Why Bernie Sanders Can’t Get the Old Jewish Communist Vote OR The Logic of Failed Revolutionaires

BernieImage result for whitefish salad

One line of argument goes that Bernie Sanders can’t get the Jewish community because he’s “not Jewish enough” or because he supports Palestinian rights (along with liberal-left Zionism). Really the problem for many Jews is that Sanders is too Jewish and too familiar. Kudos to Joshua Leifer for writing and the new-new Jewish left Jewish Currents for publishing this piece here about why Bernie Sanders can’t catch a break, not just just with Jews more conservative or center liberal but with old die hard Jewish socialists out further on the left. The analysis contributes to the sociology of American Jewishness. It could not have been easy for Leifer to write and J.C. to publish this. Accept it or not, the logic of the problem reflects a wisdom whose affect is old and world-weary.

The most interesting part of the analysis for me is here:

Yeselson brushed away the suggestion that his view of Warren as the more “organically” American candidate might be ethnically coded. (Although Sanders, he said, does sound like “some cranky old guy who yells at you at the deli counter when you’re trying to get whitefish salad.”) Rather, Yeselson insisted that his preference was about Sanders’s leftism, not his Jewishness, before emphasizing his own skepticism about the possibility of political transformation after decades of conservative backlash and retrenchment. Yeselson described this structure of feeling as “a logic of failed revolt,” borrowing from the title of a study of French philosophy after May 1968. “The logics of failed revolt kind of wear you down, so you try to come up with a social theory and social practice that can reconcile you to the possibility of change, but that doesn’t raise expectations too high,” he reflected. “It’s kind of like romantic expectations. You know, if I let myself fall in love again, I’ll only get hurt.” 

It is a logic for which Gornick might serve as an expert witness. Her 1977 book The Romance of American Communism—once dismissed as an elegy to a lost world that many felt did not deserve remembering, but more recently embraced as a cult classic—deals with the joyful, self-making process of political commitment and the life-rending, disorienting experience of political defeat and disillusionment. In the kind of psychoanalytically informed reading that Gornick might employ, Yeselson could be understood as saying that the desire for a Sanders victory is so great, and the prospect of a Sanders loss so potentially destructive or terrifying, that the safer option is simply not to invest one’s hopes—or oneself—in the struggle to attain what may ultimately be unattainable.



About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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1 Response to Why Bernie Sanders Can’t Get the Old Jewish Communist Vote OR The Logic of Failed Revolutionaires

  1. dmf says:

    on the other side:
    ““Don’t tell me I’m anti-Semitic if I oppose him,” he said. “Soros is hardly a Jew. I’m more of a Jew than Soros is. I probably know more about — he doesn’t go to church, he doesn’t go to religion — synagogue. He doesn’t belong to a synagogue, he doesn’t support Israel, he’s an enemy of Israel.”

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