I’ve been around the political block many times. I’ve had candidates I cared so passionately about that I walked cold New England streets, knocking on doors to convince people to make that same choice. I’ve made political contributions, sometimes more than I could afford, to help someone I thought had a real vision for America. I’ve believed. But two things have characterized my approach to voting. First, I never jumped on someone’s bandwagon before I’d looked carefully at the records and platforms of all the other candidates. In earlier days, that even included the Republican candidates, because I used to feel you needed to keep an open mind. In fact, I’ve cast a few votes for Republicans in my time — mostly on the local level. I’ve regretted none of those votes — especially for Senators Olympia Snowe and William Cohen. In later years, I’ve stopped going through the motions of reviewing all candidates — it’s just not likely that I’ll vote for a Republican. But I still occasionally feel guilty for not doing all my homework. Secondly, I’ve always prepared myself that, if my candidate didn’t make it out of the primaries, I would need to get behind a second, third or maybe fourth choice. In years when I felt the election was going to be a close one and the stakes were high, even when I was on a particular bandwagon, I tried not to demonstrate my support for one candidate by trashing another one who might be the candidate I was given by the nomination process. The good thing about doing all my research and not jumping too soon, I often found a lot to like in several candidates. Even better, I often found that candidates were profoundly changed by the primary process. Especially if it was hard-fought, even the losing candidates often put agenda and ideas forth that resonated and even forced the winning candidate to adopt them.
So that brings me to this election. After the kind of consideration and research I outlined above, I’ve decided to back Hillary. Not that I don’t find a lot to like about Bernie. The New York Times analyzed their voting records and found they voted in synch 93% of the time. Especially if you don’t fall into the fallacy of attributing Bill’s voting records to his wife. At the time of the Clinton Administration, she held no political office but was in the somewhat thankless role of First Lady, a position that, in no small measure, involves unwavering support for her husband. So I’ve judged her on actual votes she’s made and legislation she’s proposed and supported.
I also didn’t fall into the equal fallacy that Bernie is somehow this pure candidate, sent down by Jesus on angels’ wings. As a career politician, Bernie has made compromises and questionable alliances just as much as any politician has to in this system we’ve allowed to develop. Candidates simply don’t win without doing so. Bernie learned this lesson in the one election where his gun policy came to the left of his opponent. The NRA made sure he wasn’t elected. Since then Bernie’s been mighty careful to be just ever so slightly the more attractive candidate to the NRA — which is perhaps the the most powerful special interest that gets involved in Vermont politics. Sure the NRA hasn’t put money in his coffers, but they’ve spent millions to smear, slam and defeat any candidate who went up against him. And he’s always walked that line to make sure they don’t come after him again. He may rationalize, as most politicians do, that he had to compromise on this one issue to be allowed to make all the righteous votes re-election has allowed him to make. He may not be wrong there.
The point being: I’m pretty clear eyed about both of them. They each have roughly the same list, but the items are in a different order of priority, with a different strategy for getting there. Each has strengths and weaknesses, they each have compromises they’ve made that I’m not entirely comfortable with, they each have indications in experience and of temperament that are all I have to go on at this point when analyzing who will be the better President.
But I’ve also publicly stated — as have many Clinton supporters I know — that, if Bernie gets the nomination, I will not only vote for him, I will do whatever I can, including getting out on the streets again and knocking on doors, to make sure he’s elected. I’ll up the ante: I’ll do what I can to support him as President against the terribly obstructive Congress he will face.
So Bernie supporters, I’ve made my choice. I’m never going to be in your First Airborne Division and parachute into surrounded territory as Bernie’s first line of offense. But if it comes to it, I’ll be an infantry grunt who slogs through the heat of the longer battle and helps him win the decisive victory. That’s a pretty good promise. And it’s all you are going to get from me. Move on and use your passion to convince the undecided or maybe a disaffected Republican that Bernie is the right candidate. But I would advise you to do it in a positive way, a way that allows you to fall back to a second choice if you have to. Because my experience tells me that, no matter how much you care, no matter how hard you work for a candidate, that’s a distinct possibility you’ll have to face. Better yet, do it because, if you sell the Progressive agenda, that will help us get a Democrat in the White House no matter who gets the nomination. And I’m afraid, with Earth in the balance and three, maybe four Supreme Court justices up for grabs, this truly is a watershed election.
I’m not sure all Bernie supporters are up for that challenge. The vitriol coming out of the Bernie camp is shocking. Don’t take my word for it. Check Boston Globe reporter Michael Cohen who Tweets that he’s profiled all the major candidates and has been blown back by the viciousness of the Bernie camp. Or just go to any news story or commentary comparing Hillary and Bernie. Scroll down and read the comments sections. You’ll be shocked and appalled. Every friend I know who has come out for Hillary is facing the same blow-back on Social Media and face to face. So let me state again for you Bernie folks: I am not a corporate tool and I care just as much as you do about income inequality, about money in politics, and the unchecked power of big financial institutions. I’m not convinced I won’t get action on those issues with Hillary. I also care about some of the things that Hillary is emphasizing more than Bernie and has a better track record on. I think it would be an important thing to finally have a woman in the White House, but that is by no means the sole or even the major reason I’m for Hillary. I’ve made a thoughtfully considered decision as has every Hillary supporter I know. It’s different than yours, but that doesn’t allow you to call me stupid, or uncaring, or neo-Republican or SHOUT ME DOWN in person or on Social Media. We’re galloping in the same direction, even if we’re on different horses.
But hey, I can always shut off Facebook and Twitter. And though, I’m uncomfortable with the idea of unFriending, that option is available to me. What worries me more is how Bernie support is so often framed with rampant misogyny and rhetoric that pretty much describes Hillary as the Great Satan. If you work yourself into this kind of froth over a candidate who, when you look at her honestly, isn’t that much different in record than Bernie, or, at the least, is magnitudes better than any Republican, what are you going to do if she wins the nomination? It’s rampant on Social Media that many Bernie supporters are saying they’ll stay home or vote for the Green candidate, who is a fine woman but has no chance of even making a blip. That just guarantees us a President Trump. And if that is your attitude, it’s clear you DON’T care about Progressive politics. You are just viewing this race like it was another episode of American Idol and, if your favorite is eliminated, you are going to have a tantrum and throw the remote at the screen.
Look, look, I get the passion. Take it from someone who has been through a lot of election cycles, it’s not often that a candidate comes along that you find so charismatic, so in tune with your values that you are ready to take to the ramparts for him or her. I had that candidate — and he was one who was even further removed from the party machines and the big money and the Establishment elite than Bernie. His name was Jimmy Carter. And while I didn’t entirely believe at the time that he was sent down by Jesus on angels’ wings. I certainly believe now that he has more than a touch of the divine.
I will tell you one other thing I learned from Jimmy Carter. One of the factors pundits and Presidential scholars point to as a reason for his failures was his lack of a power base in Washington. So think twice before you completely reject connections, which can sometimes manifest as allies, leverage and knowing where the bodies are buried. Whichever Democrat (God willing!) goes to the White House is stepping into a cage match. One with hatchets and semi-automatic weapons and vicious attack dogs. I’d like a President with some sort of arsenal. Now one weapon in an arsenal can be voting in a better Congress. So I’m focused on that as well. Another weapon is to keep up very vocal demand for the issues and legislation that matter to you, so that the President’s opponents are a little more scared about crossing him or her on those issues. I’ll do that as well whether I get President Hillary or President Bernie.
I also believe a President Hillary might pick up the mantle of Bernie the candidate, and vice versa. I’ve seen few Presidents — well few Democratic Presidents — who have remained entrenched in the the platform of their campaigns. Good Presidents hear anger and passion — and if we do our part in continuing to speak loudly and demand what we want — Presidents hear. I know there is a lot of sneering about positions evolving. But that’s what adults do. They review new data, take a second look at data they may have misread in the past, and they come to new and better conclusions. I would hope both a President Hillary and a President Bernie would be that kind of President. I think they both would be.
Because it’s not all over when the nominee is chosen. It’s not all over when the President is inaugurated. That’s when the fight just begins.
So keep the passion. But keep positive. Because if Bernie gets the nomination, I’ll be down at your campaign headquarters the next day. And I’m going to want to join you in making him President. And if your rationale for Bernie is all framed with frothing hate for Hillary, that’s not gonna help us get him to the White House against Trump. And again, what the hell are you going to do if Hillary is the nominee? Do you really want to take a chance that a President Trump will be more in line with a Bernie agenda than a President Hillary? Because I can give you the answer to that question today.
Note: I usually try to keep this blog light and relatively non-political except for environmental issues. So soon we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled program of farming, wine, Native California plants and terriers.