The second defeat of Bernie Sanders

Yes, serious critics of structural racism have an agenda for economic as well as cultural reform. But that agenda isn’t what’s being advanced: Chuck Schumer will take a knee in kente cloth, but he isn’t likely to pass a major reparations bill, the white liberals buying up the works of Ibram X. Kendi aren’t going to abandon private schools or bus their kids to minority neighborhoods. And in five years, it’s more likely that 2020’s legacy will be a cadre of permanently empowered commissars getting people fired for unwise Twitter likes rather than any dramatic interracial wealth redistribution.

I am a cynical conservative, so you can dismiss this as the usual reactionary allergy to the fresh air of revolution. But it’s also what an old-guard leftism, of the sort that Bernie Sanders attempted to revive, would predict of a revolutionary movement that has so much of the establishment on board.

The destiny of liberalism, for some time now, has looked like handshake agreements among corporate, academic and media power centers, with progressive rhetoric deployed either reassuringly or threateningly, depending on what’s required to keep discontented factions within the elite in line. The promise of the Sanders campaign was that the insights of the older left, on class solidarity above all, could alter this depressing future and make the newer left something more than a handmaiden of oligarchy, a diversifier of late capitalism’s corporate boards.