What Is This Bernie Supporter Thinking? By Kyle Leach
I’m online a lot. I like being able to keep track of campaigns, elections, and sitting officials from my own spaces. I enjoy going out to the digital world and seeing what supporters of Bernie, Martin, and Hillary have to say. Many Dems seem to think that something feels different about this election cycle. They impart that we seem more fragmented, more hostile to one another, less focused on electing all of our own. I’m writing this piece because some of my Hillary “friends” in the greater online world are having a difficult time reconciling these developments and are having a hard time seeing where the conflicts and dissent are seated. They have voiced fears of impending Republican takeovers and an ultra-conservative Supreme Court if we do not come together. They want to know why we can’t all simply be unified again.
I can understand these perceptions; I certainly understand what they are trying to impart, but from my perspective, it is erroneous to conclude that this is a new feature to our political realm; or to conclude that this in fact a bad development for our party; or to even assume that the Democratic Party was ever unified. I can’t tell you what the millions of Bernie supporters are thinking or what has led them to support Bernie Sanders. We are a very diverse group of thinkers, hopers, dreamers, and changers. But what I can do is help you understand my thought process, and why I am willing to give Bernie support.
Part of my support for Bernie comes from knowing his work long before he became a presidential figure. I have followed his career, even though I am not a constituent. I know his history; I know his voting record. I know he is consistent. He has always been focused on the average person and he has always pressed for human rights. He has fought very hard to reduce human suffering throughout the world. Part of my support comes from Bernie’s views being close to my ideological placement, though I’m much further left; much more liberal. My online profiles don’t say uber-liberal for nothing. That means Bernie and I disagree on some things, but by and large, Bernie and I are on the same playing field. When he makes decisions, he tosses the ball out of the field sometimes; and sometimes he’s right on the very edge. But most of the time, he is still pretty close. I see centrist Democrats pop in to the field and then pop out; and I sometimes I used to see a Republicans every now and then. Though now that is very rare.
People in the Party love to use the words liberal and progressive to identify themselves. But if I use their actions as indicators, I’m not sure many people really know what those two words mean, or the world view they embody. Liberals create actions that lead to universal equality and human rights, while retaining as many personal liberties as possible. Their goal is to alleviate all ills for all humankind and to make sure no person is in need. If you can get far enough socially you go beyond equality and push for equity, giving each human being everything they need to succeed and to be the best they can be, even if that requires more than others would need for their own success.
Progressives do believe in similar things, though I think they tend to favor a more stepped approach while trying to hold to the same ends as liberals. The key here is that both want reform and change, not in small pieces, but in broad, sweeping, often fundamental, shifts from where we are now. Bernie is progressive; I’m not sure I would call him liberal, though he does support many liberal ideas, so maybe he could be. Given my perspective I’m sure you can see why I often double over in laughter when Republican s call many Democrats liberals or try to label the Party as liberal, or progressive, or to say that the a “liberal wing” has control of the Democratic Party.
People in our party too often forget when and where our party started, and how our touted successes over history are marred by the failings of individuals, and the times they were a part of. Too often, Democrats pump up past leaders from the Party as people to emulate or rally behind, all the while holding a curtain over the transgressions of those same people. This frustrates me greatly. It is lazy and one day it will catch up to us. As far as I can tell, our party has always been divided. The decades change, the issues at hand change, but how we move forward and who or what we choose to champion has always been a great point of contention. There are many people in our tent, E Pluribus Unum, out of many, one. But we have never been united; if you think we have, you have bought into a false narrative, probably made and distributed by the Party. My advice on that is to dig deeper. Question more. Don’t take things on face value. The perspective you gain can be immeasurable.
You will probably find it odd that I have Bill and Hillary to thank for my uber-liberal awakening. Before they were President and First Lady, I took most things the Party said at face value. I took what most officials said at face value. I took what the media said at face value. I was young then and obviously very naïve, something I sometimes miss in middle age. Much of what Bill Clinton did in office launched a domino effect that lead to the disempowerment of millions of people here at home. His decisions here at home also had repercussions that echoed into the lives of billions of people throughout the globe. NAFTA was one of those ideas. It hurt workers here. It hurt workers abroad. It hurt unions. It hurt women. It hurt minorities. He gave into corporate interests. His tough on crime stance did much of the same thing but focused those hurts on our own people. Don’t even get me started on what DADT and DOMA did to my own LGBQTIA community. Bill helped to ignite my uber- liberal center; he helped me to realize that I needed to find others like me. He made me realize that I didn’t want to be anything like him. He made me realize I didn’t want our Party to be anything like him. He helped me realize that I had to be the change I wanted to see.
My dislike for Bill did not influence my judgement of Hillary when she ran for a Senate seat. Each human being is unique. Each person is their own. I had no idea where she might take things. She has many strengths. She is very intelligent. Her campaign is fond of saying that she gets things done in our system. She does. She moves very slowly; she is calculating. She hedges a lot, but she can move things within the system. The better question to ask is not if she can, but when she does, where will she move them?
What Hillary accomplished in the Senate didn’t help the nation’s middle or lower class. When she green lit military action, she harmed millions of people in an entire region of the world. That was just one vote. That one vote started the wheels turning for the military industrial complex; they were able to gobble up even more of our national budget, they were able to interfere in other nations, they we able to siphon young people from the middle and lower class, and they were able to further privatization of that entire arena. Her authorization of TARP bailed out the Big Banks and financial institutions responsible for the Great Recession. It gutted the financial present and future of the middle and lower class, at the same time preparing for a new era of corporatization.
And after all was said and done, and all the investigations were concluded, only one person was ever convicted. One. Millions of average citizens lost their personal wealth, their jobs, their homes, their retirement, their chance at college. They had to watch it all go to banks, institutions, and corporations. They were left with little, while corporations, banks and their greedy shareholders, took all their dreams and plans away. They had to watch as it filtered up to 62 people they don’t know, that they will never meet, and who have little regard for the other inhabitants of this world. Many of her most important votes helped the wrong people. These two votes and many others are the reason I cannot think of Hillary as a liberal or a progressive.
To ruin so many lives and then to think she could say she was sorry and to just go on with her very privileged life, her political aspirations, is beyond what I can fathom . After her mistakes in the Senate, and after her failed campaign for president, she could have gone on to be a better public servant perhaps in a less prestigious position. I still thought she might redeem herself. That’s how hopeful I am. Instead, she chose to take position as Secretary of State, continued on the same path she did as senator, and advanced her future political prospects. It is why I cannot imagine she can stand up to Big Business or the Big Banks, or Big Ag, or Big Pharma, or to the military industrial complex. She has more ties to them now than she ever did before. She’s receiving more donations, more support from them now than she did then. The endorsements Hillary gets day after day from industry, the political establishment, and from establishment non-profits should tell you one thing; none of them want things to change greatly. They are all perfectly fine with things the way they are. Political ambition isn’t bad; it helps you get elected. Political ambition at the expense of your people, well that is a whole new category entirely.
Corporate entities and concentrated wealth are the problems that we need to recognize, that we need to fix. I’m happy Hillary would like to talk about them, but talking about them, or chastising them, isn’t going to get them to change. One of the first things people who are abused learn in counseling is to get away from their abusers. They have to learn not to go back to their abusers. They learn not to negotiate with those abusers. The abusers will always tell you they are sorry, and that they will change. They will pretend they will do anything for you. People are tired of being abused. People are tired of being told someone is sorry for what they are going through. People are tired of watching their futures evaporate. People are tired of watching their communities and public services degrade while having to work harder and harder, longer and longer, just to keep up, much less get ahead. People are tired of watching fellow human beings being murdered on a regular basis, all around them, with almost no repercussion. Bernie has attracted so many people, from across the political spectrum and tens of millions of small donors from across the nation because he doesn’t pretend to care; he really does care.
Bernie’s not our messiah, he is our therapist. Bernie has never told any of us that he can give us our old lives back, or bring things to where they were before. What he does tell us is that, with all of our help, he can try to shut down the abuse. He is telling us that with all our help he can stop our abusers from hurting us in the ways they are currently hurting us. He has told us that he has ideas for how to start fixing some of our most systemic national problems and that he wants to expand the social safety net further in order to help our most marginalized, our most at risk, people. He is up front that some of the ideas are unconventional; some have never been tried before, some were last used after the 20th century’s Great Depression. He is also up front that opposition will be fierce. We won’t just be able to vote on voting day and then abandon him. He will need us to fend off the wolves. He is too nice to say this, but the wolves won’t all be from the other side of the aisle. We will have to have his back. He’ll have to be focused forward on our next therapy session and getting us ready for the next bit of hell we have to face. We all will have to do the work. We will have to make the changes stick.
We supposedly live in one of the wealthiest, most resourceful, most educated, most adventurous nations on the globe. Why is it then that we could not accomplish at least some of the things Bernie proposes? Money is really not an issue. We have plenty of it. It is simply concentrated in places where it cannot help our people, where it cannot be used to reinvigorate our society. Much of what he has proposed has worked in other nations in the world. Why do you think we could not examine things they have done and scale them to our own nation? If he has the support of enough people to elect him to office, we can change the flow of money in this country. We can enhance and enforce much needed regulations. We can diminish the improper influence that corporations, and those with unusually large wealth, have on our government. Bernie isn’t being bought; he is one of the few who is not. As President, he could change some things simply by executive order. We’d have to work on the rest in Congress. Just a hint: that’s our jurisdiction; it is our responsibility, not his. If we don’t get more Progressive Dems into Congress, we better turn our flaming eyes on the Party at all levels. Their sole job, and they say it so often, is to elect Democrats.
I think the problem is not that Bernie’s supporters create, think, dream, and hope too much. I think the problem is that those that do not support him, might do too little creating, thinking, dreaming, and hoping. One day, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was asked when we would have enough women on the highest court. She answered by saying when it had nine, without a blink. I smile every time I think of that. That’s how I look at moving toward our future. That’s how I think as an uber-liberal. We focus on the things we want. We go to the table with those ideas. Going to the table already sacrificing, weakens your position and makes for certain you will not get anything near what you wanted. You have to dream big, and think big, if you are ever to get close to what you want.
It is not that I can’t imagine Hillary as President Clinton. It is that I can imagine so many other women, so many other people, who would be a better match for the position. I can think of so many other people who would protect the nation from corporate interests, corporate corruption, and the whims of the extremely wealthy. One of those better matches is Bernie Sanders. I’m not worried about the Supreme Court changes or a Republican sweep, because when Bernie gets the nomination he would have all of his supporters, and all the support from the rest of our Party. At least that’s what the Party, and supporters of Hillary, constantly say. Once a nominee is chosen, we must all get behind our candidate. So if that candidate is Bernie, Hillary folks should rally around him, just as they expect Bernie supporters to rally around Hillary if she wins. Fair is fair right?
Many people criticize Bernie and his supporters as idiots who think up the most fantastical things, things no one could ever accomplish. They are too hopeful, too gullible, and too eager to gamble on future creations that cannot be guaranteed. We are thinkers. We are dreamers. We are hopeful. We are creative. I’m sorry if others have given up those things. They are the things that make life worth living, even when you have lost everything else. If you have lost the ability to dream, hope, and be creative, you should try to get them back.
I know it is frightening to think of doing something new, and untested. You won’t be alone in that thought. Don’t you think our nation, our people, our world, deserve a chance? The status quo hasn’t worked for a long time. Yet, we keep proposing the same solutions and expect different results. We can’t afford to wait for change any longer. We have to make it happen now. Don’t you think it is worth trying? I think it is.