I am, as I have said elsewhere, bored to tears with the Hillary people saying ridiculous stupid things about Bernie, and Bernie people saying ridiculous stupid (and sexist!) things about Hillary. I am tired of the back and forth on social media; I am tired of both sides claiming victory in the “most unfairly reviled” sweepstakes. Knock it off, Bernie bros and Hillary sisters. It’s not all about you.
It’s about Donald Trump. It’s about the madness overtaking the nation. It’s about the possibility of an extremely confident oaf becoming president. Indeed, it’s been about that since January; we just had to wait a little while to see which oaf it was.
It is clear to everyone that unity is required. Right? OK, not everyone, but most sane people. Sane people see the prospect of Donald Trump and say, “where do I sign up to make sure that doesn’t happen?” I can help you with that, but first a few thoughts.
Hillary Clinton will win the nomination. But Bernie has managed, with his tireless rhetoric and his swelling popularity, to move both Hillary and the party leftwards. This is more than he could have hoped for when he started, and it suggests that he must stay in the race and continue to force concessions from the DNCC and the candidate herself.
But it is not, nor should it be, an excuse for attacking the presumptive Democratic candidate personally. Saying Hillary is “not qualified” — so bogus. By Bernie’s lofty standards, Obama is also not qualified. Making fun of her civil rights record is both damaging and wrong. And, while we criticize Trump for not distancing himself from white supremacists, we seem to be fine with Bernie saying not a peep about his woman-hating supporters. (In fact, Bernie finally did distance himself from his sleazy adherents, last Sunday, some months after the barrage began).
Bernie should be full of righteous fire, not full of himself.
Hillary has an even deeper problem: She doesn’t seem to get why people are rallying to Bernie. She doesn’t seem to understand his appeal, and the appeal of his ideas. According to news reports, she thinks his supporters are naive or childish or both. And, after her much-ballyhooed pivot to the general election after her New York primary victory, her aides said privately that her calculation was that Bernie supporters would flock to her because they can’t stand Donald Trump.
And that’s wrong on so many counts. First, some Bernie voters will indeed vote for Donald Trump. They just plain hate the system, and Trump is less system-friendly than perpetual insider Hillary Clinton. Second, the Bernie believers could very well just stay home. Not voting is better than voting for Hillary, the epitome of gradualism, the woman who shifted her opinions to suit current tastes.
The corruption of the political system is real. The amount of power that large corporations have in shaping American policies is obscene. The defense industries use bribery and intimidation to get their contracts — and they use more nefarious tactics to make sure their cost overruns are not prosecuted. Health care is a mess, because the insurance companies have blocked any kind of sensible single-payer solution. The employment situation has gotten steadily worse — even the jobs available are low-wage split-shift no-benefits service positions — unless you work in tech, in which case you may very well believe that the system is a meritocracy.
Hillary talks about this stuff, but then she retreats to Chappaqua or Martha’s Vineyard, where corporate chieftains unwind and schmooze. Maybe it’s only an optics thing; let’s say that’s true. But optics matter.
The disaffection in the country is real. It’s what’s energizing the Bernie campaign. It’s why Trump is attracting followers who are not crazed xenophobes. It’s why Hillary’s many accomplishments, even her lifelong work with poor minority children, are pooh-poohed. They look like stunts, like some social justice form of greenwashing. It’s not true, but there are reasons why it feels correct. It’s left-wing truthiness.
And, as the brilliant Amy Davidson argues in this piece, Hillary needs to talk about money. She needs to explain why she concluded that cozying up to big business was an effective election strategy. She needs to explain what she was thinking when she accepted those ginormous speaking fees. There must have been calculations — this is the Clinton zone, where calculations are an hourly affair. I do not doubt her good heart; I worry that she’s too far inside the system to understand the critiques.
And why is this necessary? Because Democrats win when voter turn-out is high. In 2014, only 36.4 per cent of eligible citizens voted. And what happened? Hello, government shutdown. In 2012, a presidential year, 57.5 per cent of eligible citizens voted, and hello four more years of Barack Obama. We of the Democratic persuasion need to be active in voter registration, particularly in Arizona and Ohio and Florida and other swing states. I think my home state of California is pretty much Hillary country; probably I should put my efforts, and my money, elsewhere.
Of course you can do your part. Do this, for example. Or you could try this. Some states are making it harder, though. But unless you want foreign policy ignoramus and casual racist Donald Trump to be president, unless you want a thin-skinned megalomaniac devoted to his power and his name in gold everywhere to become the most powerful man in the world, then stop shouting and start doing something. Purity is all very well for insulin and skin cleansers, but politics is the art of the possible.
And don’t think it can’t get worse. It can; in most of the world it already is. It might even be possible to make American great again. Catchy slogan.
Photography by Tracy Johnston
Email experimentation by Michelle Mizera