Everything I Love About Bernie
Attention Conservation Notice (w. apologies to Cosma Shalizi): What follows is roughly 1,000 words of navel gazing on the subject of winners, losers and charity. The shorter: In this I’m with some of our sane Bernistas in thinking this is chill time, not the occasion to go all Michael Corleone on the Sanders campaign over the next couple of weeks.
I think y’all know I’m a Hillbot. I have said as clearly as I can that I affirmatively prefer her to Bernie on her substantive policy choices, and that where I disagree with her, I at least understand what she’s on about.*
And now I love Bernie and his (sincere) supporters. Not because I have come to agree with his or their view of the Presidency, or the likely shape of the fall campaign, or the most effective path to actually changing policy, and hence lives, on the ground.
Rather, I love Bernie and the Bernistas for a couple of reasons. At their best, they’re making the right call: C.R.E.A. all of us — and whatever we can do to get more cash in the hands of the poor and the middle class we should do. That’s a core Democratic Party value and it has to be reasserted every damn election.
They’ve made the right call (one anticipated and shared by Hillary) that Citizens United and all it’s substructure is a disaster.
They’ve made the right call on student debt, even if the slogan that passes as policy isn’t likely to get us far; at bottom, the theft of opportunity my generation has committed against the next several is both stupid and wrong, and we should be looking for all the ways to redress that harm.
These are all basic Democratic views, and it’s good to be reminded of them, and it will be excellent to remind the electorate that Democrats know how to address such issues in ways that the Republicans simply cannot — for to do so would require them to cease being Republicans and become Democrats. I don’t think for a moment that Bernie knows how to do what needs to be done to advance the Democratic vision in response to those policy goals, but one of the things you hope for in a presidential campaign is for the candidates between them helping the party figure out what it is and what it needs to do. Bernie, at least on his best days, did all that.
TL:DR for the above: Lord, how I love the Bernie that reminds us that Democrats think about society when Republicans think about their friends.
And second, I love Bernie and the Bernistas because they and we now have a job to do together.
I take second place to no one in my rage and disdain for the worst moments in the primary campaign. I loathed how, it seemed, the Sanders camp would scorch the earth with right wing talking points leaving Hillary an utterly wounded candidate (shades of 1968, and to some extent, 1980) — or, in the vanishingly unlikely event of a Sanders upset, present the GOP with a perfect punching bag of a candidate that, to me, was unbelievably vulnerable to the GOP-thug noise machine. (Socialist who honeymooned in Moscow and willl raise taxes to fund more intrusive govt….)
And then I remember 2008, and a Democratic primary in which the losing candidate painted her opponent as feckless, young, not to be trusted close to the button….and (say this softly) Black!
And going even further back, I turn to that sage of sages, the good Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. His Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail captures one aspect of American politics perfectly: there is no insanity like the madness that flares in the heat of a campaign.
Bernie got close — far closer than he expected of (as is now obvious) planned for. You get that near to power and you change — I don’t think there’s any doubt of it. Hell! Most of us have experienced a pale version of that fever, that rush of hope and expectation and fear of disappointment and all the rest when we get called back for the second interview, or submit the application that feels like the one and so on. Magnify that times a gazillion and you have politics at the highest level.
All of which makes me — after the contest is over — to find some charity where a couple of weeks ago I felt only contempt for a Bernie who couldn’t seem to let go of what most of us recognized as obviously already beyond his grasp.
In other words: it’s hard as hell to lose, and it’s impossible for all but saints to do so with full and instant equanimity. That’s why I can’t go all “F**k Bernie and his demands.” I just can’t. It may not be fair that the winning side has to extend the olive branch first, and maybe most…but it’s fully human, and in the context of a non-zero possibility of any Republican in the White House, it’s necessary too.
So, unless he doubles down, unless he heads further down that path of excoriating Clinton and Democrats in general, unless he acts to sabotage the most important campaign I can recall — the need to defeat America’s home-grown fascist — I’m ready to like me some Sanders, and his Sandernistas too.
I’ll come to love him and them if they take the last step: not just get out of the way of the campaign to come, but dive in. Which many of them will, with or without Bernie himself. Were I betting man, I’d take long odds that Bernie will find his way on this. He’s got plenty of reasons, some base, some noble, (just like all of us) to do so, and having come so close, I don’t think he wants to stumble at the final straight-away. I could be wrong, but I’m not going to assume I am until events force me to.
TL:DR — The parable of the prodigal, like all good stories, can be read many, many ways. But the simple reading is the one Hillary gave us last night. We are stronger, and very much better — together.
*For one example: a post I’ve not yet and may never get around to writing is on how the Rwandan genocide shaped the views of those on whose watch it occurred. Hillary was one of those, and I think what some see as neo-colonial interventionism is at least party shaped by a “never again” reaction to the collective failure that allowed such evil to(re)occur.
Image: Jan Sanders (no relation) van Hemessen, The Parable of the Prodigal Son, 1536.
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