I’m not sure I’ve ever been more disappointed in a politician than I’ve become with Bernie Sanders. He was My Guy in the beginning. I really wanted him to be the real deal. I hoped for a year, that he would substitute sloganeering for actionable plans, and unfortunately I’m still waiting. As the months ticked by and his chances started to look noticeably slimmer, the tone shifted. It seemed to be impossible for Bernie and his supporters to accept that the majority of democratic voters simply did not have faith that he could accomplish all he was promising — The game MUST be rigged! Don’t get me started on the various conspiracy theories. If nothing else, Sanders and his fans have certainly kept the tin-foil manufacturers in business.
I truly loved how, from the beginning, he pledged he would not run a negative campaign…And this is where he eventually lost me. In the past few months I have watched as Bernie’s campaign and supporters gladly accepted the same manufactured untruths that the GOP has been churning up for the past 35 years about the Clintons, and shared them with glee. In fact, they’ve even started adding their own unfounded smears to the catalog. I’ve seen a lot of negative campaigning over the years, but this one has been truly ugly. Even now, as his mathematical chances are blatantly absurd, I received yet another attack email from Bernie’s Campaign Manager this morning, accusing Hillary Clinton of money laundering. As usual, there was no proof of actual wrong-doing, but apparently that’s no longer necessary in what has now morphed into a win-at-all-costs approach. What exactly does “winning” even look like in this scenario?
I’ve had numerous conversations with Hillary supporters who’ve tried to share pro-Hillary articles on social media (or even, god-forbid, Bernie critiques), but who had been so viciously attacked for it by Bernie fans, that they decided it just wasn’t worth voicing their opinions. This bullying has been pervasive throughout the campaign, and all over the internet. The comments sections of articles have been littered with some of the most disgusting, misogynistic and hateful rhetoric you’ll ever see, and Bernie has remained silent throughout all of it. I’m sure I’ll garner my own share of vitriol for posting this, but it makes me physically ill to sit and watch these ongoing attacks.
Sadly, it turns out that Bernie is not the Liberal Messiah after all. Of course we all should have known this, but so badly we had wanted it to be true. In fact, despite the sheer volume of propaganda generated to make Hillary seem somehow Conservative, he’s really not much more liberal than Ms. Clinton after all. The truth is, their voting records show that they voted identically on 93% of all legislation sent their way. They both have long records of championing societal safety nets for those Americans who are most in need, abused, or discriminated against. There is a very good reason why Conservatives despise both of these candidates with a passion. Bernie Sanders is a very principled, though flawed, politician. The plain fact is, that I love most of the principles he voices, I just didn’t trust that he’d be as effective at getting those ideals translated into laws, as much as I trust that Hillary will.
What is at once charming about Bernie is also what makes one nervous about his ability to effectively govern. I won’t print my age here, but let it suffice that I have witnessed decades of elections and the resulting governance from them, and anyone that has spent any time whatsoever observing politics, knows that effective politics is the art of compromise. This is especially true in our wonderful melting pot of cultures, ideals and opinions. In a nutshell, it’s pretty much what our country was founded on. If you wish to be a politician who represents and accomplishes the goals of the constituency that voted you into office, you need to accept and learn how to negotiate and unfortunately compromise. At his age, you’d assume Bernie knows this by now, and yet he comes to all political interactions with the completely unbending attitude of a teenager. As though all compromise in life is for the weak. As though other people in the world might have differing opinions from yours, but they must either be wrong, or “sell outs”. This is not the approach of a politician who gets things accomplished, and unfortunately it probably explains how Bernie has been in American politics for so long, and yet has authored and passed so little legislation. At this very moment we are witnessing a glaring example of a large group of politicians who have adopted this same attitude, this attitude of complete refusal to compromise, and ironically they are the people that Bernie rails against (when he’s not railing against Hillary) — The Republicans in The House and in The Senate. Over seven years, all they’ve accomplished is a historic record of obstructionism. I can’t even imagine how much more dysfunctional Washington could become with a President who might be just as intractable as the Congress they would have to work with. It’s alarming and yet in this light, not surprising that, out of all his fellow Democratic Senators, who have worked shoulder-to-shoulder with Bernie for so many years, only one has actually come out to endorse him in this election.
What makes me most sad though, is that Bernie seems to be rapidly tarnishing what could have been a wonderful legacy. He almost strikes as a different man from the one that started this campaign. Is it hubris? Frustration at the results of his labors? Bad advice? I really do hope that when people look back at this time, they don’t just remember Bernie as “that old angry guy who almost pulled a ‘Ralph Nader’ in the 2016 election.”