken society where the only solution to overcome means a total destruction of the current system. Should public servants who by all accounts have done good work in their power as a representative of the people be cast by the wayside?
Look at what happened in Nebraska. Look at what happened in Nevada. Look at what Sanders supporters are threatening to do in Philadelphia. What price are Sanders supporters willing to pay for their revolution? What are they willing to do? Because despite their claims to the contrary, they hold a great deal of power.
Unless Democratic leadership finds a way to harness that power, they risk being overcome by it.