Call me liberal, progressive, whatever you like. Parse it how you will, I occupy somewhere most of the way to the leftwards end of the political spectrum. If I had to self-label, I’d probably call myself a Social Democrat. My ideal economic arrangement would be using the productive capabilities of capitalism to achieve socialist-style ends (something along the lines of Iain Banks’ notions about the Culture in his novels, which can be summed up at the organizational level as ‘socialism within, capitalism without.’). Politically, I’d like to see a strong democracy in which participation by an informed citizenry with a liberal education, historical and scientific knowledge, and critical thinking skills ran the show. I’m in favor of single-payer universal healthcare, a guaranteed basic income, and top marginal tax rates approaching ninety percent (I’m also in favor of allowing folks to assign how their tax monies are spent, at least within a set of broad categories). I’m not against people becoming wealthy, but I think that option should only open up once the floor has been raised and guaranteed, for everybody.
So that’s where I’m coming from, in case any of the ten or fifteen people who read this blog didn’t already know. And I think there are lots of folks who’d agree with me, though the kinds of views I espouse don’t get a lot of play in the mainstream media.
So, given the rapid approach of primary and caucus season, what’s a pragmatic idealist to do?
It’s tempting, I think, for lots of folks, to skip primaries and caucuses. And I get it. It’s not the real deal, and they’re not very sexy (caucuses, in particular, are not sexy). But it’s precisely here, in the election before the election, that your vote counts the most. Partly because relatively few people vote and/or caucus. But mostly because you can — and should — vote your conscience [*]. Even if your candidate doesn’t win, by showing up to support them you show your willingness to vote, which sends a message to the winner that you’re someone whose opinion has to be taken into consideration if they want your vote in the general.
Now, in this election, my candidate is Bernie Sanders. And I’m absolutely going to show up and caucus for him (my fellow Washington residents can find out where to caucus here). The more delegates we send to the Democratic convention pledged to cast their votes for Bernie (at least in the first round), the better his chances for securing the nomination. Even if he doesn’t — and I think there’s a good chance he will — it sends a message to Hillary Clinton (who’s a bit centrist and careerist for my taste) that if she wants those delegates, she’ll have to tack left (an excellent example is John Edwards back in ’08, who when he flamed out for cheating on his awesome spouse was able to parley the delegates he’d won into a promise from Obama to keep on with his Two Americas theme), which is what I want as a voter and citizen.
[*] A side-note for those radical enough to abstain from Democratic party politics: Obviously caucuses are not for you, being intra-party affairs, but a Primary vote is an excellent place to cast a ballot according to your conscience. Even, perhaps especially, in Washington state, where primaries are non-binding, registering your position on the issues and candidates is an excellent way of making your voice heard. Short of volunteering and/or donating, it might be the best way of making your voice heard, especially if your ideal candidate doesn’t belong to a mainstream political party.