Note:As you know, we at Tikkun do not endorse candidates or political parties. But we do respond to bad arguments and crooked thinking being done during the elections, and use the elections as an opportunity to discuss public issues. In this case, we address one of the more distorted arguments used against Bernie Sanders–that he is too visionary and that a president must be more “realistic.”
The assaults on Bernie Sanders’ presidential candidacy reached new lows in the past week. Unable to effectively challenge the value of his policies, the denizens of the status quo have now focused on his alleged utopianism and his supposedly flawed vision of how change happens. In a later column I’ll explain why I believe that if Bernie doesn’t become our next President it will not be for these reasons, but because he is not utopian enough, stuck as he is in an economistic worldview that doesn’t address fully the way that global capitalism invades and distorts our minds, our relationships, our families, even at times our souls. If he tied this together with his attempts to revive the New Deal, he’d break through the resistance that many people have to his style and elements of his politics that seem stuck in the past. But for the moment, lets focus on these current attacks.
Leading the charge was Paul Krugman’s “How Change Happens” in the New York Times January 22, 2016. Krugman, who I believe has been one of the most significant voices of reason when addressing the horrific environmental and social consequences of the unfettered marketplace, suddenly turns chicken about the changes that are really needed to save the planet from environmental catastrophe and U.S. society from further disintegration. Using the massive credibility he has built up as the best known liberal voice in the establishment media, Krugman makes the argument that when looking at history it turns out that the compromisers have delivered real change while the idealists and utopians have failed. Nothing could be further from the truth.
It is certainly true that we will always need the legislators and technocrats to work out the details of new legislation and budget proposals that embody the ideals of a just and sustainable society. But getting to that society takes a very different kind of leadership–one that can project and mobilize people around a vision that they believe to be worth struggling to attain.
Yet such leaders are only possible if they emerge from and are supported by larger visionary movements to whom they are accountable.