I have to speak out. The turning point was when a friend of mine, an intelligent person whom I respect and admire, posted a plea on Facebook that we all write Bernie Sanders’ name on the ballot, no matter who the Democratic nominee is. There’s been a lot about this campaign that I find scary and disheartening, but nothing so terrifying as the possibility of a Donald Trump victory brought about by well-meaning Democrats who think they would be making a brave statement by wasting their precious votes in this way.
Maybe we can first agree that Trump as president would be disastrous, a repudiation of all the values we hold dear. The man is dishonest, racist, sexist, irresponsible, egomaniacal, ill informed, mean-spirited, and completely unqualified for the job. He has employed the sensationalist tactics of reality television to gain attention, and he excites support by channeling anger, resentment and hatred. No sense in my going on about this when so many others have said it better. Read this powerful piece by Adam Gopnik, for example, if you need convincing, or any of Elizabeth Warren’s succinct and spot-on comments. Somehow I don’t imagine that Trump supporters are reading this blog post anyway; that just doesn’t seem like my audience. But we all need to face the fact that what began as a concept too absurd, bizarre, and cringeworthy to take seriously is now a real possibility.
Basically I’m talking to thinking, caring, liberal-minded independents or Democrats who are genuinely concerned about the future of this country and the world. I rarely use this blog for political rants, but I’m worried, and I feel it is my duty to use whatever forum I have to speak out. I know many of you are feeling the Bern. I myself understand the appeal of the things Bernie Sanders says and seems to earnestly believe. I too would like to see greater income equality, free health care and college tuition, real punishment of billionaire corporate criminals and a diminishing of their influence. While we’re at it, I would like to see us seriously and effectively address climate change. But wanting and promising these things is very different from the long complicated political and economic processes required to turn sentiments into policy. Simply declaring outrage does not make you virtuous.
Look, I came of age in the 1960s, and that spirit of questioning and searching and protesting shaped me too. I am not cynical. My heart still yearns for peace and justice, and I care passionately about the world. But let’s try to be level-headed about this and see where our best chances are for progress rather than decline.
First, let’s take a closer look at Bernie Sanders. The plain fact is that Bernie cannot deliver. He may be endearing and compelling, but he is not a credible candidate, and his campaign is mostly symbolic, even if he has begun to believe otherwise. (And good for him for pushing us a little to the left and highlighting important issues that cannot be ignored.) But his proposals are not grounded in reality.
In fact, it is irresponsible and disingenuous to promise programs and benefits without being truthful about the cost and the taxes required to pay for these things. We are talking about what would be unprecedented tax increases, and not just on the rich, but across the board, including the beleaguered middle class.
And it is naïve to think that a Chief Executive with so very little political capital and experience is going to simply glide in and implement radical change anyway. As you know, our government is not a monarchy…and laws are actually passed by Congress, and Congress, as we know, can be quite uncooperative.
Quite frankly, Bernie Sanders has little or no experience in governing at this scale. He has been mayor of Burlington, population 42,284, and has served as both a Congressman and Senator from Vermont, a mostly (94%) white state that had a population of 626,562 in 2014. (There are twenty-four U.S. cities with populations greater than the entire state of Vermont.)
Even if Bernie were on the ticket, it is unlikely that U.S. voters as a whole would elect a self-proclaimed socialist. This label would be an issue with the electorate, believe me. His age would be a factor also. Being president is a grueling job, physically and mentally, and at 75, Bernie would be a pretty old one. Just sayin’.
And Bernie has not been vetted at all. It has been easy for him thus far to remain under the radar while the ongoing GOP attacks against Hillary Clinton continue unabated, as they have for decades, propaganda so pervasive that even Democrats are buying into it.
And yet, Hillary Clinton has kept going. That’s called strength. (An aside to those who are saying she is no better than Donald Trump, and yes, I have actually heard people say this: ARE YOU SERIOUS?!! God, that’s discouraging.)
So let’s take a quick look at Hillary’s resumé, shall we? Graduate of Yale Law School, a First Lady who helped transform the role of First Lady, a U.S. Senator representing the state of New York (a state with a diverse population well in excess of 19 million people), and Secretary of State under President Obama.
By the way, do you remember back in the 1990s while Hillary was First Lady, she launched and headed a task force on National Health Reform? It was controversial and complicated and eventually abandoned, and she took a lot of flack for it, but the woman was so ahead of her time, and utterly fearless about taking on the hard stuff. Health care reform is what folks were finally ready to talk about twenty years later, and it’s still a rough ride.
As U.S. Senator, Hillary served on committees related to the budget, armed services, environment and public works, health, education, and aging. She has been a tireless advocate for women’s rights and a dazzling example of what women can achieve. She has met world leaders, handled crises, is known to be an incredibly hard worker.
One friend of mine declared his admittedly lukewarm support for Hillary with these words: “I’ll vote for her because I’d rather be disappointed than doomed.” Good enough. But you know what? There’s an excellent chance that we’ll end up being proud. Yes, she is controversial and she has made her share of mistakes and misjudgments. But she is brilliant and capable, she listens and learns, and for God’s sake, her flaws are at least within the realm of comprehensible human behavior.
Sure, cast your Bernie vote in the primary if you want, but a write-in or abstention in November as a misguided gesture of support or your big statement about how much you despise Hillary Clinton or the depth and nobility of your convictions is equivalent to a vote for Donald Trump. It does not make you a revolutionary. It is just naïve. I’d even say there’s an element of irresponsible mischief in it…’cause it’s the same “the hell with it all, let’s just tear it all down” attitude we see in Trump supporters. (It also brings to mind those Nader voters who thought they were making a statement in the 2000 election and helped usher in the nightmare years of W.)
Please, oh please, don’t be lulled away from good sense by writing in Bernie Sanders or not voting or otherwise diverting your vote in the November election. Please don’t be brainwashed by the nearly thirty years of relentless vitriol against Hillary Clinton. She may not walk on water, but she is a solid, capable candidate. (And hey, the woman’s card is optional, but isn’t it time we had one in that office?) It pains me to say it but we are in grave danger of a Trump presidency. We have to stand together here. Bernie is a diversion that could cost us dearly.