Podcast: CA Primary Analysis, Convention Notes, Kamala’s Exit, and More. – w/Lauren Steiner

Lauren Steiner, activist, lead organizer for Los Angeles for Bernie 2016, and host of “The Robust Opposition,” gives in depth analysis of the all-important CA primary, recaps her convention coverage, dishes on Kamala Harris’ exit, and much more.

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Fascism, Intellectualism, and the Liberal Class: Why Centrists Hate Democracy.

by Russell Dobular

No sooner had Donald Trump won the Presidency than centrists launched an all-out assault on every external force they could think of that would deflect responsibility away from themselves and their anointed candidate. Russia, racists, and third parties were the preferred boogeymen, and the number of reassuring articles written in the first six months after the election blaming one, or all, of these factors for Clinton’s loss, was truly staggering. But no matter what cause that in no way involved Clinton’s missteps, DNC rigging, the failure of neoliberal policies leading to the hollowing out of the middle class over several decades, exploding Obamacare premiums, low black voter turn-out, etc., any given pundit chose to explore, the theme was always the same: people who didn’t vote for Clinton were dumb, and people who did vote for her were smart. Those dummies out there off the coasts had either been duped by Russia, seduced by white supremacy, or maybe worst of all, been perverse enough to vote for candidates like Stein and Johnson who had no chance of winning. Nowhere outside alternative media did anyone stop to consider the idea that in a country where 63% of the citizens say they couldn’t afford a $500 emergency,  a lot of people decided that given a choice between a candidate who not only defended the status quo, but explicitly ran on the promise of maintaining it, and one who at the very least would function as a big “Fuck You,” to an establishment they had grown to despise, enough people in enough key swing states found the Fuck You option irresistible to make Donald Frikkin’ Trump the President.

In the years since the election of doom, centrists have gone on to launch a rabid campaign against non-establishment voices and figures, from the suggestion that the Democratic Party should change its rules to not allow independents like Bernie to run as Democrats,  to the suppression of alternative media through the use of draconian algorithms on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Google, to the oh-so-effective tactic of attacking third party voters and politicians. All of these suggestions and methods are aimed at suppressing free speech and limiting participation in democracy in order to achieve a desired outcome – that outcome being the triumph of the smart people.

It’s truly bizarre to see liberals, who have traditionally been sympathetic to the idea of supporting unpopular speech and tolerating, if not appreciating, third party voices, turn towards what are essentially fascist solutions for limiting opinions and political activity. But in the end, it’s the inevitable outcome of a worldview in which you believe that all the smart people hold similar opinions within a very narrow spectrum of acceptable beliefs, and that anyone whose beliefs fall outside of that spectrum is stupid. If you believe that the only reason your side loses elections is because too many of the stupid people get to participate in democracy and that a lot of those people are also too stupid to see through Russian propaganda and Kremlin-influenced alternative media (in this paradigm, all alternative media outlets are an arm of Russian intelligence), then the logical solution is to suppress that media and narrow the intellectual landscape of those voters. In this view, Bernie’s voters don’t support him because he’s offering solutions to long-standing problems that appeal to them; it’s because they’re too stupid to see that their government is far too broken and inefficient to ever deliver any of those solutions. The “smart people” understand that the best we can hope for is a “pragmatic” neoliberal centrist who wants universal healthcare deep down in his or her heart, but will settle for a reduction in prescription drug costs, because that’s how the system works. If in the course of waiting to enter the Valhalla of a permanent demographic majority that’s always just around the corner for Democrats, you happen to be bankrupted by illness, well, that’s the fault of all those stupid people who vote for Republicans. If it wasn’t for Republicans after all, Nancy Pelosi would tell her donors to piss up a rope and go full Norway in an instant.

The thing that liberals are missing in their newfound zeal for the undermining of free speech (ie, protecting the “stupid” people from Russian propaganda) and the accompanying lionization of our intelligence services (after all, they’re protecting us from the Russians) is that they’re helping to build a fascist police state that will turn on them the second it comes into power. From the Patriot Act’s elimination of Habeus Corpus, to the ubiquitous presence of surveillance cameras on city streets, to the way every aspect of our online activities are being tracked and monitored, we’ve already set up all the infrastructure required for a fascist government to exert a level of control over the population that the Nazis could only have dreamed about. Liberals stayed silent as Democrats in Congress supported all of these threats to our most fundamental legal protections,  and now they are the loudest voices arguing for the suppression of third parties and online speech that they disagree with. Just as with the other assaults on democracy that they’ve supported over the years, the potential long-term ramifications seem to escape them, even now that the thing more sober-minded and less MSNBC-indoctrinated people warned of as Obama was busy expanding the surveillance state has come to pass: a fascist is in the White House, and he’s inherited all the NSA toys we gave him.

Right now there are still too many functioning vestiges of divided government for Trump to make full use of the terrifying powers we’ve imparted to the state since 9/11, but one major terrorist attack on US soil, or the outbreak of a serious war, and its only a short step to indefinite detention for activists and opponents of the regime, many of whom will be the same liberals who cheered the arrest of Julian Assange and want to see Edward Snowden put on trial. And thanks to the Patriot Act, which Congress quietly renewed last week,  as long as the government labels the detainees “terrorists,” it will all be perfectly legal.

Sinclair Lewis is often cited as the source of the famous observation, “When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and waving a cross.” But the cross and the flag have never really represented the animating spirit of the country. A better formulation for our times would be: “When fascism comes to America it will be holding an iPhone and waving a credit card.” Capitalism and consumerism are the things that drive us. Its no accident then that we’re building our prison one Amazon purchase and Google search at a time. Its also no accident that W’s response to 9/11 was to tell the American people to go shopping. He was never as dumb as advertised; W understood the dangers of harnessing the great desire for civic and community engagement that bubbled up in the wake of such a great national tragedy. When people get together and start helping each other, pretty soon they start asking questions about why the people they’re helping need the help. They start organizing and trying to improve conditions. They become politically engaged. They begin to notice the great gulf between what they’re being told the country is and what it actually is: a white supremacist shopping mall where a few people benefit while most people struggle. Consumerism keeps us all siloed off behind walls of greed, desire, and superficial differences in taste. Better to have them go shopping then, than to have them try to do anything that might connect them to their fellow human beings. Ultimately, fascism is nothing more than an unholy alliance between capitalism and nationalism, combined with a lack of meaningful civil rights and the scapegoating of an “enemy.” As long as you aren’t the enemy, its easy to go along with. So, liberals mostly go along.

But there are other reasons why neoliberal centrists are even more hostile to democracy than their ostensible foes on the right.  One is that they mistake their social justice positions (the only positions they hold that can be reasonably construed as “left”), as inherently anti-fascist. This is because our idea of fascism has been almost entirely shaped by the version of it that arose in Germany. But there’s no reason that the “enemy” in a fascist state needs to be a member of a racial, or religious minority. The suppression of ideas is paramount; the way that you get there is negotiable. It doesn’t really matter if you’re ruling certain ideas and speech out of bounds by labelling them “Jewish,” or ruling them out of bounds by labelling them “Russian.” The end result is the same; the dehumanization of certain classes of people, under the pretense of protecting the state. This is why liberals remained silent even as Chelsea Manning was being tortured for revealing American war crimes in Iraq. The fact that Manning is also transgender reveals the hollowness of even the identity politics that liberals claim to care so deeply about.

The other reason centrists are so supportive of anti-democratic policies is pretty simple: they don’t think the black hoods and the zip ties are ever going to be used on them. Centrists are centrists because the system is working for them. It always has in most cases. They can’t imagine a world where it doesn’t. It’s easy to give away protections and freedoms that you believe you yourself will always continue to enjoy. Just like its easy to support Medicare For All as an abstraction to be achieved at some point in the distant future, if there’s no chance your own family is ever going to be financially wiped out by an illness. Quite simply, they believe that no matter what happens, they’ll always be spared the worst of it.

One final update to the classic formulation then: When fascism comes to America it will holding an iPhone, waving a credit card, and be wildly popular with the liberal class, just so long as the stormtroopers are diverse and their targets have “Russian” ideas.

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Podcast: Debate Recap, Extra Spicy: With Takes on MSNBC, Impeachment, & More.

A fun and freewheeling recap of the November Democratic debate, complete with lots of fun tangents and hot takes on lots of topics.

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Why Sanders is Going To Win Iowa and New Hampshire

by Russell Dobular

Most corporate media horse race coverage focuses in on traditional metrics; donations, money on hand, endorsements/institutional support, and polling of likely voters. It always worked before 2016, and in an industry where the Chinese adage, “The nail that sticks up, gets hammered down,” is the guiding editorial principal, careerist journos are slow to change their methods even in the face of overwhelming evidence that those methods are outdated and useless in the face of a rising populist wave. It’s a big part of the reason that they never saw Trump coming, and it’s the reason they underestimate the very real possibility that Sanders will take Iowa and New Hampshire. Here’s why:

1. “Likely Voters” and Endorsements

Sanders probably has anywhere from 3%-10% support that doesn’t show up in polling of “Likely Voters.” That’s because for polling purposes, “Likely Voters,” are defined as those who have voted in the past. That’s fine for measuring the support of Joe Biden, who sure as hell isn’t going to motivate anyone who hasn’t voted before to start voting now, but it’s completely inadequate for measuring the support of populist candidates, whose pitch is essentially, “Yes, you’re right, this whole system is rotten, and if you vote for me, I’m going to take it on.” That appeal is aimed squarely at turning out people who have given up on the political system and therefore don’t generally vote. Because they don’t vote, they’re invisible in most of the polling. That’s why in 2016 Sanders repeatedly outperformed his poll numbers, most notably in Michigan, where polls showed him trailing by 20 points, while he went on to win the state by 1.5%. This reality also flips the “endorsements” metric on its head. For a candidate like Sanders, an endorsement from Nancy Pelosi would be the kiss of death. For his purposes, the more antipathy he receives from the party establishment, the more non-voters and independents he’ll be able to turn out.

2. It’s The Small-Dollar Fundraising, Stupid.

In the past, measuring the money race meant measuring corporate donations and the haul from high-dollar fundraisers. Even at the beginning of the 2020 cycle, a lot of corporate media coverage focused in on Harris, Beto, and Buttigeig’s traditional fundraising prowess. That was fine when Democratic party voters were still bowing their heads to party leadership, and, more or less, following their signals about who to support. Until 2016, a primary in which actual voters were allowed to participate was a formality; the “shadow primary” in which big donors, and party big wigs made up their minds about acceptable candidates long before the Iowa caucuses got underway were paramount. This process reached its logical conclusion when, in 2016, party insiders decided they didn’t really need the illusion of a competitive primary, and anointed Hillary Clinton alone to be their candidate, with disastrous results. Sanders changed all that, not only by challenging Clinton without the blessing of ‘The People Who Matter,’ but also by going on to out-raise corporate-funded Clinton with an army of small-dollar donors. To make matters worse, in the course of doing so he was impolitic enough to point out the obvious: corporate donors aren’t writing big checks because of their altruism – they expect a return on investment. As a result, traditionally funded candidates like Biden are between a rock and a hard place. With policies that are far too centrist to inspire much devotion from the kinds of people who would donate online, they’re forced to rely on corporate donors, which in turn opens up an easy and effective line of attack for populists like Sanders. Relying on large donations also puts a candidate at a strategic disadvantage when they’re running against a small-dollar funded candidate. Once a donor has maxed out at $2700 (the legal limit), they can’t give again, while millions of people donating small amounts can just keep on giving. That’s a big part of the reason why Biden’s fundraising numbers have plummeted, even as Sanders’ have held steady.  Thus, the important metrics in a post-2016 world aren’t the number of successful Wall Street fundraisers held by a candidate, but the number of individual donors, the overall amount of money raised, and the cash the campaign has on hand. Sanders not only leads in all three of those categories; in the first and arguably most electorally important, he more than doubles his next closest competitor, Elizabeth Warren.

3. Enthusiasm and Volunteers

Sanders has so far held the biggest rallies of the campaign, both overall, and specifically in Iowa.  Not only does this reinforce the case that there’s a hidden Sanders vote on the ground that doesn’t show up in the polls, but it also demonstrates that Sanders’ base is the most likely to actually put in the effort to vote for their candidate. If you’ll drag yourself to a packed rally and stand on your feet through several hours of speeches, chances are you’ll drag yourself down to the polling station and wait on line when it comes time to vote. This is especially important in a caucus state like Iowa, where voting isn’t a simple matter of pulling a lever, but an all evening affair of not only supporting, but advocating for your candidate. Aside from all that, Sanders hit his target goal of 1M volunteers by the end of February. That number is likely to be considerably higher now. No other candidate has anything even roughly comparable to Sanders’ volunteer operation and that’s going to make a ‘yuuuuge’ difference in GOTV efforts.

4. Mayor Pete & Deval Patrick

The conventional wisdom is that Mayor Pete’s rise in the polls will hurt Biden. That’s true to a degree, but the person with the most to lose from Buttigeig’s recent surge is Elizabeth Warren. Although Sanders and Warren are usually lumped together in the public mind, they’re actually drawing from very different pools of voters. Sanders’ voters are more diverse, more working class and younger,  while Warren and Buttigeig are most popular with college-educated whites.  Consequently, a lot of Warren’s base are open to considering Mayor Pete, while Sanders voters soundly reject him. This dynamic can only help Sanders and hurt Warren going into Iowa. To make matters worse for Warren, with Deval Patrick running, some of her neighboring-state-advantage in New Hampshire will be blunted. Patrick’s entry is also bad news for Biden, given the former’s close relationship with Obama, and the widely held belief that he got in the race with Obama’s blessing. That’s going to peel away some of the establishment Democrats for whom an Obama endorsement is something akin to a Papal Bull. With an already shaky, low-enthusiasm campaign, and Patrick’s support coming largely at his expense, its hard to imagine a scenario where Biden takes either of the first two states. With Warren wounded and Biden bleeding, Sanders probably comes out on top.

There are other, less tangible factors that I haven’t explored, like the fact that the Democratic party electorate seems to be growing more disenchanted with its leadership every day, and the way that the more that leadership panics at the prospect of even a Warren victory, much less a Sanders one, the more strategic blunders they seem to be making, like throwing yet more candidates at the problem. It’s really like watching a long-despised aristocracy that’s been far too removed from the public for far too long to understand its mood, trying to justify its own existence, but having no idea of how not to add fuel to the fire with their every utterance. The parade of billionaires, including soon to be candidate Bloomberg, going on TV of late to argue the virtues of unrestrained capitalism, feels something like watching Louis XIV argue the case for the Divine Right of Kings, circa 1788. All this will benefit the Sanders campaign greatly, at which point, if you think the establishment is freaking out now, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

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Podcast: Warren vs. Sanders on Med4All, Credibility, Electability, and More.

Keaton and Russell discuss Warren vs. Sanders in terms of their tenacity, strategy, credibility, electability, and more. Also check out Russell’s article below, which accompanies the recording!

Warren Turns Down the Elvis Gig

by Russell Dobular

In 1953, an 18-year old truck driver walked into Sun Records to record a cover of “My Happiness” for his mother’s birthday. Sam Phillips, the owner, specialized in blues, gospel, country, and the new, emerging rock n’ roll sound being produced almost entirely at the time by African American artists. But Phillips knew he would never be able to penetrate the culture with black artists the way a Frank Sinatra or a Bing Crosby could. No white parent was going to allow their teenage daughter to lay in her bed at night with a poster of Little Richard staring back at her. What he needed was a white singer with a “negro” sound. What he found that day was Elvis Presley, whose eventual designation as “the King of Rock n’ Roll” was a source of bitterness to his far more gifted contemporary Chuck Berry, to his dying day.

In similar fashion, establishment Democrats and the corporate media have been casting around throughout this election cycle for their Elvis; a neoliberal centrist with a populist sound who can command the adoration of the masses. Kamala Harris was the first to audition for the role, but it became obvious pretty quickly from the loathing she received among progressives before even announcing her candidacy that she would never be able to sell it; not with her horrific record as a prosecutor hanging around her neck.

Next came the tulip mania of Beto O’Rourke. Unburdened by Harris’ history, gender, or race (they never said that last part, but they were always thinking it), the press spent months pumping up a half-bright Congressional back bencher mostly in the hope that he could steal away Sanders’ base of progressive millennials. This, in spite of the fact that anyone who cared to look would have found that he had one of the most conservative voting records among Democrats in Congress. Columnist Jennifer Rubin’s gushing tweet back in March, “Beto fundraising number suggests Bernie now officially yesterday’s news, faces stiff competition for youth vote,” sums up the tone of the coverage at the time and makes one marvel yet again at the fact that these people get paid real money to offer these kinds of insights.

Beto, God bless him, tried his best to play along, even jumping up on diner tabletops and flapping his arms around, like the King himself might have done in one of his campy Hollywood outings before grabbing a guitar and singing something forgettable. But Clambake just doesn’t play well in serious times, and the almost immediate implosion of Beto’s campaign left the party establishment and its courtiers-cum-journalists in a bind. There was really no one else in the field who was cutting that populist record, who could also be relied on to govern as a centrist, a la Obama. With the threat of a Bernie Sanders nomination looking very real, they reluctantly started to line up behind old-school crooner Joe Biden, but never with very much enthusiasm and never with the kind of screaming teen devotion they had shown to Harris and Beto, who at least represented the kind of change on the outside, continuity on the inside, politics they prefer (even if Beto was just another dopey white guy, at least he represented a generational change. Hell, it’s something).

Enter Elizabeth Warren. Whereas Sanders had been singing the same song for forty years, (an FDR cover with a Marxist bass line), and there was absolutely no doubt that if elected he would try to do every filthy thing he was promising, from universal health care to (worst of all for this crowd), outlawing lobbying by former politicians, Warren had been a Republican until 1997. She also took great pains during the campaign to avoid getting Bernie’d by the establishment, calling herself a “capitalist to [her] bones,” kissing the Clinton ring, and avoiding the kinds of attacks on the party that are a regular feature of Sanders’ riffs. Sure, she might actually mean some of this stuff, they began to reason, but that doesn’t mean she, like, means it, means it. Thus the brief love affair between Warren and the Third Way Democrats began.

That love affair ended very quickly last week when she doubled down on M4A by releasing a plan to pay for it. Clearly Warren was not the cross-over artist they were looking for. The candidate they were looking for would have kept it vague, maybe throwing in some buzz words like, “aspirational,” when discussing universal health coverage. Indeed Warren had hit that note before by indicating there were “many paths” to health care for all, which, combined with her lack of a specific plan in a campaign whose slogan literally has the word “plan” in it, led a lot of the centrist mafia to assume she was just peddling this stuff to the rubes, with no intention of actually following through if and when she should assume the Presidency. 

By releasing a plan to pay for it, Warren took ownership of M4A in a way that she hadn’t when she was simply endorsing Sanders’ plan. To make matters worse, she followed up by tweeting out an attack on Biden that could have come from persona non grata Tulsi Gabbard in its I-Don’t-Give-A-Fuckedness, “Democrats are not going to win by repeating Republican talking points and by dusting off the points of view of the giant insurance companies and the giant drug companies who don’t want to see any change in the law that will bite into their profits. But if anyone wants to defend keeping those high profits for insurance companies and those high profits for drug companies and not making the top 1 percent pay a fair share in taxes and not making corporations pay a fair share in taxes, then I think they’re running in the wrong presidential primary.”

In true Mods vs. Rockers fashion, the main charge against Warren from the Sanders side has been that she’s a poseur; a fake progressive who’s going to put out a double-live album of neoliberal standards the second she gets into office. By going full-on Never Mind the Bollocks this week, she should have effectively put those claims to bed. There are perfectly legitimate reasons to prefer Sanders over Warren. Warren is a technocrat, while Sanders is an activist. Only one of them will go on TV and start naming names, in the course of calling for a general strike, and it ain’t Warren. We’re well past effective regular order democracy now and she doesn’t seem to understand that.

Warren largely brought these suspicions on herself by trying to support progressive policies AND maintain good relations with party leadership. Hopefully she’s realized from the swift and brutal reaction to her plan by Pelosi, and the rest of the usual centrist suspects that its one or the other; in a system this corrupted by money, you can never be on the side of the people without earning the wrath of the establishment. Inviting that wrath this week by choosing to double down on M4A when the smart play would have been to keep it vague should earn her some respect, even from (maybe especially from) the Sanders side. Sanders never had a chance to be the Elvis, even if he wanted to be. Old, white, and very Jewish doesn’t play with this audience. Female and Ivy educated is more in their wheelhouse. Warren had the contract in hand, just awaiting her signature. They were about to make her their Elvis, but she turned down the gig. If we’re luckier than we as a nation deserve, in the end Sanders and Warren may be singing a duet as nominee and running mate, each bringing something to the table the other lacks (Sanders willingness to go outside the system, balanced by Warren’s deep understanding of how that same system is put together). That album might not have centrist appeal, but for the majority of voters, particularly those who have long given up on the whole political scene as one big corporate sell-out, it will represent the first new sound they’ve heard in at least a generation and for the most part, they’re really gonna dig it.

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Podcast: Local Berniecrats Founder on the Need for Bottom-Up Political Revolution – w/Joshua Copeland

Joshua Copeland, founder of Local Berniecrats, discusses the need for bottom-up political revolution and sheds light on how progressives can best influence the political system by seeking local office.

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Chalk Dust of the Revolution: Reflections of a Chalkstar

by Kristoffer Hellén

Yesterday I returned home after two weeks on the road, clocking in 2,300 miles. My trip had one purpose: to chalk Bernie’s name at as many colleges as possible across California. I managed to make 45 Bernie chalks, which, on top of the 24 chalks I did prior to my trip, comes to a total of 69. At first my goal was 50, but now I’m well on my way to 100. Next week I will set out again. I don’t plan to stop chalking until I’m physically unable to.

What sparked this ambitious project? Since March I’ve spent about 500 hours tabling for Bernie in Santa Cruz, California. When people see me tabling, they don’t usually stop, but I get them thinking about Bernie. I start conversations. I inspire people with my self-sacrifice of sitting out on the street for hours on end. After all, the power is in the streets. It’s an act of great humility, putting oneself completely at the mercy of the public, sitting in full confidence that Bernie is on the side of the people.

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At City College of San Fransisco. Whenever anyone compliments my chalkwork, I invite them to help fill it in. People are surprised because they’re not used to such grassroots artwork. When it’s done, I give them the leftover chalk and invite them to help maintain it.

I’ve come to appreciate the importance of getting Bernie’s name out in public, which is why I’ve pushed a visibility-centered grassroots strategy from the beginning. In the struggle to displace the hegemony of neoliberal ideology and bring about a new age of progressive hegemony, there are three main arenas of struggle: the mass media, social media, and physical space. The commanding heights of the mass media is thoroughly on the side of establishment interests, as Noam Chomsky proved in Manufacturing Consent. Social media, meanwhile, has been largely won by progressivism, despite all the establishment attempts to reel in its revolutionary potential through algorithms and outright censorship. The third arena is physical space, and this is the crucial battlefield where Bernie’s revolutionary movement will win or lose.

The question is, how to win physical space for Bernie. The problem with tabling is that one cannot table continuously. Placing Bernie banners in prominent spots is effective, but it can be difficult getting the permission of property owners. What if I could have a continuous presence on the street? And not just be present in one place, but fifty places, or more, all at once? I found out, there’s a way. Through the power of chalk.

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My chalk in downtown Santa Ana. Photography credit to Jenny Lynn (AKA Steady Jenny)

My first chalks were in downtown Santa Cruz. They were well received, but were washed off within a day. Next, I decided to try the local community college, Cabrillo College. It was my best chalk yet and, much to my amazement, it lasted a week, then two weeks, then a month. The chalk was located in such a prominent place that it had surely been seen by a majority of the students. Just to think of all the conversations it had started, and to think how easy it would be to destroy my chalk with water, yet people had respected my artwork. They respected Bernie. It was surprising, but also made sense for an institution as working class as a community college. It seemed like a much more efficient form of activism than talking to people at my table. Such a humble medium as chalk, mere dust, seemed to be a material of revolutionary potential.

 

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A Bernie chalk in Florida inspired by me.

Seeing the revolutionary potential of chalk requires reassessing a lot of the mythology that drives grassroots activism. There is a tendency among activists to believe that one-on-one voter contact is supreme and there is no such thing as mass activism. There is a tendency to rely solely on forms of voter outreach that can be recorded and quantified. But this form of activism has an elitist aspect to it. It’s based on the assumption that all voter contact should be mediated through a designated “activist” or “volunteer.” And those who are volunteers have a tendency to be people who are retired or well-to-do, which excludes working class people who have no time for activism, yet are the people with the most intimate knowledge of our broken system. Chalking represents a philosophy of organizing that cuts out the middleman and places confidence directly in the working class. The idea is that the working class can figure out what its own interests are. We merely have to stimulate conversation among the people, and that can only result in raising working class consciousness. Chalking is the perfect catalyst for stimulating conversation among the people.

I wasn’t sure that my chalk at the community college was making a difference until my friend, Alekz Londos, who had helped me fill it in, overheard a group of students walking by downtown discussing my chalk work. Of all the conversations he could have overheard, it seemed like confirmation from the universe that I was doing something important. It’s then that I realized I needed to expand. Silicon Valley was closest, but why stop there? I started dreaming of a statewide chalking tour. My hope was that others would imitate me and I would spark a nationwide chalking movement, but I didn’t see it happening. People were intimidated by my work and didn’t feel they could replicate it. I felt a lot like Bernie, who really didn’t want to run for president, but because no one else with progressive bona fides was stepping up to the plate, felt he had to.

 

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At Merced College a group of students embellished my work, which I invite because chalks belong to the people. The conversation it sparked continued long after I left.

I started looking for hosts and once I had a host lined up in Bakersfield and San Diego, I decided to set out. I figured that once I started my journey and promoted my project on social media, the movement would help me along the way, and that’s exactly what happened. In two weeks, I did not spend one night in a hotel. I stayed with Bernie supporters. People who supported my project threw me gas money and I raised over $700, almost exactly enough to break even. This would only happen with a candidate with a grassroots movement behind them, and Bernie Sanders is clearly that candidate. Along the way I had three encounters with police who came close to citing me for vandalism. Yet if what I’m doing is criminal, the movement that has supported me and been fully complicit in my project must be criminal too. And then who are the laws for? Not the people.

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At Irvine Valley College, the police arrived and made me wash off my chalk. I figure that for every chalk that doesn’t last, one will last far longer than you would ever have expected, and it all averages out.

Chalking is an essential part of the progressive movement because it shows that this is much more than an economic revolution against the billionaire class. It is, in fact, a cultural revolution, a rejection of the neoliberal culture that atomizes us, pits us against each other, and makes us believe that success must come at the expense of others. Chalk inspires people because of the great care that goes into it and because the result is vibrant and stunning. It demonstrates that Bernie is the only candidate who inspires artwork, and that has to count for something. The beauty is not only inspiring, but serves a practical protective purpose as well. I’ve witnessed a stumbling homeless man walk around my chalkwork, in addition to a group of twenty students, a breathtaking act of respect.

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On special occasions, I draw a bird instead of a star.

During my chalking journey, Rivan Canderin from the Arts and Culture team of the Bernie Sanders campaign reached out to me acknowledging my good work, and I prepared the following statement, which I think summarizes my project:

“Chalking for Bernie is much more than a form of art. It is an expression of an outlook on life that aligns fully with everything Bernie’s campaign represents. It’s an understanding that true power is in the streets. It’s a willingness to be completely down to earth. It’s the courageousness to put oneself at the mercy of the public, to be completely vulnerable. It’s the humility to get one’s hands dirty. It’s an act of placing trust in the people and honoring our right to determine our own destiny. Each chalk is a meditation on the self-sacrifice that Bernie makes every day to serve a higher self, the ‘Not Me, Us.”

Every Bernie chalk is a small revolution. It is a protest against the media’s unfair coverage of a good man. To counteract the media’s false narratives, we must make our support publicly visible. If the media gave Bernie fair coverage, it would not be necessary to chalk. But if the media gave Bernie fair coverage, this would not be a revolution. Every Bernie chalk shows the public that Bernie is the only candidate who inspires art, and the candidate that inspires art is the candidate that deserves to win. A revolution will only succeed if it’s led from the heart.

Just as the power is in the streets, the chalk is in the streets. Hence, the power is in the chalk. Bernie does not complete the revolution. He only provides us the outlines. The people have to fill out the revolution. The only question is: will the people pick up the chalk?

The revolution will not be televised. It will be written in chalk. The chalk dust of the revolution will wash away, but the lines will be etched in the history of the people’s liberation.

Pick up the chalk.”

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Another chalk inspired by me.

If you support my project, the best thing you can do is imitate me. I don’t want fame, I want to start a chalking revolution. I use Crayola sidewalk chalk from Staples. It’s not as hard as it looks. I just make outlines of the letters and fill them in. The second best thing you can do is toss me some gas/chalk money at paypal.me/chalkbernietome. It will help me chalk every corner of Northern California and the Central Valley. I’m only getting started.

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