Tuesday, July 26

The Bern Doesn't Go Away

I have been a proud Bernie Sanders supporter since 2008 when I first heard him make the case that the Billionaire class had to be stopped. I became a supporter for his candidacy in 2015 when he made an impromptu stop at an event that was being held in the basement of the then Unitarian Universalist church building in Iowa City. He said very few words, but he let us know that what we were doing mattered. Later in the spring, at the request of Rod Sullivan, a county supervisor and long time political friend, I volunteered for the kickoff event here at the Robert A. Lee Recreation Center where Sen. Sanders spoke to an overflow crowd. I thought to myself, a balding Jewish guy, is there something that I don't know about the American taste in men? To say I was shocked at the turnout and the subsequent "political revolution" is to put it mildly.

Fast forward to last night's speech where he called on us to back Hillary Clinton and VP nominee Tim Kaine. Like most Sanders supporters, I was conflicted. I mean the DNC had been undermining his campaign, there have been reports of voter fraud, and loads of other accusations, some proven, some supposition. And I'm angry about those things. But, and it is a big "but", Sanders spoke to my heart last night and more so to my head. As he has said innumerable times, this campaign was never about him, but for what we wanted from our government. He instilled the idea that a political revolution was the only thing that would change things--and categorically, he is right. But, just as revolutions don't succeed just because you declare them, they must be fought on the landscape on which they are drawn. That is to say, to change politics, we need to fight both from the inside and the outside. And that is what Sanders and his supporters have done best. The Democratic Platform is the most progressive one of all time because Berners were working with Clinton supporters to make it. Perfect? No, far from it--but improved!

To all of us I say, keep fighting!

So where do we go from here? We take a deep breath, we remember what the stakes are, and then we vote, if our conscience and logic allow, for Hillary Clinton. Not carte blanche, but with the understanding that if she succeeds, we have a chance to succeed. From the inside, we can push the agenda that Bernie ran on and has been fighting for his whole political career. We remember that politics change when the players in them change. Hillary Clinton is seen as the ultimate insider--First Lady, Senator, Secretary of State and, for most anyone else, that would be a ticket to the White House. But there is something different going on here. And this is what I most want to talk about.

We have been generous to a fault to men in public office who have been less than honest, less than faithful to others and their offices, and less than--period. In my lifetime, I watched my mother go from being a suburban housewife with the expectations that accompanied that, to the primary breadwinner of our household. I saw how hard she worked to make sure none of her children were wanting. In fairness, my parents were divorced and my father paid alimony, but it was not enough to put a roof over our heads, to clothe us, or to make sure we could go to college. My mother made that happen.

I watched my mother work as a realtor because the jobs she might rather have would not have afforded her the ability to earn what she was capable of--and even then, I watched her passed over for opportunities that were afforded men in her walk of life. Good enough to help her broker-bosses do very well for themselves, but not good enough! But my mother was not a complainer--she went to work everyday with the single-mindedness that even if she didn't matter to those she worked for, she damn well was going to matter to her kids, her friends, and her community. And she did!

My mother passed away last October. We packed away her belongings: her name tags from her various employers, her many awards for sales--all the trinkets of her life's work. She didn't love politics, but she was a lifelong Democrat, but not a joiner. She was very much a woman of her time--one part Cosmopolitan Magazine/Virginia Slims "you've come a long way, baby" and one part traditional mother figure who loved to bake brownies and make jello. But she was tough as they came.

I don't know what she would think about a woman as President; her memory was pretty shot by the end of her life, so I'll never know. But I think she would be proud that a woman who believes as she did that you should earn your own way, not blame others for the difficulties you have, and believe that as long as you could make sure your kids were okay, you'd be doing okay-- would be all right with her. I know, like her son, she'd likely not agree with everything Hillary Clinton did or does. She loved reading the Sunday paper and comment on something she was reading, the news of the world mattered to her. She was amazed when Barack Obama was elected. She called him the new JFK--and I know she loved Kennedy because in her desk drawer for years she kept the Chicago Tribune that reported his assassination. She wanted things to be better.

Bernie Sanders spoke to my heart, the same way that I think Hillary Clinton speaks to the hearts of many and specifically women and men whose lives have been shaped by the women in theirs. Electing her and more women in political offices across the world is a gigantic leap toward that may change politics forever. That is a huge weight and responsibility, but I've seen how, first hand, the desire to make a difference in your lifetime a woman could do that for her kids. Imagine what we could do for the children of our nation if we gave in to hope and pragmatic change that makes hope turn into reality?

I honestly believe that the political revolution lives on, how could it not with millions of Berners out there wanting to keep the fight going? However, I hope there is another voice that comes up, as it has for me-- that says: "there is a way forward and we must put aside our disappointment in the moment to have that future we may all believe in." Supporting Hillary Clinton, imperfect though she may be, is, in my estimation, the best way forward.