Since it’s one of those big-time election years, I find myself increasingly sucked into the drama. Let me say from the outset that I’m a Bernie Sanders supporter. I thought I’d use this platform to lay out what I’m thinking.
This election campaign really started November 7th, 2012 when Barack Obama easily won re-election, setting up the stage for the inevitability of Hillary Clinton to replace him in 2016. Ah, there it is… the first time I saw “Ready for Hillary” pop up as a hashtag or whatever on Facebook. But for me, even then, Ready for Hillary was reminiscent of sitting in a dentist office waiting room, getting ready for an unpleasant dental procedure. “The Dentist is ready for you, Ryan”. Great. I just have to get through this, it won’t be fun, but at least my teeth won’t fall out. So, yeah, I guess I was Ready for Hillary… sigh.
Now, I’ve always been a Democrat. I’ve always looked at Republican shenanigans and thought to myself: I could never be a Republican. I’m a proud Democrat. After all, it was the Democratic Party, under the leadership of President Obama, that pushed forward a bunch of legislation that benefitted me directly – the repeal of DADT (which, as a gay National Guardsman was a big deal), the Affordable Care Act (even without single payer – which I favored), and the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. These were big deals! President Obama had also pulled us out of the Great Recession, and I looked on at the encouraging numbers – job growth and economic recovery, the doubling of the DJIA, all the fiscal trend lines going up, up, up. Better times were on the horizon!
At some point last year, about the time that a veritable zoo of GOP candidates were entering the Presidential race, I read a couple of books. One in particular, Aftershock, by Robert Reich, really opened up my eyes to what was going on behind the scenes in American politics. Granted, I’d known that the primary benefactors of the great recovery were the super-rich (or Job Creators, as the Republicans like to say), but the connection between big money and political influence became clearer and clearer. When I looked around, I could see it – most people I knew were trapped in a cycle of low wage jobs and coming out of college to find that the doors a higher eduction were supposed to open were bolted shut.
It was also around this time that I started seeing stuff floating around about a Socialist Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders. I watched some videos of his stump speeches and interviews and thought “Yes, this is my guy, this is who I want to support”. The more I learned about him, the more I liked him. But, of course, I had to search to find things about him, as the mainstream media was focused on the GOP circus and who was better able to beat Hillary. So, I figured, the best thing would just be to come out in support of Sen. Sanders and tell my friends about him. The more people learned about him, the more popular he became. I wasn’t alone – by August, Bernie Sanders was filling massive stadiums, rallying tens of thousands of people at a time. But what is it about an old, white democratic-socialist Jew that was appealing?
As it turns out, Bernie Sanders was talking about all the things that politicians have paid lip-service to, but with a record to back it up. He was also talking about the stuff I had read in Robert Reich’s books. He talked about the influence of money in politics and campaigns. Most Democrats do. Hillary does. The key difference is that Hillary has made millions on paid speeches to Wall Street, while Bernie has not. Hillary takes millions in corporate funding through SuperPACs, Bernie does not. Hillary’s campaign is funded by the media outlets that control the flow of information to voters. The DNC is led by the Hillary 2008 Campaign co-chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Conflict of interest? Um, yes. There’s also the issue of consistency. As much as she hates to admit, Hillary did support the Iraq War, she did support traditional marriage, she did support trade deals that made it easier for corporations to screw American workers out of jobs in the name of profits that benefitted the elites. Her interventionist policies as Secretary of State are another point to consider.
No one has excited me more, as a candidate, than Bernie Sanders – but I knew, just like everyone else, that securing the nomination for President was… impossible? The pundits that did discuss Bernie did so in a way that delegitimized him as a candidate while acknowledging him as an influence on the election – he’ll push Clinton to the left, he’ll give Clinton someone to debate, he’ll help maintain the illusion of a democratic process. BUT HE’S A SOCIALIST! But suddenly polls came out showing him gaining on Clinton… a few. Talking heads were quick to point out that a couple polls showing Sanders tied, or leading Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire didn’t mean much. New Hampshire was next to Bernie’s home state of Vermont, and underdog candidates always do well in Iowa (see Rick Santorum). None of that mattered because Bernie was double digits behind in nationwide polling, and 50-60 points behind in most state polls to date. Clinton would be the nominee, no doubt about it. She was already winning by 500 or so superdelegates.
Oh, superdelegates. They were invented in the early 80’s to give more power to the DNC and political elites in the nomination process. Since the Party knows best, as DWS puts it,superdelegates are put in place to prevent the nomination of a grass-roots candidate (like Bernie). So, without the support of the obviously pro-Hillary DNC and media, Bernie Sanders has had to forge his own path by connecting directly with voters in the Sisyphean task of overcoming the monster-truck machine of the Clintons. The interviews Sanders was granted were always peppered with questions like “Will you endorse Clinton when she wins the nomination?”, “Would you be willing to be Hillary’s Vice-President?”, “Don’t you think you should drop out to unify the Party”?
Yay Democracy. These questions came at times when Bernie was actually winning states – some by overwhelming margins. He didn’t do so well in southern red states, but pulled off upset victories in the industrial Midwest, the Northeast, and the West. The media reinforced their bias by flashing headlines that painted a rosy picture of Clinton – she is still leading by hundreds of delegates. Many hundreds. Because superdelegates. While the real delegate count of pledged delegates (the ones we vote for) is 1266 to 1038, the media chooses to report the much-more-skewed 1737 to 1069 including the supers. Keep in mind that there are 4051 pledged delegates at play, and 1747 are still unaccounted for. Bernie has won 15 states to Hillary’s 20 – but 4 of those Hillary wins were statistical ties, within 2 points of each other. State-to-state they’re basically tied – not the landslide that everyone had pre-determined for Clinton. But data manipulation won’t win the race for anyone, it’s (supposedly) up to the voters to decide.
And there are big contests still to come – Wisconsin, New York, California, Oregon! The race isn’t over, and only time will tell what the ultimate outcome will be. Is it a tough road for Sanders – yes. But it’s been a tough road since the beginning. I, and millions more, will continue to support Bernie Sanders until the end. I have much more to say about this election, but I will save that for other posts.