Still Not Voting for Bernie Sanders in the Primary

animal farm
Oh, Snowball, your heart was in the right place…

According to people at the Big Board and with 100 delegates of the 2376 required distributed, Bernie Sanders is going to be the Democratic nominee for president in 2020. Personally, I’d like to wait until at least Super Tuesday to concede that point, but with all this conventional wisdom flying around, I had to sit with the idea for a couple of days. There are other candidates I like less than Bernie (and would also vote for in the general) but a Sanders nomination makes me the most uneasy.

Why is that? I agree with most of his platform. I love that he inspires so many people to embrace the progressive ideals that so many of us have fought for over over the years. I even occasionally find his crotchety frankness appealing. So what would be so bad about a Sanders presidency?

The answer is nothing. He would be fine. In fact, the best-case scenario is pretty enticing: Bernie beats Trump, helps the House stay Blue and flips the Senate — including Mitch McConnell’s seat (critical) — and rides the Blue Wave to advance as much of his agenda as he can. If he is truly better than the “establishment” Democrats, he will fight for his agenda in the first midterms. As head of the Democratic Party, which he, as president, would be (unless there’s some other goddamned thing I have to worry about) he will need to work with the party to support candidates down-ballot in 2022.

Of course, this is true for any Democratic candidate. It has been a longstanding failure of the Democratic Party to keep up the fight after a presidential election, and if these are the elites Bernie is railing against, I am with him. Republican elites are great at it and have been for decades. They work hard all the livelong day taking over state houses and governorships, using right-wing think tanks to create legislative templates for GOP legislatures to enact, handpicking young rightwing ideologues for lifetime judicial appointments, and coordinating voter suppression efforts nationwide. ALL candidates need to explain how they will #BeBetter at this.

Question 1: Does Bernie support all the Democrats running for House and Senate in 2020?

The next-best scenario for a Sanders candidacy is that he beats Trump and holds only one branch of government or McConnell keeps his seat, blue Senate or no. Very little changes legislatively, but Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg (87) and Stephen Bryer (82) can retire and be replaced by jurists who care about maintaining civil, reproductive, and voting rights in this country.

Question 2: Does Bernie have a plan to restore the judiciary post-Trump?

Another sort of not-apocalyptic scenario is that even if Bernie loses the presidency, we succeed with a Blue Wave at the local level  — as we did in 2018 — and stymie Trump with Democratic Senate and House. But Trump continues to radically reshape the judiciary for a generation, pardon more creeps and grifters, and run out the statute of limitations.

But that leaves us with the worst possibility of all: we lose it all. The campaign unleashed against Sanders depresses turnout down-ticket.

Question 3: Is Bernie ready to combat the inevitable attacks on his character, philosophy, and record?

This is why Bernie Sanders makes me so nervous. What others are calling “consistency of message” I see as an inability to even entertain another way to get a message across. When his more strident supporters accuse those of us not feeling the Bern of tacitly supporting corporate corruption or ignoring racism, poverty, and the struggle of the common man, I am reminded of how poorly this rhetorical stance went over in 2008 with California’s Proposition 8.

As soon as same-sex marriage became legal in California in May 2008, conservative groups rallied to get an initiative on the November ballot amending California’s constitution to recognize marriages only between men and women as valid. This was Proposition 8. Supporters of the measure saturated the state with ads that ran the gamut from “GAY MARRIAGE WILL TURN YOUR KIDS GAY AAAAAAGGGHHH!” to “We love our gay neighbors Bob and Ted, but they already have domestic partnerships and we have strong feelings about marriage as an institution.” Theirs was an organized, motivated base that tailored its message to anyone who might be receptive.

The opposition launched an expensive, celebrity-rich “NoH8” campaign that basically called everyone who supported Prop 8 homophobic idiots. There was no other lane. While I agree that proponents of Prop 8 were homophobic idiots, I’m not sure it’s true of all the people who voted for it and it’s even less likely of the people who didn’t vote at all. But Prop 8 passed, putting me and about 18,000 other recently married same-sex couples in legal limbo for years. Turns out calling people who simply don’t understand the stakes of a given issue bigots and haters does not persuade them to your point of view.

Question 4: Does Bernie have another lane?!

To recap, if Bernie is to succeed as the Democratic nominee he will have to:

  • Prepare for to the onslaught of attacks from a Republican opposition that has been poised and ready to drop ads (mis)using and using Bernie’s own words to scare suburbanites and Fox viewers who might not otherwise vote into keeping “communism” at bay. They’re already doing it. He has not been attacked in any real way by his primary opponents either now or in 2016. He has a good line in “we already have corporate socialism,” but he needs more arrows in that quiver.
  • Help Democrats down-ballot, even if they are moderate. Not all of us live in Blue states or have similar approaches to solving America’s problems. Problems, p.s., that all Democrats agree are problems: accessible, affordable healthcare; criminal justice reform; reproductive freedom; free, quality education through at least community college; fair taxation; massive infrastructure improvements, immigration reform; protections for LGBT citizens; fighting systemic racism.

If Bernie is to succeed as president he will have to:

  • Work with Democrats in office. Like “established” in office, some of whom might be called “the Establishment.” At the very least, he will have to disambiguate who those people are for his current supporters. Is the Congressional Black Caucus “the Establishment?” I know he walked it back, kinda, but does he still think that about Planned Parenthood? Who is everyone supposed to be mad at?
  • Work with Republicans. Frankly, I am less worried about Bernie in this regard. His legislative accomplishments during his time in Congress have been almost exclusively through collaboration. On measures he’s sponsored, the record is less impressive: in the House only one of the 256 bills he initiated became law and in the Senate, only two of 678 bills Bernie sponsored were signed into law. This is not a slam on Bernie, it is a fact of government:

Bernie Sanders has enjoyed the “outsider” brand after roughly thirty years in government service. He has railed against the establishment of both parties, but would be the head of one of them if he becomes president. What does Bernie Sanders look like as Commander in Chief and Leader of the Free World?

Who are we supposed to stick it to if Bernie becomes “the Man?”

Hobgoblins and Trolls: Why I Will Not Vote for Bernie Sanders in the Primary

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 “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance.

UPDATE: It has been brought to my attention that the term “Bro” has problematic connotations. Since I have been called a “neoliberal shill” by men and women equally, I cede the point. Therefore I have changed every instance of “Bro” in this piece to “Bernsplainer” and trust that will resolve any controversy. – BD

This morning, The Hill, eager to inflate their comments ratio, giggled about Hillary Clinton’s poor opinion of Bernie Sanders, his leadership team, and his record in Congress. Not only is this “hot-take” irrelevant to anything happening in the primary generally or in the impeachment trial today, it provides another opportunity for Bernie’s most avid supporters to pile on Hillary Clinton (who, it should be noted, is neither running in the primary OR currently on trial in the Senate) for alleged warmongering, pizza-pedophilia, corporate Shrillary K$llton rigging of EVERYTHING. And of course it’s working: the comments are aflame with rage.

Unfortunately, Clinton’s well-earned and, in my opinion, correct position will be overshadowed by the gleeful hand-wringing of the punditry that this “controversy” is evidence that the Left is deeply divided at its core. Good golly, how many times must we hear that old tune? Since when has any Democrat been unable to articulate its party’s positions? I’ll go: Yes to decent, affordable health care for as many people as possible. Yes to living wage, affordable college for those who want it. Yes to reproductive freedom. Yes to sensible gun legislation. Yes to equal justice under the law. There’s more, but we all say the same stuff. We can also articulate the Republican platform: No to alla that, plus yes to tax breaks for the wealthy, yes to punitive policies toward the poor, and yes to protecting their power at all costs.

Whatever you think of the New York Times Editorial Board’s 2020 Presidential Endorsement, they are correct in observing that:

“Nearly any [candidate] would be the most progressive president in decades on issues like health care, the economy and government’s allocations of resources. Where they differ most significantly is not the what but the how… “

I am a left-wing Democrat. Always have been. In high school, after Jimmy Carter resumed the draft, I advocated for our school to bring in a conscientious objector to provide a counterpoint to our annual, mandatory Army-recruitment assembly. Like any white, middle-class teenage “radical,” I felt perfectly comfortable shouting my arguments at the conservative principal of my purple-district, suburban school and even accused him of being a tool of the government war machine. And yet, he was unpersuaded. Since then I have learned to read the room, to tailor a message, to listen to opposing points of view, and even to reconsider some of my positions based on evidence. Never in so doing has one ounce of my colossal reservoir of outrage been diminished. To me, this is a sign of maturity; I don’t have to scream at anybody. To the vocal cadre of purists, however, a nuanced position is evidence of a deep-seated neoliberal corporatism that undergirds a misguided insistence on an agenda of identity politics that will only get Trump reelected.

OK, Berner.

This year will mark my ninth vote in a presidential primary and election. Over three-dozen years, five states, and one foreign country. In spite of deeply-held views on LGBT equality, the barbarism of capital punishment, wanting sensible gun legislation, opposing the attack on unions, racial disparities in sentencing, demonization of the poor, systematic voter suppression, and the dismantling of women’s reproductive freedom, I have had to vote Democratic in every single election. HAD TO. Clinton (the handsy one, not his wife) enacted policies that had direct negative effects on me personally and were anathema to me politically, but I voted for him. Why? Because George H. W. Bush was objectively worse on everything else I cared about. Am I still enraged by Joe Biden’s treatment of Anita Hill during the Thomas hearings? Boy howdy. Will I run to the polls to vote for him in 2020? Hold my beer.

What the hardcore Sandernistas fail to grok is that Bernie, for many people, is depressingly old school. Does he remind me of some activist white men of his generation who treated women in the movement as coffee-getters, stenographers, envelope stuffers, and only considered liberation in terms of sexual availability? Sure does! Does it surprise me that Bernie gets annoyed when he is forced to acknowledge that systemic racism will still be a Thing after millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share? Sure doesn’t! Am I grateful that he is a pain in everybody’s ass in the Senate when it comes to getting legislation I agree with passed? Sure am because that’s where this curmudgeonly, progressive old grand-pappy does his best work.

Will I vote for him in the general election? Of course.

But, Bern Units, this constant haranguing has got to stop. My lack of enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders is based on my own lived experience and observations as a human on this earth, not because I haven’t heard the Good News of his Mystical Perfection and Rightness in All Things. Yea, though I have borne witness to the miracle of the bird, I do not care.

birdmeme
Jesus.

I feel for the New York Times Editorial Board. They took the unusual step of endorsing two candidates instead of rallying behind just one and are getting some pretty amusing blowback for it.  Of all the primary candidates left, I have to agree that Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar are worthy of endorsement, imperfect though they may be. Sure, Warren has a golden-retriever-like enthusiasm I find both adorable and irritating* and Klobuchar has, like, anti-charisma, but whatever; they have a good legislative track-record and policies I support.

What the New York Times did not do is endorse Bernie Sanders and I am here for it. While I agree with a lot of his positions, I am concerned that Bernie has never been seriously vetted over his legislative record or how he’ll pay for his plans. Nor has Sanders built a grassroots movement of any consequence, even though he insists such a movement will be critical to advancing his national progressive agenda. What I do see is an unchecked, cult-like following that not only refuses to acknowledge even the slightest flaw in their candidate, but attacks en masse any criticism of Bernie or policy disagreement with a viciousness, toxicity, and divisiveness rivaled only by the MAGA crowd.

No thank you.

We already have a chief executive whose followers took him seriously but not literally, who can’t take criticism, and who has not changed his political beliefs in 50 years. Again, I agree with Bernie on many things, but he clings to the idea that class is the source of all our problems, despite tangible evidence to the contrary. He has a tendency to dismiss racism, misogyny, and homophobia as “social issues” less deserving of his attention. All  are vestiges of a 70s progressivism that does nothing to inform the moment we are in.

Trump has proven that there is a significant portion of the electorate that has no idea how our system of government works or why our republic is unique among all nations. Team Sanders, for example, was profoundly ignorant of the primary process, the existing rules of the Democratic Party, and the workings of the electoral college in 2016. They didn’t get the memo, so they called it “rigged.” The MAGA crowd believes anything Fox tells them about the limits of executive power, even if it is the exact opposite of what they were told about President Obama. Worst of all, one of our two political parties is willing to abdicate its power as a co-equal branch of government to a lawless administration for the sole purpose of tilting the balance of the third branch of government toward a theocratic, anti-poor, anti-labor, white-supremacist Constitutional worldview. Against the will of the majority, for at least a generation.

I want a president I can criticize without incurring the white hot wrath of the faithful telling me how wrong I am about Dear Leader. Look, no one feels that way about Amy Klobuchar or Elizabeth Warren. Neither one of them is anybody’s savior, they do good work, and they can take a punch. That’s who should be president: nobody’s favorite and nobody’s fool.

Meanwhile, the Bernsplainers and Bots are busy pushing #NeverWarren on Twitter right now, because she criticized Bernie for saying something that sounded like he thought a woman couldn’t win in 2020. Bernie claims he expressed concern because of how dirty Trump will play. Here’s the thing: a woman beat Sanders by 4 million votes and Trump by 3 million, and both campaigns were the sorest losers and sorest winners, respectively, this country has ever seen.

If Bernie is truly interested in the Office, he needs to come get his people.

#HeWon’t.

Bernie Sanders is nothing if not consistent.

 

 


*  as I would a Warren-like energy in a golden retriever