According to NL in Disney’s 1941 animated film Dumbo, the titular character is given a “magic feather” by a group of jive-talking racist stereotypes who tell him it will give him the ability to fly with his freakishly large ears. The newly emboldened mute pachyderm then gains the confidence he needs to begin flying in circus acts around the world. The climax of the film comes when Dumbo leaps off the platform and accidentally loses his feather and panics, thinking he is about to plunge to his death, when his talking mouse sidekick tells him the whole thing was fake, and he’s always had the ability to fly. Dumbo pulls up at the last minute, realizes he’s basically a mutant elephant superhero, and everyone lives happily ever after.
When Bernie Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton following her illicit victory in the DNC primary, his following fractured, and differing narratives began to emerge as to exactly what this man is and how he should be perceived. Some called him a “sheep dog,” a manipulator used to lure progressives into supporting the neoliberal establishment. Others said he probably fell victim to threats and coercion. Still others insisted that he was completely right about everything the entire time, and that the massive, glaring differences between himself and Hillary Clinton can safely be overlooked. Those perspectives remain pretty much locked in place to this day, and are bound to eventually enter into any public discourse about the Vermont Senator among free thinkers.
For me, Bernie is a good man with good intentions somehow surviving in a sea of liars and manipulators, who, due to the limitations of his perspective as a US legislator, sometimes gets things wrong. Most importantly, though, Bernie Sanders has served as our magic feather.
At a Reddit Ask Me Anything I did last month, someone asked whether I’d been conscious of the corruption and deceit within the Democratic establishment prior to Bernie’s campaign. I told them yes, but what I was absolutely ignorant of was the fact that that corruption and deceit could be fought head-on and defeated. I truly had no idea how effectively government corruption can be fought and opposed until Bernie showed us how simply by pushing in the opposite direction of the propaganda and manipulation, their lies become exposed. Long before the DNC leaks dropped, it was abundantly clear among Berners that the Democratic establishment had a vested interest in obstructing and sabotaging the progressive agenda’s advancement while hijacking and co-opting the movement for free votes. When the leaks did drop, we were given something solid to point to in response to accusations of paranoia and conspiracy theory from the Hillary shills, and the deceit was exposed for all to see.
Bernie did that. Bernie showed us that if we fight the machine hard enough, it will be forced to extend itself out of hiding and expose itself for what it is. I didn’t know that prior to the Bernie campaign. I thought the illusions were too locked in, too airtight for any light to get through, so I thought it was a waste of time and energy to try and engage the machine head-on. The whole reason I started writing these opinion pieces all those months ago was because Bernie showed us how to take the fight to these bastards, and I wanted to do my part in the battle.
Bernie also showed us that we can crowd fund a campaign for the most powerful political office on the planet and give the establishment the fight of its life for 27 dollars apiece. The people at the DNC are trying to gaslight us into believing it’s necessary to court the approval of scumbags like David Brock and George Soros, because “that’s how politics works,” but we already know that this is a lie. If we can crowd fund a President, we can do anything. We have enough power to overthrow the political hegemony of the plutocrats at Wall Street and Silicon Valley. This is a fact. We know this now.
The thing is, just like Dumbo’s scientifically improbable powers of aviation, we’ve always had this ability. Bernie didn’t give us anything new, he showed us something we already had and gave us the confidence we needed to use it. And we get to keep that. No matter what happens to Bernie, we’ll always have the awareness that we can join together, fight the oligarchy, and win. The political establishment has been a non-stop barrage of government propaganda and media psy-ops to try and lure us into amnesia, but nothing can take this away from us. We know we can beat them, and we will.
And we still get to have Bernie with us! We get to keep our magic feather! He’s still here, fighting for us, doing his thing his own way. But his most precious gift that he gave to us is so much more powerful than anything a mere Senator can do. The power is in us, not in Bernie. He just awoke us to our power. And that’s exactly what he was pointing us to over and over again throughout his entire campaign. “Not me. Us.”
This also means that it’s safe for us to diverge from Bernie on any points where we feel he’s missing the mark. If we don’t like the way he’s fed into the “Russian hacking” narrative, for example, or if we think Keith Ellison is a scumbag who shouldn’t be anywhere near the DNC chair, that’s fine. We have the authority to say that. We have the authority to bring our own ideas to the table, to grab the steering wheel of this revolution and take it wherever we think it should go. Because this isn’t about Bernie, it’s about us. And it always has been.
Please rest confidently in your own authority, dear reader, and never let anyone bully you into a position that doesn’t feel true or authentic to you. Your contribution to the progressive awakening is a priceless gift to us all. Stand confidently in the power you’ve always had. I love you.