After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School I de-friended anyone on Facebook who posted anything anti-gun control, as it was simply not a dialogue I was willing to participate in. Children murdered by a white terrorist and the Right claiming liberals just wanted to use this to take our arms away? I could get that story by watching Fox at the gym; I didn’t need to see it within my network of so-called friends. This is not to say I don’t have friends with whom I disagree, but it is to say that friendship to me is rooted in shared philosophy and belief, and perhaps I don’t need to be Facebook friends with the kid I sat next to in geometry 15 years ago who doesn’t share any values with me that aren’t mathematical. Who remembers the Pythagorean theorem, anyway? (Okay, I do. But I had damn fine math teachers.)
I share my political viewpoints online, of course. Here, in essays, and by reposting articles, speeches and op-eds. I do this because my social network is full of like-minded folks, friends with whom I can converse and push and learn from, many of whom live quite far away. And I do this because I care deeply about politics and our country and my hopes for the future.
Of course I have friends I argue with about politics. I always had a loving relationship with my grandfather who I couldn’t have disagreed with more in terms of politics and I even dated my political opposite in college (albeit for a brief time). I teach teenagers and adults who I know could vote against my beliefs and I still love them, encourage them and respect their right to do so. And yet.
I’m not writing today about Republicans; when a so-called moderate Republican senator like Susan Collins will endorse Trump, I know I’m not going to change their minds. I’m not interested in stubborn polarized talking points that don’t qualify as conversation or debate. I’m writing about the Democratic Party and the perception of divisiveness on social media that further severs our common beliefs and, I truly believe, does not accurately reflect our values as democrats or as people.
I scroll through my Facebook feed and I see petitions by Bernie supporters saying they’d never vote for Hillary. I see petitions by Hillary supporters telling Bernie to drop out before June.
Vote for Bernie. Caucus for Hillary. Go with your heart. But when it comes to November, let us all remember that the democratic platform and the GOP platform are incredibly, wholly, systematically different. To pretend anything less is to invoke the undeniable privilege that, to give but one example, Supreme Court nominations have no ramifications in your life or the life of your children, should you choose to have them.
I know we could all write in a vote for a candidate much more ideal than either Bernie or Hillary. To defy Trump and Trump supporters we could think of a better candidate who encompasses all our values, hopes and dreams. But I grew up in New Hampshire. Everyone blames Florida and hanging chads for the reign of Bush II, but let us remember the electoral map of 2000 and that red dot in New England with its four electoral votes that swayed the entire election. A lot of my friends and neighbors voted for Nader that year. I know why. I know what they believe in, what they felt disenfranchised by, what they wanted to change. I know they believe in health care for all and protecting our earth. I know they disagree with war and NCLB. And yet. Without enough votes for Gore, however reluctant those votes may have been, it was eight long unmitigated regressive years before Obama.
Believe what you believe. Fight for what you believe in. But we must cut through the obverse-Buzz-Feed-click-bait frenzy and remember what is at stake in the presidential election. We must unite together under common goals and ideals and vote for the democratic nominee. Hillary and Bernie are not our enemies, nor will they fix the problems in this world. But they can try. They can keep us from regressing. We must remind ourselves that the platform of the other side does nothing to help our neediest and continues to be racist, xenophobic, sexist and homophobic, promoting fear and relying on scapegoating to champion walls and bombs and guns and deportation.
If you’re disenchanted with the process or the political machine, fine. Run for city council. Vote for radicals in local elections. Shift the conversation. But I live in Maine. Want to know what happens when a tea party candidate gets elected with 33% of the vote? Google Paul LePage. (Spoiler alert: he gets re-elected and perpetuates atavism.) After you’re done weeping, laugh-crying, vomiting, etc., buck up and stop vilifying your own party on social media with little nuance and much vitriol. Participate in your primary. Vote for Bern. Vote for Hill. But don’t swear you won’t vote for the other candidate if yours doesn’t win the primary. We’ve got enough “othering” and vilifying and vitriol going on by the GOP.
Look at Maine as a lesson, a warning, and a reckoning. Participate in your primary and then rally together, listen to each other, and make sure that electoral map turns blue.