There’s a trope among some Clinton supporters that Sanders has split the Democratic Party. And I can’t disagree more. The Democratic Party has long had a split because Hillary Clinton and the neoliberal corporatist Democrats have driven the party into political and policy stances that don’t represent tens of millions of Americans. It was just a matter of time until someone with gumption and experience came along to show us that the Democratic Party is only somewhat coherent.
Most Dems, Greens, progressives, and leftists agree that there’s a modicum of care that our society should invest in for the common good. We believe in the primacy of civil liberties measured by respect. If you look at attitudes and political orientations of Democrats, most of them are sympathetic to socialist ideals. These aren’t Marxist ideas, but ideas embodied in the New Deal, in the Eisenhower presidency, and more deeply in Europe from England to Scandinavia. Unlike the Republican party, we think government has a strong role to play in economic and social equality, environmental protection, and strong protection of the common good. We also tend to distrust authority more when it’s rooted in tradition. There’s a lot of diversity in that really big tent, and Clinton and Sanders are very very different. And I don’t find Clinton inspiring.
Don’t get me wrong. Hillary Clinton impresses me a great deal. She’s brilliant. She’s organized. She’s eloquent. She worked to get CHIP which my son has benefited from. No doubt some of the work of the Clinton Foundation has served poor and marginalized people the world over.
But for the most part, she has become an oligarch invested in the distorted power culture of the United States and the world. She has wanted to become powerful. Her lifelong pursuit is about power. As a lifelong feminist and former employee of Penn State’s Center for Women Students, I’m thrilled that a woman of Clinton’s generation has clawed her way to the top where she might defeat some of the most awful, avaricious, and anti-social thugs in Republican history. Man. If it comes to it, let’s see her tear into Trump, Cruz, or Rubio. It’s too bad she’s so like them.
It’s too bad she suffers from some of the same power-distorting manias they do. While she might not say she’d carpet-bomb ISIS, she’d okay a very large military intervention. I mean, she already has. She’s a destabilizer.
The Clintons and the neoliberal Democrats around them have said they believe in justice. It’s quite compromised. They say it’s for public good and well-being, but they sacrifice it to private interests. From free trade agreements, welfare dismantlement, and private prison agreements to voting for wars, deregulating banks, and colluding with the world’s most polluting corporations, there’s little to like about the Clinton legacy for anyone who takes social, economic, racial, and environmental justice and equality seriously. I realize I’m saying this as a white male in the north and that John Lewis, who I admire so much disagrees with me. So it goes.
Bernie Sanders is the only person running for president right now who represents the world I really want. He has pushed for a real living wage. He fought against environmentally- and socially-calamitous free trade agreements from NAFTA to TPP. He has pushed against the mass incarceration of poor and minority people and has actually put his body in the way for justice as his arrests in Chicago for fighting for civil rights make clear. He voted against the war in Iraq because, as he said, he worried that it set a wicked precedent. That has borne out under Secretary Clinton’s time at the State Department and the destabilization of Libya. He voted against the PATRIOT Act because he predicted that it would corrode our civil rights and privacy. It has. He has repeatedly stood up to fossil fuel corporations who profit from poisoning our land, air, water, and us. He has called them out for hiding behind the facades of fake experts engaged in a tobacco industry strategy to undermine our understanding of environmental and climate risk. He tried to halt the repeal of Glass-Steagall because it would open the door to boundless speculation and gambling with our money. Behold, the Great Recession. When Sanders was confronted by Black Lives Matters protesters, he moved aside, heard their grievance and followed up. He’s been endorsed by Cornel West and other prominent current civil rights leaders.
So Bernie Sanders hasn’t split the Democratic Party. The Clintons sold it to the highest bidders. If there’s a vibe that he’s created, it’s a vibe that resonates with justice and a distrust of colluding power and vulture capitalism. Blame the architects of today for getting us into a quagmire, not the person who shows that it needs to be fixed.
There’s a troubling undercurrent in some bros and trustafarians swaggering for Bernie. Dump the sexist garbage. Misogyny is awful. We should have zero tolerance for it. None. If we push on them and show them it’s unacceptable and what respect and dignity mean in word and deed, then we help them grow up.
But let me say, I also saw Gloria Steinem and Madeline Albright discount young women who are for Sanders. Come on. What a matronizing line of junk to just sweep aside the judgment of young women. They’ve both recanted.
What would I conclude from these examples? That all young men are douche bags and white-haired female Clinton supporters are condescending shrews? That’s a bit of a leap. I know young men who support Sanders on principle and older women—my mother in particular—who see Clinton as an ambitious woman whose considerable talents and accomplishments earn her the presidency. But I’m neither a gray-haired woman nor a millennial man.
I grew up in central Pennsylvania. I’m almost 40 and work at Penn State’s Sustainability Institute. I’m a father, a researcher/program worker/teacher, a poet and author, have been an organic farmer, am a township supervisor, and have served on the Sierra Club Moshannon executive committee. I have nigh on two decades of experience fighting for racial, gender, and environmental rights. I’m no trust fund kid and have the student debt to prove it. Among my friends and acquaintances are people of all ages, people black and white, citizens of Iran, Turkey, Indonesia, Austria, Germany, Cameroon, Serbia, Canada, and Venezuela, women and men, gay and straight, Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Bahai, and non-believers. My life is rich from the great diversity of people and the integrity of the environment in which we live.
When I look at the life I’ve tried to cultivate, I see that Bernie Sanders represents me. Hillary Clinton does not. The policies he has and would fight for would make the lives of my community better. That would be a revolution.