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I'm "Feeling the Bern" but I'm haunted by the ghost of George McGovern. Help!

George McGovern’s Ghost: Hillary or Bernie? – Agonizing Over the Democratic Primary Race

Every fiber of my mind, heart, and soul tells me that I should be “feeling the Bern.” Politically, I’m much more aligned with Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT)  than I am with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Universal health care should not be considered fantasy and fairy dust as Clinton has called it. Universal health care should be a benchmark. And she knows that. Yet, she insists that the best we can hope for is a little incrementalism; that we are weary of fighting this battle–one she has waged for 20 years.Hillary or Bernie?

Sanders presents a bold vision for the future; Clinton a slow and steady pace from the status quo. No wonder Bernie is getting thousands and thousands at his rallies, and no wonder he leads by a two-to-one margin among the under-40 set. People are moved by inspiration, by vision.

President Obama had a bold vision; in some ways it fell a little short (understandably, considering the lock step opposition he has faced at every turn). In his last years as President, Obama is doing what he can to promote that bold vision, to accomplish things that, if the Republicans gain the White House, will be undone with the sweep of a pen. On day one. Or two.

The eye has to be on the prize. But which candidate will get us there? The visionary or the incrementalist? The one whose bold social-democratic vision is able child to those of FDR, John Kennedy’s New Frontier, Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society (say what you will about his horrible foreign policy), even Dwight Eisenhower’s post-WWII boom. Or the one who talks about not wanting to reengage the fight for Universal Health Care? The one whose stands seem not so much borne of lifelong passion, but of a glance at this morning’s polls?

I believe that either Hillary or Bernie would be wonderful presidents, far better than any in the clown show of the Republican presidential contest. And the contest between Sen. Sanders and Secretary Clinton is substantive, and less a debate between broad vision and more about how that broad vision can be accomplished.

Sanders believes that Congressional obstinance can be overcome by engaging “people,” something that President Obama has done far too infrequently. Pressure applied by constituents re-engaged and re-invigorated by bold ideas will move the ostriches and tortoises that line the Captial. Pressure by the people will counteract pressure from the big money men on the right. Sanders intends to do this by bringing in (or bringing back) people who are disengaged with the political process: the young, the working class.This is his modus operandi, and it is appealing. It’s incredibly idealistic, but in a way, the current presidential campaign (on both sides) reflects the power of the people to silence the voice of big money. People are excited about this presidential race.

Yes, I do “Feel the Bern,” so why am I hesitating? Why are my friends hesitating? Some of us, particularly those of us old enough to remember 1972 shudder at the looming presence of George McGovern. I had just turned 18 two months before election day that year, the among the very first crop of 18- to 21-year-old voters. We were going to make a difference and elect a progressive candidate–someone who will end the terrible war in Vietnam and rid our nation of Richard Nixon (ironically, Nixon would never make it in today’s Republican Party; he’s far too liberal). And then…nothing. Landslide loss–the young vote a disappointment. (Though, to be fair, I don’t think it would have made a difference.)

I start to throw things at my TV when I hear pundits and surrogates ask “Is the country ready to vote for a self-proclaimed socialist?”) Give me a break. We are all socialists. We pay taxes into a pool to serve the common good. We pay (sort of, nowadays) “each according to his (or her) ability.” It’s called a graduated income tax intended to redistribute wealth. (Although since Ronald Reagan decimated the system into his bold “vision” of trickle-down economics the reverse has happened).

Sanders’ brand of socialism isn’t the fear-inducing socialism of Stalin; it’s the democratic socialism of Canada, the U.K. (and the rest of Europe), the founding principle of the State of Israel. And Sanders, as a U.S. senator, representative, and mayor has collaborated with “the other side.” He’s no “my way or the highway” guy. And I wish that someone on television would please explain this, rather than using “socialist” as a label to bandy about for political reaction among the punditry. And, by the way, I wish that someone on television would please explain this, rather than using “socialist” as a label to bandy about for political reaction among the punditry.

But Clinton’s malleability (whether on usurping the title “progressive”), her defensiveness, and excuses scare me. I don’t believe that those personality quirks hamper her ability to be president, but she tends to wave things off that come back to bit her later. And I think that the Right Wing machine of Super PACs and their media arms will destroy her in the general. On the other hand, those attacks, likely as they are, will backfire.

I just don’t know. So I think, for me, at least, it comes down to visionary or incrementalist. Do I embrace my idealistic self that we are better than our politics seem to indicate, or hold my nose and realize that we will be in for four (or eight) years of rancor and compromise, bumping along like a ’50s jalopy on a pot-hole filled road.

Thanks for listening. Am I any closer to a decision? Well, I have until March 15 to decide (when Illinois holds its primary). So I have a little time! What do you think? Vote in our  completely unscientific poll!

About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (blogcritics.org). Her Bram Stoker Award-nominated novel, called "Anne Rice meets Michael Crichton," The Apothecary's Curse The Apothecary's Curse is now out from Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books.Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras is a quintessential guide to the themes, characters and episodes of the hit show. Barnett is an accomplished speaker, an annual favorite at MENSA's HalloWEEM convention, where she has spoken to standing room crowds on subjects as diverse as "The Byronic Hero in Pop Culture," "The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes," "The Hidden History of Science Fiction," and "Our Passion for Disaster (Movies)."

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4 comments

  1. This election cycle is not like the 1972 election for a lot of reasons.First, POTUS Barack Obama has turned in a good performance. This was confirmed by Chairperson Janet Yellen at her mid-December press conference. The economy is growing at a modest rate with growth over 2% and a continuing drop in unemployment. The dollar is strong relative to other currencies.The main concern of the FED right now is that the economy should not overheat and inflation should remain at 2% or thereabouts.

    The prospect of Mrs Clinton in the White House would give us two Presidents in the Oval Office for the first time in history. The Clinton campaign is in a good position because POTUS William Clinton turned in a good performance with a budgetary surplus at the end – something most Americans wish we had today.

    The Sanders campaign is on track with a good message to rebuild infrastructure, embrace the single payer healthcare system and tax the upper income brackets just like President Eisenhower did in the 50s. Also remember that POTUS Eisenhower left office by warning of the dangers of a growing Military-Industrial Complex. POTUS Kennedy followed up by telling Americans “Ask not what your country can do for you…” In effect, he was telling the lobbyists that the government was in no position to give them everything they wanted.

    On immigration, it’s important to note that the birth rate has been in decline for years. We may need many of the 10-12 million illegals here already to rebuild infrastructure and replace the 78 million retiring “baby boomers”. Paul Overburg of USA Today wrote the following:

    “The nation’s fertility rate has slipped below replacement levels partly because of the
    recession and a decline in immigration. That’s raising concern about the nation’s
    future. The drop in U.S. births to their lowest level since 1920 is sounding alarms about the nation’s ability to support its fast-growing elderly population.”

    Retrieved from: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/02/12/us-births-decline/1880231/

    During the campaign, Gov. Martin O’Malley explained that the US should be pursuing a defense posture which emphasizes ground intelligence over military hardware. That’s important because if we had good ground intelligence – we would not have opted for the Iraqi War and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

    Even Trump is de-emphasizing the war aspect. He’s talking about making the US military so strong that “no-one will mess with us”. Jeb Bush is having a tougher time gaining traction because the American people have figured out that we don’t need more expensive wars in our future. We’re at a point right now where the budget is coming into balance – finally. This election cycle will be competitive for sure but it won’t mirror 1972.

    • Dr Joseph S Maresca

      Note: Dr Joseph S Maresa s/b Dr Joseph S Maresca

    • Well reasoned. I really do think Sanders hearkens back to the sense that the government has a role to play in the common good. His ideas are far from out of line. Whichever Democrat is nominated, he or she will be a much better alternative than what the GOP now offers.

  2. Dr Joseph S Maresca

    The Democratic side may be decided already. i.e. Clinton/Sanders or Sanders/Clinton
    Bernie sort of reminds me of Former President Truman. In addition, he has a very high trust rating from the public. i.e. 90%+ That’s unheard of for a presidential candidate.
    The Republican side is more complicated. If Trump prevails, Bloomberg may enter the race. If Trump doesn’t prevail, the ticket could be Cruz/Bush.

    If Bloomberg enters, there could be a repeat of the 1992 cycle with Bloomberg vying for the top position. Remember, at one point in June/1992, the order placement was Perot, Bush and Clinton. President Clinton prevailed ultimately.

    Former Mayor Bloomberg would be a more formidable opponent than H.Ross Perot because he has a lot more experience in politics and government. This election cycle will be very interesting indeed! For sure, President Obama will go down in history as having been a good POTUS. Historians will comment on further details as more is known in future years.

    The current Supreme Court vacancy will impact the philosophical balance on the Court. If President Obama nominates a candidate who can be confirmed, the balance may tip away from the conservative side although he may be forced to nominate someone with an independent stance.

    If gridlock prevails, the issue may have to be decided early next year or the Supreme Court could bring back either Sandra Day O’Connor or David Souter until a replacement is confirmed. Constitutionally, the Senate might have to convene in order to “Advise and Consent” on returning a former Supreme Court justice-even on a temporary basis.