In the last 24 hours Democratic politics and the course of the party have been officially formed. The floor roll vote from the states was held. Bernie Sanders lost that vote. In a classy move, he suspended the rules and ceded the nomination to former first lady, New York Senator, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She is now the Democratic Party’s nominee for President. It is a historic occasion, one that I’ll be processing and reprocessing for the coming days. Right now, I want to report some of what I did, what I witnessed, and then some of how I feel and what I think.
Before I get into it, I want to very briefly address Bernie or Bust. Neoliberalism and corporate collusion needs to be brought to heel, Citizens United must be overturned, the tax structure needs to be completely reworked for working people, trade deals must be fair and not “free” for profiteers, and we need a total transformation of the energy, agricultural, and forestry sectors to tackle climate change. Voting for Jill Stein or withholding your vote from Hillary Clinton will not help us accomplish those goals in the near term. They will burn them in the conflagration that will follow the election of Donald Il Duce Trump and set back the federal government’s ability to tackle them. Rapidly rising sea levels and droughts are not abstractions. They are real. I want someone who is able and willing to meet these challenges not someone who is unable or unwilling or neither.
Yesterday I participated in a Climate, Energy and Environment event. Folks from California and Michigan brought together a group of people eager to create an official climate and environment caucus for the party. We had people fighting pipelines in Minnesota, the founder of Americans Against Fracking, Josh Fox the director of Gasland, native peoples fighting energy extraction, solar developers, elected officials at the bottom of the ticket like me and a state senator from Iowa, and an African American woman from New York who developed breast cancer after extensive exposure to water borne pollution.
I can’t stress how important this is and how much some of these people have already done. The climate positions in the Democratic Party Platform are because these people worked so hard. From the declaration that climate change is an incredible threat to placing a price on carbon and more came from dogged persistence. We owe them thanks and now the hard work of making it stick into the party platform.
Last night, the convention showed very clearly the differences between the Democratic and Republican parties. From the opening to the end, women from many walks of life moved across that stage and shared their stories. The Mothers of the Movement, including the mothers of Sandra Bland and Trayvon Martin, spoke about their grief, the hope they live by sharing their stories, and why they are with Hillary Clinton. It brought tears to my eyes to listen to Sandra Bland’s mother speak. The women’s congressional delegation who are black, white, Asian, and Latino. Cecile Richards. Of the two major parties, there is no question that Democratic Party is the party of and for women and the party of America’s diversity.
Finally, the night focused on Clinton’s long history of fighting for children. People who had been in foster care and met her when she was a senator spoke on her behalf, saying that they live better lives because of her. Howard Dean and others spoke about Clinton’s championing of CHIP, a health insurance program that my ex-wife and I have used for my son. It included her work in the south to desegregate schools and start health care facilities for children. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar (pic with me over there) spoke on the fight against human trafficking. Finally Bill Clinton highlighted her work with children through his moving testimony on her tenacity, organization, intelligence, and her willingness to work with many people. And I gotta say: that man knows how to tell good stories.
There are those of you who will brush this aside. That is an incredible mistake. There are those of you, Bernie or busters or cynics, who will cast this aside as some form of propaganda. Let me be clear: My son’s life was improved because Hillary Clinton worked to make sure that millions of children get health care. That’s not an abstraction. It is no abstraction that a young black man from New York or the daughter of Honduran immigrants has a better life than she would have without Hillary Clinton’s assistance.
After I finished my master’s degree I worked in Penn State’s writing center. About half of my students came from first generation immigrant families, some of whom had come illegally but were now making better lives in the United States. I had a Laotian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Mexican, and Nicaraguan students whose families lived on the margins in Pennsylvania. But they worked incredibly hard and they made it to the university. Now, because of legislation like the DREAM Act that Secretary Clinton supported, they have the chance to do things their parents could only imagine doing.
Relationships aren’t abstractions. My son’s health insurance is not an abstraction. These are things in my life that Hillary Clinton has helped make possible, the tangible goods of a person who has devoted her life to helping people’s lives better. Clearly I’m not alone.