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.
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!