Closing out the first night of the Democratic National Convention, Senator Bernie Sanders gave a full-throated endorsement of Secretary Hillary Clinton for president.
Though slightly abbreviated (a mere half-hour), Bernie gave his usual policy-filled stump speech that supporters had grown accustomed. Cameras cut to teary-eyed delegates, realizing this was the last time they would hear those powerful words from that wonderful man during this historic campaign. Bernie punctuated each familiar, progressive point with the promise that Hillary Clinton would fight to make it reality as president.
He stressed the importance of the times and the courts and anger and the danger of the cheeto-fascist. He implored his followers to actively support Hillary Clinton in the coming months.
But I just can’t do it. I fully understand and accept that Bernie had little choice but to endorse. After all, Nina Turner was supposed to introduce Bernie at the convention, but withheld her endorsement and coincidentally wasn’t allowed. Bernie wanted to give that speech espousing those values on the national stage of the convention, so he did it.
He also wanted the DNC to adopt the “most progressive” party platform in decades. So he forged ahead despite establishment Democrats and media berating him for months on end for hurting Hillary and helping the orange man and he had to drop out of the race.
Bernie is smarter than me. He was doing the right thing before I was born. And he’s doing the right thing now – from his perspective. After all, he’s headed back to the senate where he’ll be working with establishment Democrats he’s been calling corrupt for the past year. He’ll return as ranking Budget Committee member, and by smoothing things over it’ll be easier whip his progressive budget.
Also, he likely believes that in the short-term, with the current system, co-opting one of our two major-parties makes more sense than trying to lift a third party to prominence (see, Tea Party). That’s why he ran as a Democrat when he had been an Independent for decades prior. (And why Trump = R.)
The government gives funds to parties that reach certain thresholds – which only Ds and Rs meet. Same goes for news network and political party requirements for getting free media and a national spotlight on the presidential debate stage. Bernie understands intricacies and rules that most people don’t. That’s why he’s the Amendment King. He knows exactly what he is doing.
But I can’t get down. I’ll shame and belittle the toddler-tyrant, but I won’t support Hillary Clinton. I can’t support a candidate who supports fracking and the TPP (ask Terry McAuliffe) and the death penalty and prohibition and settlements and private prisons… Who thinks the banks aren’t too big, just misunderstood; and that US foreign policy should be more muscular.
Also, I’m not a Democrat. I am a progressive – far more Jill Stein than Chuck Schumer. And instead of trying to woo my vote, Democrats spit in my face. They had the opportunity to nominate the most progressive candidate in memory and invite a generation of enthusiastic voters into the party. Democrat leaders instead – despite poll after poll showing the progressive champion was far more electable – chose to rig the election and collude with mainstream media in order to coronate the most unpopular candidate in the history of the party. They scoffed and ridiculed, they accused and demeaned. Then they demanded we fall in line. If Democrats want millennials and progressives in their party, they need to stop condescending and start listening.
Admittedly, I have the privilege of not being a white racist terrified of demographics. And I am not an immigrant or a Muslim, or black or brown or native or queer or disabled. So an oompa-loopma-in-chief might only mean accelerated trickle-down for me, personally. Besides, you know, a fascist takeover of the country with an authoritarian police state locking away journalists and political dissidents; perhaps nuclear Armageddon.
That said, I won’t be frightened into actively violating my conscience. Even though I admit that Bernie is correct. Because I can hold more than one thought in my head at a time.
#Demexit looks fun. I would have stormed out of that convention and holed up in that media tent in Philly if I could have been there. But if I were a politician I would say that we have to be productive, and reform the system from within – that only then can there be legitimate challengers to the two-party system.
That’s the difference between the politician and the revolutionary. They may be on the same side, but they play different roles. Activists and revolutionaries will always be fighting to make the world a better, more just place. Politicians have to make strategic maneuvers along the way. The job of the revolutionary, the activist, the protester is to inconvenience – to get in the way, when necessary, as a means of communicating frustration. The job of politician is to leverage that frustration to push the opposition toward legislation.
The politician is the example. The opposition are identified, pressured, and, when necessary, removed via ballot box. Allies are rewarded with grassroots organization, voter enthusiasm, and high-volume small donations.
Howard Dean was a great voice of the people a decade ago. Then he sold out. I used to like Barney Frank. But he sold out to Wall Street, and he’s mighty proud of himself, too. Obama sold us hope and change, but turned out to be a pragmatic corporatist who bombed seven majority-Muslim nations. I had an Elizabeth Warren 2016 bumper sticker on my car. Then Bernie Sanders picked up the mantle.
Bernie represents the best of politicians. He gives voice to the people. He helped spark a political revolution. His progressive bona fides cannot be questioned. He’s been in politics for forty years, and he never cashed out – he’s one of the few non-millionaires in congress. He only ran for president when it became clear that no one else would step forward and challenge Hillary from the left. He could’ve leveraged his delegates for a VP bid or a cabinet appointment+, but he’s in it for the good of the people, not personal gain.
So it hurt to see him twist the last stump speech of this whirl-wind of a campaign into a check-list of promises that Hillary would supposedly keep as president. As if he believes that. As if I’m supposed to believe that. But again, he’s a politician. Hopefully he only said those things for the future when she fails to show much effort.
I am not a politician. My values needn’t be compromised. I won’t support lesser-evilism, and accept this neo-liberal false-binary. Not even for Bernie.
When politicians know that they only have to convince us to be afraid of the other candidate, they only have to be slightly less frightening than their bogey man.
The more liberals shun the labor class and embrace the chamber, the further right conservatives are forced to go for contrast. The more liberals agree with them on fiscal issues, the more conservatives are forced into social issues to please their base.
And the country slides further and further to the right. Further toward corporatism and austerity and trickle-down. Further toward culture wars and apocalyptic foreign policy.
Voting again and again for the lesser-evil has come to its only logical conclusion: both options are roughly as evil. Both running on fear. Fear of the other. Fear of each other.
I cannot, in good conscience, reward either of them for lesser-evilism. I will not be frightened into enthusiasm. I will not be condescended only to bow my head.