Leadership is commonly defined as the ability to mobilize followers. This definition prevails throughout society — with grassroots activism, private businesses, foreign policy, and elsewhere. But President Franklin Roosevelt adopted a different perspective. He told activists, “I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it.”
Many activists want a revolutionary President, Bernie Sanders, though most Americans don’t support many of the policies he advocates. These revolutionaries envision President Sanders using the “bully pulpit” to change hearts and minds.
But if radicals move too quickly, without popular support, they can provoke a counter-revolutionary backlash that sets back the revolution indefinitely — as we Sixties radicals, with our arrogance, contributed to the emergence of Reaganism.
The tone of the Sanders’ campaign, set by Sanders himself, inflames anger, amplifies rage, and contributes to his supporters harassing opponents, even fellow progressives. His campaign echoes the Sixties, when he formed his unchanging political dogma.
Elected officials don’t lead lasting revolutions. The people lead. Leaders follow. The President’s role is to help the majority realize its will — if it’s compassionate and consistent with America’s highest ideals.
If Sanders wins the nomination, it will be a gift to Republicans. If Sanders wins the Presidency, it will likely be with a small margin and the backlash will be overwhelming. The grassroots foundation to counter that reaction has not been built.
Rather than focus on top-down, temporary, electoral campaigns, Sanders could help organize democratic, sustainable, grassroots organizations. He might, for example, join the Democratic Party and encourage its transformation into a precinct-based force engaged in face-to-face organizing year-round.
The revolutionary’s role is to build grassroots support for concrete reforms that prepare the soil for the never-ending process of evolutionary revolution — holistic, systemic transformation. How to move in this direction is complicated. The Systemopedia collects and constantly updates ideas and information that can contribute to this effort. You’re invited to help develop this “encyclopedia with a point of view.”