The results of Super Tuesday only gave a 60-odd delegate lead to Vice President Joe Biden over Sen. Bernie Sanders, with 672 out of 1,338 total delegates having been assigned and the important 415 California delegates still to be assigned. (Just for reference, Sanders lost by more than 12% four years ago to Secretary of State Clinton. Forgive me if my conversion between percentages and numerics is a tad rusty but the gap is nowhere near as wide.) Furthermore, Sanders is much more serious this go-round about actual victory.
But regardless, every time I think about his efforts and his base, this clip from The Lord of the Rings keeps coming to mind:
Base and superstructure is fascinating contemplation rooted in the reciprocity of power and a constant tension querying whether power is in the hands of the leadership or the membership.
Take a look at this impressive video of a war veteran confronting Biden over his war crimes.
One can see clearly that Biden is terrified.
But it isn’t because he sees this vet as some Travis Bickle-brand short circuit loner. Instead, his terror comes from knowing this veteran so easily punctures his micron-thin moral authority.
In both the Super Tuesday primaries and this veteran’s face-off with Biden we can see antithetical base/superstructure manifestations.
With these plebiscites, the people reduce the range of their tools for civic redress to a ballot. Our Federalist system was designed by its authors to cause the participants a psychological restraint. With near-theological gravity, we invest the ballot with a divine right that can never be trammeled. The Electoral College, taking on the pomp and circumstance vested in the College of Cardinals during selection of a Pontiff, deludes the masses into neutrality. Even after the robbery of the 2000 election and many more following it, Americans still hold true to the notion that the system, flaws and all, is an accurate demonstration of the people’s will. As such, the superstructural control systems of this country keep the rabble in line. Consider for example the Black vote. Sociology has shown for decades that African Americans are the most progressive constituency in both the Democratic Party and the entire electorate, with a militancy that renders lilly-white formations such as AntiFa and DSA rather conservative by comparison. Yet their senior voters have been voting for Biden. Elie Mystal wrote a fascinating essay for The Nation regarding the South Carolina primary:
…Biden won a sweeping 75 percent of black voters over 60. What explains that? What explains the fact that the oldest black voters, the elders in our community who have a living memory of oppression and violence that I’ve only read about, voted in overwhelming numbers for a rickety white guy who occasionally thinks he’s in a John Wayne movie?… My read of the South Carolina vote is that black people know exactly what they’re doing, and why. Joe Biden is the indictment older black folks have issued against white America. His support is buttressed by chunks of the black community who have determined that most white people are selfish and cannot be trusted to do the right thing. They believe if you make white people choose between their money and their morality—between candidates like Sanders or Elizabeth Warren (who somehow finished fifth in South Carolina, behind Pete Buttigieg) and candidates like Biden and Michael Bloomberg—they will choose their money every time and twice on Election Day.
That temporary surrender of self-determination and liberation to Joe Biden, the pro-segregation author of the Clinton-era Crime Omnibus Bill, is a heartbreaking illustration of how superstructure dictates unto base our political economy.
By contrast, when the people act outside the boundaries of electoral politics, a wider spectrum of democratic possibility reveals itself for the public. More substantive change can be created within this grander landscape because it refuses to cede power to the superstructure by default. This veteran never gives a single inch of ground to Biden, causing the doddering old racist buffoon to shuffle off, tail between his legs.
The aspiration of the Sanders base has always been a synthesis of these two antitheses, trying to put into the White House a politician who will cede ground to the masses while simultaneously restraining the police state forces who have a well-established record of unleashing tremendous levels of state violence every time such gain have been made by the people. Just look what happened to National Board President Gerry Condon of Veterans for Peace in May 2019 when he attempted to deliver food to allies of the Maduro government protecting the Venezuelan embassy.
That was a moment when the police state showed its teeth in opposition to any form of radical socialist internationalism. Flaws and all, the Bolivarian government has always been a political project that accomplishes what Sanders dreams of. The American government’s response to the Bolivarian revolution over the last two decades is a preview of what awaits the Sanders superstructure and base.
But despite this, or rather perhaps because of it, we see how threatening the base is to the superstructure. Honestly, what could possibly be so dangerous about a senior citizen like Condon dropping off a food package to those inside the embassy? The notion of the DC cops running roughshod over someone eligible to collect his Social Security is rather telling.
Putting it simply, after this electoral debacle, it is within the power of the base rather than the superstructure that we can look for help in a landscape that otherwise dictates certain despair.
Any other notions are foolish hopes straight out of a hobbit hole.