The “Unpotentials” Don’t Need Pragmatism

There’s a lot to like about Bernie Sanders. There are very few democrats who actually dislike his policies and ideas. Rather, they see an individual who lacks pragmatism. It certainly isn’t the first word I would use to describe Sanders.

Single payer healthcare — even Hillary Clinton will tell you that this would be an incredible accomplishment that, on average, will save people money. But unless you’ve been living in a hole, you’ve heard Hillary decry Sanders’s proposition, calling him out for trying to “dismantle” the Affordable Care Act.

This is disingenuous. Sanders voted for The Affordable Care Act. He helped get it passed.

The Affordable Care Act was a compromise. Most Democrats would have loved to have seen it come to fruition as a single-payer plan. Obama campaigned on it. But it wasn’t in the cards. “That’s politics”, or so it goes.

What Hillary Clinton means to say is that there’s a snowball’s chance in hell that you would ever get a single-payer plan through a Democrat-controlled Congress, let alone the Republican-controlled one we have now. She doesn’t really trust that to resonate with you, so instead she says that Sanders wants to get rid of all the progress we’ve made under President Obama.

Why doesn’t Clinton trust us to recognize the struggles of passing truly progressive legislation? I think it speaks to an aspect of the Democratic electorate that she seems to fear, yet Sanders is trying to catch like lightning in a bottle:

We’re sick of compromising.

For some reason, while many Republicans on the national stage have no problem compromising the truth when it suits their narrative, compromising on legislation is a no-go. It rather becomes unilateral compromise from the Democrats to pass even fundamental things like funding increases for schools to keep up with inflation. As the mature grown-ups in the room, Democrats buckle to get something, anything done.

How have Republicans been getting away with this?

They’re loud and passionate.

Their debates are carnivals, their campaign events side-shows and the candidates themselves a collection of bearded ladies and miniature horses. Spectators fed up with their own lives and lots run to Zoltar stage left of this pageant, rigged to spit out either fantastical promises with as much evidence as can be expected to fit on that tiny piece of paper or doomsday prophecies scaring them into coming to the next show. Media, collecting on the audience’s parking outside the tent, plays along with the game. Democrats warn their pleading kids that the glass is not to protect onlookers, rather trap them, but who can resist the draw of the next exhibit — the world’s largest windbag? Always one to be the good cop parent, they send them off with the cost of admission saying “Be back before 9!” Before they know it, the kids are racing out of the house the next morning in a Giants hoodie because their clothes don’t fit anymore.

Ice cream, soda pop, vanilla on top indeed.

This whole shebang resonates with the Republican electorate — it resonates with most people. Independents and Democrats, too, can’t help but tune in to see who will be talking over the other, who will say that outrageous thing, who will come out of the next episode on top?

But here’s the thing: many people recognize the carnival for what it is — just that. Donald Trump likes to talk about the “silent majority” that he represents, but I, rather, firmly believe that it’s a vocal and determined minority that subscribes to his and his colleagues’ prater. Polls show that Trump leads Republicans and Clinton leads Democrats while various Republicans and Democrats sparred against each other come out neck and neck among potential voters.

But who are these “unpotential” voters? Where do they lie?

I very strongly believe they’re mostly young and mostly Democrats. Election turnout numbers support the former, while the latter is surely more than hearsay or the Sanders campaign wouldn’t be doubling down on it by organizing around the idea of getting young people out to vote.

And he’s good at it.

The biggest concern with Bernie Sanders from Clinton and her supporters, being written about en masse as they realize this isn’t a fringe campaign, is that Clinton is pragmatic enough to compromise with Republicans while Sanders will sit on his log until he gets his way. But what if you didn’t need pragmatism?

These “unpotentials” watch each cycle, laughing with their friends about how absurd the carnival is. They recognized long ago that Zoltar has no obligation to turn you back into a kid at the end of the night. Of course they’re more inclined to vote Democrat, but it’s almost always accompanied with “I guess”. “I probably won’t vote.” “My vote doesn’t matter.” They watch the Obamas and the Clintons and think “Hey, that sounds like a good idea,” until they realize that despite their support for the Democrats’ resolutions and ideals, they’re still being dragged to the big tent for the sake of “compromise”. Compromise? Why can’t we have a real conversation for once? I’m out.

And they leave. They don’t caucus. They don’t vote. They don’t care.

But what if this time, Democrats took a page out of the Republican book and riled up the electorate? No compromises. Let’s get something done.


That’s where Bernie comes in. The guy is inspiring. He has big ideas, calls out the clown car for what it is and says, very plainly, enough is enough. Political progress is about as stagnant as your wages. The carnival is orchestrated to take advantage of you — from the parking to the concessions. Recognizing the metal death trap rides for what they are isn’t always fun, but it does keep us safe, and, very quickly, we realize our parents were right.

Then the cards really start falling: the big scary thing for elected Democrats — the part where nothing gets done because no one is compromising — isn’t an issue anymore. The unpotentials are coming out of the woodwork, born again as not only potentials but progressive potentials! They’re turning out to vote. They’re young, so they keep turning out to vote because they’re still alive! Suddenly, Democrats are winning state elections again. Suddenly, they’re winning congressional elections again! Suddenly, suddenly, suddenly…

The illusion has become the reality.

But it wasn’t brought to you by the carnival. That’s not in their best interest because you’d stop paying to see them. We’ve created it ourselves. And because we care much more about ourselves than the ringleaders ever did, we took the time to clean up the grease, fix up the rides and get rid of Zoltar, as our fantasies of living wages, paid medical leave, affordable healthcare and the like have all come to fruition. No fortune needed.

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