Had Bernie been Bernadette — The heartbreaking truth about American patriarchy
Lauren Besser

Unfortunately, the only way real change will happen and “stick” is if white men introduce, steward and advocate — for women, brown people, poor people. People cannot undo their own oppression, simply by wanting to.

Optimism and activism work when the messages are heard, and by the time a woman is in a position to score, white men will make damn sure the goalposts move before she does….obscuring her message in the process.

Barack Obama’s candidacy (and two victories) proved the will of the people…but couldn’t possibly “end racism.” The only way to do that is to see to it that the patriarchy sees the benefit for THEM and make THEM advocate for its end, in their own self interest.

Women (and brown and poor people) cannot win at the OWM (old white men’s) game. The best possible result of doing so is personal gain and stature, which only compounds the unlikelihood of further change by adding fear of LOSING what’s been gained and the stature (and bully pulpit) it provides.

To truly win, we must see to it that the rules change and are adhered to; that the playing field is cleared of the back doors and secret passageways that have been leveraged by generations of privileged white men to “succeed.”

We need our own levers; we need to value our own talents and capacities — especially the ones that set us up to win (authenticity, compassion, empathy, collaboration, cooperation…) and set up men to have to work very hard to seem relevant.

We change hearts and minds by example — something to observe and viscerally experience — not rhetoric shouted from podiums. Women, especially, can start by re-defining “success” — and win hearts and minds with common sense and persistence — the same way we do every day in every area of our lives, to be heard.

What is happening on the right didn’t happen in a vacuum; it happened over four decades of propaganda, twisted talking points; bullying; cheating; intimidation; gaslighting….and now, a generation later, it occurs to 35–40% of the country as “the American way,” creating cognitive dissonance for those of us who haven’t sipped the Kool-Aid, and creating the division and conflict that are the ONLY way Republicans can win anymore.

The Democratic party has never been willing to dispense with the standard playbook and re-write our own. To win hearts and minds for democratic values, we need to LIVE them; use common sense, appeal to honest self-interest that benefits all, debunk every lie in a clear, honest voice, and pull back the veil of ignorance so people can see their own self-interest as a valid reason to support a candidate.

Some never will. Some already have. Nothing happens overnight in a country of 300 million people, but there are countless ways we can rectify inequalities in the system, simply by enforcing laws that already exist and seeing to it that those who violate them are afforded due process and justice is actually served, no matter how grand their net worth.

If it’s an old white Jewish democratic socialist pointing this out at this time, Democratic values are more likely to be heard and understood. That is just how it is right now. Men’s voices are simply dominant in the public conversation at every turn. Even people who held their noses because he’s mixed race, still voted for him because he has a penis, and in their world, “even a black man” is preferable to a woman.

But thanks to people everywhere who simply will not take no for an answer, it won’t always be this way. Optimism is NOT for suckers — it is what gives us the strength to live in status quo as long as it takes to change it.

Women and “minorities” are intimately familiar with what it takes to be patient and relentless, even in the face of people dying in the streets. Polls and analysis notwithstanding, it only takes one look at the crowds rallying for each to see that HRC’s voice isn’t piercing the fog of ignorance, and Bernie’s is. Mega crowds don’t lie.

It isn’t about gender. It’s about message. Bernie taps into dissatisfaction, not as a political trick to gain votes, but because he has felt it himself for his entire career, and has been doing his best to steward change for decades — incrementally, as our system allows (and which, by the way, HRC insists is the only way.) It is just who Bernie Sanders IS.

HRC does not have the (perceived) integrity and experience of decades spent advocating for US consistently, in the trenches. She has made the most of the chances and privileges she’s worked for, had a front row seat to her husband’s presidency and cultivated a career in her own right….but that isn’t the same as being the most popular elected legislator, working in alignment with Democratic values in that legislature for decades, instilling the trust and respect of not only his constituents, but his peers on either side of the aisle.

At this time in our country’s life, with the largest bloc of 18–34 voters in history looking over our shoulders, we need to demonstrate with our actions that civic responsibility is electing people who advocate for a playing field that works for everyone. Bernie Sanders is simply a more credible choice, with a more consistent track record of doing, than HRC.

I have never voted for a Republican and never will. If HRC wins the nomination, I will vote for her, because EVERY Democratic voice needs to be heard this year — and the words “President Trump” (or any other Republican) make me gag.

Only the results in November will tell us for sure if the country is “ready” for a revolution. I passionately hope so — but if not, it means our work is far from finished.

We’ve seen that when voter turnout is high, Democratic candidates win elections. Our most important work is compelling people to VOTE — to ensure that our democratic processes work the way they’re designed to, so we can elect people who will reform the parts that do not.

It warms my heart to know that there are passionate voices in that 18–34 bloc who will be tempered by the fires of this period of transition in America, to prepare them for the work that awaits beyond it.

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