One day, a year and a half ago, I casually read a list of issues that Bernie Sanders believed in promoting. Although I did not know much of Bernie at the time, perhaps seeing him a few times on Bill Maher, I loved his resolve to give a clear voice to a number of concerns I had. I began to talk to people about Bernie, and the more I heard him speak, the more I read of his past, saw his unpretentiousness, his absolute integrity, his foresight and vision, the more staunchly I stood behind him.
Not many days have passed in the last year and a half when I did not promote Bernie in some way—contribute financially to the campaign, write about him, share on social media, talk to others, and believe in the opportunity of his candidacy to change our society. The hope was for a revolution–one that moves us from a capitalistic system where the factors of production are owned by individuals making all the wealth, to one of democratic socialism, a true political democracy with social ownership of the means of production. This was, after all, the psychedelic dream of the sixties. A society that cared for all its people. That a whole new generation of millennials had accepted the promise to work and struggle for a better future, was oil on fire. As a movement, we understood that the very life of the planet was at stake.
Like millions of other Americans who supported Bernie and who are now being told we are faced with a Hillary/Trump choice, I am at sea. Where do we go? What do we do? More importantly, who gets our vote?
My overwhelming emotion in these last days has been grief, as if something precious has been lost, never to be retrieved. At the moment, I simply need to grieve for the possibilities of what could have been.
One argument is that Bernie moved Hillary to the left of center, that his strong showing influenced the party platform. For this, we should be grateful. Although the platform has many of the elements that Bernie and his democratic followers fought for, we ask ourselves if Hillary has the political will? Part of our grief is knowing that the one person who could have truly led us into a progressive future, was forced into making a terrible choice—whether to take his millions of followers and begin a new and desperately needed third party, possibly giving the election to Trump, or stay the course and take the, hopefully, sure way by handing an undisputed nomination to Hillary.
In my grief, the image that keeps playing over and over in my mind, a kind of PTSD, is watching Bernie walk off the stage after his speech on Monday night, his head bowed, his shoulders slumped, knowing full well what he had done, and falling on his sword. Should he have pulled a Ted Cruz, taken his followers and moved to the Green Party with Jill Stein?
There is a real possibility that he could have succeeded and really made history. With a poll of 15% of the vote, he would have been on the presidential debate stage, and now, introduced to the American people, he would have a better chance at delivering a message that was not promoted at the beginning of his campaign by mainstream media. A good many traditional Republicans would have voted for him, as well as Democrats and Independents.
I pray he does not come to regret his decision. If Donald Trump is elected in the fall, then all our work, financial efforts, hopes and dreams, his sacrifice and the sacrifices of millions of others, will be in vain.
When others ask why Bernie’s followers are angry, or call us sore losers, or tell us to get over it, or suggest we have to see reality, or use fear of the Republicans to insist that we vote for Hillary, we need to step back and say to them why we feel the way we do—the DNC had already anointed Hillary before the race began, the person who continually tipped the “neutral” scales was Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a woman who has now been promoted to a higher position in the Hilary campaign. We know that people were wiped off voter rolls, provisional ballots uncounted, polling venues greatly reduced, Bernie ignored by the corporate media, and when finally given air time, the news story was always slanted toward Hillary (Time Werner (CNN) is 8th on the list of Hillary’s top contributors to the tune of over $400,000). The coup de gras was Hillary’s declaration of presumptive nominee while the people of California were still voting.
Bernie supporters are angry because they recognize corruption and unfairness. While we are working for more thoughtful government without big money political influence, one that works solely for its citizens, we are being pushed into voting for a campaign that is being influenced by corporations. Bernie supporters are asking: Is this a democracy?
Some are saying that Bernie sold out. But I believe he was caught between a rock and a hard pile. He truly believes that the most important issue that faces us now is to beat Trump and continue to promote the movement he has begun. I believe he will spend the summer traveling this country to get progressives elected in local, state, and national elections, and promoting the revolution of democratic socialism, a movement away from the 1% that owns as much wealth as the bottom 99%, and in doing so, our laws and our lives.
I am bothered by the huge amount of attention surrounding the fact that Hillary is a woman. This is a smokescreen to garner votes. Anyone—regardless of race, creed, color, sexual orientation or gender—should be able to secure a nomination. The person I wish to elect is not one who is male or female, but one will fight for the issues.
I watched Bill Clinton’s very sanitized speech last night, as he enumerated all of Hillary’s many fights over the years and none of her mistakes. Political mistakes are a whole different brand of mistakes. Bill Clinton changed the focus of the Democratic Party during his election from workers to white collar men so that he could garner the Southern vote. His Crime Bill of 1994 created mass incarceration of minorities and draconian sentencing. His trade agreement, NAFTA, destroyed American jobs without replacing them. Hillary’s vote on the war in Iraq created untold misery for millions of people. These are not mistakes that we can lightly gloss over. They are mistakes of the elite, of those who have forgotten the despair of generational poverty. They are mistakes that show a lack of vision and judgment.
Now we are told that we are faced with a choice of fascism or oligarchy. Death by bullet or death by quicksand.
For those of you who stood looking up at the huge screen of Hillary and the shattering glass, her too-long eerie silence while adulation reigned, looking like a scene from Hunger Games, be SURE that you know a vote for Hillary means a boots-on-the-ground war in the Middle East, continued fracking that will pollute our ground water, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a treaty that will cause havoc with our environment, create job destabilization, and further empower corporations able to override a nation’s laws, and an agreement that has no exit clause worked into the document.
As for the rest of it: Will Hillary change the marijuana laws, erase felony drug records, release people from prison for crimes that several states are now making millions on, change the way we treat our prisoners, offer counseling, life skills, and job training, increase a man or woman’s self-esteem before they leave prison?
Will she improve schools, change the foods kids eat, and support before and after school programs in science, the arts, and sports?
Will she find ways to deal with the proliferation and sales of assault rifles?
Will the illegal immigration issue finally be solved?
Will the Glass-Steagall Act be strengthened?
What of the issue of diminishing and destroying capitalism—the real direction of the revolution? Will she be able to stand against her largest donors to whom she is indebted: banks, investment companies, and media corporations.
So for those of you who ask how we are feeling as Bernie Sanders supporters after his Monday night speech—it’s time YOU understand. No, we are not going to automatically accept Hillary Clinton as the nominee. Not without careful thought. The issues are much too complicated to decide out of fear, or rationalizations, or shame. Give us time to come to terms with what many consider the loss of our nation, and quite possibly, our planet.
For the moment, give us the space to grieve. Respect our right to do so. As we get closer to November, as we listen to the debates, as we weigh what is real and what is convention illusion, we will make our decision on voting.