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The Baffler’s Officially Unofficial DNC Reading List

Thirteen months ago, U.S. senator and self-described democratic socialist Bernie Sanders kicked off his campaign on the shore of Lake Champlain in his home state of Vermont.

Sanders wasn’t expected to win—nor was he expected to get this far. And while he may have thrown in the towel on his presidential campaign, he’s sought to carry his campaign’s momentum down ballot. As Harold Meyerson has noted,“ the Sanders campaign didn’t create a new American left so much as reveal it.”

Still, the Democratic Party remains hugely divided—not unlike the last time the convention took place in Philadelphia

This week, you’ll find The Baffler, ever on the margins of political discourse, lurking outside the Democratic National Convention. Stay tuned for reports from the teeming, heat-scorched sidewalks near the Wells Fargo Center, where Baffler correspondent Emmett Rensin will be on protest watch. He won’t be inside—but hey, neither will you! If anyone ODs on magical fruits, Berns a superdelegate in effigy, or is seen cavorting with Saul Alinsky and the devil himself, we will be sure to let you know.

In the meantime, steel yourself for the madness with a Baffler-approved DNC reading list. In the spirit of carrying the struggle against corporatist centrism forward, we’ve gathered some nuggets from our coverage of the Sanders-Clinton blowout, as well as a number of archival pieces highlighting the social and economic tensions shaping the past year of Democratic infighting:

Anthem for Bummed Youth
By Thomas Frank

“For the affluent professionals who are the Democratic Party’s truest believers, what is unfolding today is a scenario of fulfillment and triumph. They have always suspected that politics is really just a battle between the stupid and the smart, the ignorant and the enlightened, and every morning for the next five months their newspapers will tell them how very right they are.”

Pounding Sanders
By Chris Lehmann

“It should be at least equally evident that when a Jon Chait or Michael Cohen sidles up at your elbow to deride Sanders’s grown-up Serious Policy Credentials, you’re lending an ear to a propagandist for fatalism at best, and reaction at worst.”

My Kind of Misogyny
By Amber A’Lee Frost

“The troubling thing about all the histrionic ‘Bernie Bro’ allegations is not that they’re hurting Sanders’s campaign. . . . The danger here is that in erasing left feminism, consciously or not, progressive media is pitting class against gender—making socialism (or Cold War social democrats, whatever) look sexist to feminists, and making feminism look fucking bourgeois to working people.”

This Election Is an Endless, Sweaty TSA Line
By David Rees

“All the people in the TSA line are Bernie Sanders supporters. We know this because they’re complaining about every step of the screening process: It’s undemocratic, it’s rigged. It’s like they’ve never been to an airport before.”

Hillary’s Courtiers
By Chris Lehmann

“Sure, the Republican side of Campaign ’16 continues to resemble a dumpster fire on the set of Mad Max: Fury Road, but the Democrats, bless their managerial hearts, had begun to show signs of what passes in these circles for political maturity.”

I Dreamed President Trump Tweeted the Nuclear Launch Codes
By Corey Pein

Has the election infected your slumber yet? Candidates yield varying reactions in the dream world: “With Sanders, it’s different. He shows up as the sort of everyday hero who might be featured on Good Morning America, always just in time.”


From our archives:

Withering on the Vine
By Thomas Frank
Issue no. 30

Adapted from Frank’s latest book, Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? “For the generation coming up now, the old social contract is gone—or at least the part of it that ensured health care and retirement for blue-collar workers.”

Against Activism
By Astra Taylor
Issue no. 30

“Organizing is what the left must cultivate to make its activism more durable and effective, to sustain and advance our causes when the galvanizing intensity of occupations or street protests subsides. It is what the left needs in order to roll back the conservative resurgence and cut down the plutocracy it enabled.”

When Class Disappears
By Thomas Frank
Issue no. 9

It’s not just 2016—talking about class hasn’t been a priority for Democrats for years. “As market-worship becomes the monotheme of official economic commentary, class disappears.”

They Pretend to Think
By Ken Silverstein
Issue no. 23

Clinton’s candidacy has brought the synergy between the Center for American Progress and the Democratic establishment back to the fore. “CAP . . . effectively serves as a house organ of the Democratic Party, much as Pravda was to the Politburo during Soviet times.”

Why Johnny Can’t Organize
By Bob Fitch
Issue no. 9

The AFL-CIO—the biggest labor union to endorse Hillary Clinton for president—has been mired in its own troubles for decades. In the late 1990s, Fitch wrote: “American unions . . . are a lot like the dying urban Democratic Party machines they support. Race and ethnicity provide the glue for boss-client relations. At best, leaders provide services for members rather than allow democratic participation in the life of the union.”