Confessions from a political junkie equally ambivalent to both candidates.
At the moment I was typing this yesterday, Bernie Sanders was meeting with President Obama, effectively plotting out an exit strategy which deservedly ends on HIS terms while simultaneously NOT damaging party unity or disenfranchising his energetic base, nearly all of which are the future of this potentially great country. When I woke up this morning, two trending hashtags from Sanders supporters – #ThankYouBernie and #GirlGuessImWithHer – were flying around Twitter as well; the former a holistic appreciation for the character, honesty, and humility of the candidate/campaign, the latter a reluctant acknowledgement that respectability politics aside, a Trump presidency threatens the very existence of our continued struggle towards a truly free society.
It’s funny for me to see these two slogans racking up retweets and surmising the grueling primary cycle as it comes to a close, because they embody in every way how I’ve felt all along about both candidates.
I mean that truly and want to explain why but first, two disclaimers in the spirit of full disclosure:
- After deliberating back and forth for months (solidly Bernie from circa June 2015-October 2015, to Hillary in the fall after a few foreign policy debates where I felt her policy command was stronger, back to Bernie in January and as the primary cycle consistently showed people of color standing with Hillary in each state, I with zero apologies or concern of judgement among my peers cast my vote for her in New York’s April primary.
- Secondly, outside of global politics – which will always be one of my “big 3” issues as a voter simply because of the necessity for America to remain the global leader until such a time as a REASONABLE argument can be made that in its absence a vacuum would NOT be created for authoritarian rulers to fill (ICYMI libertarians and “America First” nativists, no such credible argument exists to date) – the issues that I care most deeply about as a voter are racial justice and women’s equality.
Why not income equality? The staple of the Sanders campaign?
It’s not that I don’t view it as a problem; I just think it is vastly more solvable given the framework that President Obama has laid for future economic growth, provided Democrats lead by a progressive left regain control of the House/Senate and enact higher tax rates for the wealthy along with aggressively closing loopholes in our tax code that so many with means gleefully exploit.
It isn’t an issue to me, because it really isn’t rocket science: rich people should pay more. It’s been proven time and again that the private sector does not get impacted as a result.
Going after employment discrimination, housing discrimination, racial gerrymandering, educational gerrymandering, policing reform, judiciary reform, sentencing reform, etc. These are the issues that marginalized people in this country know all too well will NOT be eradicated simply if they start earning more money. Just ask James Blake if racism cared about his millions. These are also issues that, regrettably neither candidate will “solve,” however – at the risk of incurring the wrath of the far left – I believe BOTH candidates represent equal likelihoods of progress.
Anyway, back to these cuddly hashtags and why I’ve been feeling on them since August.
I have always thanked Bernie for his honesty, for his insistence that we demand better of our shared ecosystem, that we resist the urge to look at politics, society, and even the human construct from a reactionary standpoint, but that we strive to change the condition itself from which so many of our problems are derived.
After he was interrupted by Black Lives Matter demonstrators in August, I donated his patented $27; not because he had completely secured my vote, but simply because it was damn refreshing to see a politician interrupted, called out for turning a blind eye towards a fundamental issue (he had, to date at that point, only looked at racial issues through the lens of income inequality…again, see James Blake above for questions), give them the microphone to speak, and then GENUINELY HEAR THEIR CONCERNS. That was refreshing, and while those on all sides of the political spectrum mused that he did it for publicity or other conceivable reasons, the fact is that he had an opportunity to silence two black women – something America has been doing for centuries – and instead he took a deep breath and said “I’m listening.”
A rarity in this country.
I thanked him for seeking to create a more perfect union and a multi-racial, economically just democracy that works for everybody.
Yes, it is possible.
Similarly, and in many ways why I suppose my lever pulled the way it did in April, I have always kind of, sort of, more or less, been “with her.” I have never loved that her relationship with Washington is equally embedded with Wall Street, nor her arrogance in the face of major falsehoods but regardless of her politics – regardless of YOUR politics – if women’s issues are of remote concern to you, it would be hard to not have respect for Hillary Clinton and the place in American history she has etched. Yes, I recognize that her brand of feminism all too often under-supported women of color and women in lower income/education brackets, but it would be hard to argue against the reality that her career continues to advance women, however imperfectly. It would be equally callous of me not to acknowledge that this continues to play a role in my support, however imperfectly that support may be.
In the end, I voted for her despite glaring imperfections because I felt she was better on all three of my issues; her global policy chops to me were stronger, her career on women’s rights and women’s health speak for itself, and for racial justice – easily the most controversial – in the end I told myself that if black communities in every state voted loudly for her, then I would vote loudly with them.
They did. You’d have to hate numbers to argue otherwise.
Yeah, I guess I was always kind of, sort of, more or less, with her.
In light of that, as the primary cycle ends and Bernie prepares his exit from the race, I do have a few (mostly good) things to say to Sanders supporters. I’ll get the unfortunate realities out of the way in the first three, I promise.
- To begin, Hillary won fairly and decisively. She won 14 out of 22 open primaries, with 3.5 million more votes, and she claimed just about all of the decisive battleground states needed to win in November.
- A flawed primary electoral process in DESPERATE NEED OF IMPROVEMENT AND MODERNIZATION neither constitutes “fraud” nor a “rigged system.” It constitutes a flawed primary electoral process in desperate need of improvement and modernization. If an unknown black senator with nothing more than a grassroots network and a once-in-a-generation gift for oratory could garner the nomination through the same process, then it could have been accomplished this year as well. Deliberately or otherwise, do NOT misinterpret what I’m saying; I DO believe the system needs to be improved. Immediately. A democracy should never cease to ask, re-ask, and ask further again the question of “how do we make democracy, voting, and the electoral process easier, more accessible, and ultimately more engaging?” Always. I find it sad that one of two major political parties consistently relies on the opposite to win elections. Nonetheless, when certain passionate supporters begin with the “Hillary rigged the entire election,” you lose me. It’s not true. See point 1 for supporting arguments. I’m allowed to believe that Debbie must go (she MUST go) and still remain unconvinced that Hillary “stole” the election, because the former is true and the latter is utterly baseless.
- Bernie should suspend his campaign and stump for Hillary before the convention. He should absolutely continue through the end of the last primary next week – the spirit of a political revolution is mildly cheapened if everybody isn’t afforded the opportunity to be heard – but going through a contested convention in which he has zero chance of winning is not only undemocratic considering that Hillary has a commanding majority of pledged delegates and millions more votes, but also potentially impacts unity in front of a national audience likely to only be surpassed by the fall debates before the election. It is self-serving and wrong. If Bernie was up 400 pledged delegates, this wouldn’t even be a conversation. She would drop out and begin working for him. You’re too smart to argue against this logic. Onto the positives.
- Don’t ever let anybody call you Bernie Bros (even if you are a straight, white male). You’re not. I will freely admit I’ve called you that during moments of frustration, and I was wrong. That was inappropriate of me and anybody else. You are tenacious, knowledgeable, and unwilling to compromise on your vision for a better America. In short, you’re our best hope to make America great for the first time.
- Neither to spite Hillary nor his theoretical “outside appeal” will drive you to vote for Donald Trump. I know this and you do too. He is a racist, sexist, demagogue trying to bully his way to power, and that stands against everything your vision for America builds itself upon. See point 4 for supporting arguments.
- Whether it feels like it at the moment, you have already won more than Hillary in the lasting impact you are leaving on the Democratic party and American politics. You took the message of an unknown, 74-year-old, democratic socialist from Vermont (Brooklyn!) and lifted him from 3 percent in the polls to a dead heat down the stretch. You did it on grassroots organizing and the nickels you could spare. You saw through shamefully oligarchic tendencies of party politics, demanded a seat at the table, and witnessed it granted. Never in my life did I think Cornel West would be writing policy for the DNC and it is a magnanimous accomplishment. Truly.
- Outside of this election, PLEASE continue this passion, this voice, this insistence on making America great for the first time. While I could never bring myself to “Feel the Bern” I flirted heavily with it, and can’t stress enough that the seeds of change do not merely lie in a hashtag, they must be followed with verifiable action. They must be followed into all sectors of government from the ground up. You must bring the same record turnouts in primaries to mid-term elections, because the GOP RELIES ON YOUR APATHY IN OFF-YEARS. One of your supporters debating Bill Clinton never adequately answered this question.
That’s all I’ve got. While they are truly more similar as candidates than you may want to acknowledge right now, I’m not going to plead with you to vote for Hillary; your conscience leading you to Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, or writing Bernie in are all understandable.
My only plug – for the sake of mankind – is to please vote for Hillary if you live in a swing state. Such are the regrettable realities of our electoral system.
So to close, Thank You Bernie (and supporters).
It may not feel like it right now, but you’ve irreparably changed American politics.
Your drive has seen the needle moved towards progress.
YOU DID THAT.
Onto November friends.