I Might Jump the Bernie Ship, No Thanks to Brooklyn
When I arrived at my local beer hall in Brooklyn last Tuesday to watch my party’s candidates duke it out at the nearby Navy Yard, I was undecided but definitely feelin’ the Bern.
In recent weeks, Senator Sanders’ truth-to-power platform had won me over. I have a profound respect for Hillary Clinton’s political experience, and in particular her service to the world as Secretary of State, but I worry about some of the choices she’s made. Voting for the war in Iraq and against gay marriage, the confidential emails on a personal account, the Goldman Sachs speeches…. They seem to reflect a disconnect from reality, including that of the average American just trying to make ends meet.
In sharp contrast, Sanders’ courage to stand up to Wall Street, the Big Banks, and a defiantly corrupt campaign finance system has left a deep impression on me, and a real sense of possibility. Lately I’ve been carrying more than a modicum of hope that Bernie will actually make our social justice dreams come true.
But last Tuesday night, as I stood in front of a giant TV screen surrounded by craft beer and revved-up Bernie campaigners, something went very wrong.
What happened was this: Secretary Clinton noted, with great passion and dismay, that none of the moderators in any of the Democratic debates were asking about women’s reproductive rights, despite them being under relentless attack by the GOP — and not a single person in that massive beer hall applauded in support.
I let out a squeaky yelp. “That’s true!” I managed, looking around in search of kindred spirits. I made a few awkward claps.
I was stunned. Despite the fact that Clinton and Sanders have lately been playing enemies at war, supporters know full well they’re on the same side of a number of key issues. That includes, in no uncertain terms, a woman’s right to choose.
And yet of the one hundred plus raucous Bernie-ites in attendance who filled the festive hall — most of them young and white — no one could bring themselves to acknowledge that Clinton’s statement was not only important, it was one hundred percent correct. This despite her crucial message to the many women around me who stood arm-in-arm with their lefty husbands and partners.
No, the mostly Millennial crowd had already turned to stone. They had stopped listening to her before the debate began. They refused to demonstrate the art of critical thinking so gracefully embodied by our current President, someone I’m certain had earned most if not all of their votes sometime in the past eight years.
In my view, this was one of Secretary Clinton’s most powerful moments of the night, and an opportunity for progressives to stand united in their belief that, as she put it so aptly during the 1995 UN Women’s Conference in Beijing, “women’s rights are human rights”.
Until last week, I believed we could surely applaud this fundamental value together, no matter our age or which shade of blue we identify with the most.
With Hillary still projected as the front-runner in tonight’s primary, seven days ago I was moving quickly in a different direction, on the verge of supporting the green-mountain-state candidate, yet another voice in favor of a new progressive Democratic agenda. I was prepared to join the sea of Americans who have been shouting with all their hearts, “We’re mad as hell and we can’t take it anymore!”
But I’m no longer sure if the revolutionaries and I are on the same boat.
Just like President Obama during the 2008 campaign, Sanders has often reminded us that the national transformation we yearn for begins with us; it relies on the actions we take in every state and in every neighborhood across America.
And we all know from experience that at the end of the day, actions speak louder than words.
Whether we vote for Bernie or Hillary, progressives must commit to fighting for truth and justice after the votes are in.
I’m pretty confident our next President will be a Democrat. How much of a Socialist remains to be seen. Either way, I don’t mind waiting until the eleventh hour to choose my nominee, but come January, I won’t waste a minute deciding whether or not to cheer.