On Monday, September 14th, Bernie Sanders delivered a speech at Liberty University; the largest evangelical college in the world. With attendance mandatory, the crowd was hesitant, perhaps even spiteful to be receiving a message that rang with a pro-choice advocacy and was flavored with the separation of church and state.
A cynic might consider this a media stunt. Liberty University invites all candidates to come speak, assuming only hardcore reactionaries would dare do so.
Sanders is not a man you dare.
His message, however, wasn’t an indictment, it was a challenge. A challenge to all those clear-skinned youths, who have adopted Jesus as their savior, to look deep within themselves and even deeper into their scripture, because his message to the working class of America isn’t the hissings of the serpent in the Garden of Eden . . . it’s more akin to the Sermon on the Mount.
Which we can only hope they have read.
Response to Bernie’s message was tentative except for a single pastor who posted his own sermon comparing Bernie not to Jesus, but to the emergence of John the Baptist:
‘There is coming a messenger who will bring equity and justice to the poor, and to the weak, and who will stand for ’the least of these.’ That’s the wild-haired Jew that I saw up on that stage.’
John was then . . . all the rage.
We don’t live in those times now. We’ve passed the Greeks and the Romans, the Dark Ages, the Enlightenment. Elizabeth, Cromwell, Victoria. Revolution, Civil War, Transcontinental Railroads, the Great Depression.
Welcome to the machine.
We don’t live in those times, but the rage is still there.
Where we are now, we can blame on John Kennedy.
Prior to 1960, the nomination process began and ended at the National Conventions. Rumors would circulate, back room deals resolved with handshakes in smokey rooms, but Kennedy was too young and too inexperienced to partake in any of that. So he began his campaign a year earlier, using his wealth and good looks to build the myth that even the dirty secrets can’t tarnish.
The machine assumed it would backfire. It did not. Instead, it took careful notes and now the nomination campaign machine begins almost as soon as the standing President takes the Oath of Office.
A lifetime campaign for a 4 year term is the exact kind of grease needed to keep the machine humming. So hard to step out of line in 1988 when you’ve got your eyes on 2016.
But this is America. And there will be those who rage.
Does a massive infrastructure program sound good to you? How about repealing tax-cuts for the rich, universal healthcare, a stronger Voting Rights Act, ending the War on Drugs, harsher penalties for financial fraud?
If so, you probably voted for Jessie Jackson, because that was his platform in 1984.
How about universal healthcare again, addressing the minimum wage, challenging child poverty, and making race relations the center of the American conversation?
That was Bill Bradley taking on the machine in 2000.
There are those who have raged on the other side, however, those luminaries include George Wallace, Ross Perot, David Duke, Sarah Palin, and no list would be complete without Donald Trump.
We can probably thank God that George Wallace never had a Twitter account.
So what happened to the other guys?
Jessie Jackson floundered when he referred to New York as ‘Hymie Town.’ The wild haired jews weren’t so wild about that. Mondale was so much softer as was Dukakis four years later.
Bradley fought desperately to drag his party to the left, but following two terms of constant scandal, the machine needed some vanilla. The machine needed Al Gore.
The machine thought it was getting a more pliant Jimmy Carter. Boy was it wrong. Vanilla was really tough to market. It was swagger that sold that year.
Swagger and the Supreme Court.
As for John the Baptist, unless you graduated Liberty University, you probably already know that he was decapitated and his head was delivered on a plate to the daughter of king Herod.
Maybe he should have stayed in the wilderness feasting on locusts and wild honey.
But for those who prefer a Rocky Road to a bowl of Vanilla, there’s light. Obviously President Carter was able to power through with his message of peace and love to the northern states, and his good christian values to the south. And of course our current President, Barak Obama, whose command of the stage was simply too dominant to ignore.
Plus, what Carter and Obama had (and what Kennedy paid for) was the acceptance and support of the elite sectors of mass communication and media.
Bernie’s rage frightens the elite. You can see it in the way the camera followed him at last night’s debate. Each shot with Bernie juxtaposed against the stiffness of the paper candidates and the smooth coyness of the Hillary Machine.
His rage, however, is exciting to the electorate. His head full of steam, his mouth full of spit, his voice striking the secret chords of David through a Marshall stack.
And it may just be enough.
Carter preached Promise. Obama preached Hope. Bernie Sanders preaches fury.
Let us hope it’s all the rage.