Hillary, Bernie, and Me

I was a strong and early supporter of Bernie Sanders, especially the Bernie Sanders of the early campaign: the guy who took the high road, who spoke truth to power, who organized at the grassroots and refused to engage in negative campaigning. The guy who said on her worst day Hillary Clinton would be a better President than any of the Republicans.
But I have a confession to make: I never thought he’d win.
It wasn’t lack of faith in the message or devotion to the agenda he espoused. That faith and devotion is what drove my support. To me Bernie Sanders was only a vehicle for getting the word out and starting to organize. It was clear the man himself was an imperfect vessel (he is, after all, a career politician). It was also based on a cold, hard political calculation. Remember the incident in Seattle about a year ago, when two #blacklivesmatter activists stormed a stage he was set to speak on? The way Bernie and, more importantly, his most ardent supporters handled that told me all I needed to know. However you stand on the incident, nobody gets the Democratic nomination without support from African-Americans. And while Bernie has done a great job of mobilizing younger African-Americans, they were outnumbered by their elders, who were less willing to take a chance.
Still, I advocated, and donated, and when the time came I caucused. All along I tried my best to keep to the high road the Bernie Sanders of the early campaign laid out.
Sadly, my candidate chose not to. Somewhere along the way, some subtle threshold got crossed. It was about Bernie now. Bernie the man, the visionary, the leader of a revolution, though what the revolution meant or would look like was never made clear. He started throwing punches, insisted he was going to win despite the fact that the path to victory only got narrower and less likely with every primary and caucus, even the ones that he won.

Continue reading “Hillary, Bernie, and Me”

This Is What Democracy Looks Like, a Report from the Washington State Caucuses

Will Rogers once joked “I belong to no organized political party. I am a Democrat.” It’s as true today as when he said it, as I was reminded when I attended the caucus held in Seattle’s Capitol Hill, a neighborhood so liberal our local City Councilmember is Socialist Kshama Sawant.

The caucuses were scheduled to begin at 10 am, and as someone who hadn’t pre-registered I was encouraged via text message by volunteers for the Sanders campaign to arrive by 9 am to make sure I got my paperwork filled out in time to properly participate in the caucus. I thought that was probably a good idea, but I got a wee bit tipsy the night before, and didn’t make it til 9:30.

The caucus was held at the Century Ballroom at the corner of 10th and Pine, a giant space usually reserved for Salsa, Swing, and other couples-style dancing. It occupies most of the second floor of the old Oddfellows building, a large, old structure smack dab in the heart of one of the most liberal neighborhoods in one of the most liberal cities in the US.

When I arrived, the line to get inside was already around the corner and down the block almost to Pike Street. I was immediately grateful to have brought a thermos of coffee and a book. Continue reading “This Is What Democracy Looks Like, a Report from the Washington State Caucuses”

Planting Seeds in Common Ground, or Why Don’t These A-holes Agree With Me?

I’ve been thinking a lot in the last few days about something that happened to me back in 2004. It was primary season, Howard Dean was all the rage, MoveOn.org was filling my inbox every day, and I went with a friend to a Democratic party Meet Up at a bar somewhere in Seattle’s Eastlake neighborhood. George W. Bush was running for re-election, and who to put up against him was the topic under discussion at the big table we all sat around. What I remember in particular is that there were these two guys kind of in the center of the group who kept hijacking the discussion, talking about how what we really needed to do was purge the ranks of DINOs so that a pure, unadulterated liberal message and messenger could emerge, which would then, through some magical Underpants Gnomes-type process, rally the faithful, convert the skeptics and doubters, and win the White House back from the disastrously incompetent administration occupying it at the time.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I wanted and want that, too. And though I found their continual hijacking of the discussion off-putting and rude, in the end I have to thank them, because they provided the opportunity for something of an epiphany for me.

Now, let me back up for a moment and reiterate that in terms of desired end-states, these two insufferable prigs and I were in more or less complete agreement. Where we differed was in our assessment of where we were at the time and how to get where we all wanted to go.

I don’t remember exactly what I said once I managed to get ahold of the conch for a couple of minutes, but the gist of it was simply this: we didn’t have the numbers. There simply were not enough people who agreed with our desired ends for their strategy to work. Continue reading “Planting Seeds in Common Ground, or Why Don’t These A-holes Agree With Me?”

About This Whole Hillary/Bernie Thing

So, let’s get started by placing your humble correspondent in context. I am a supporter of Bernie Sanders. I give him money every month, and when Washington State holds its Democratic caucuses in a week or so, I’ll be there, standing with other Sanders supporters. I think his run for the Democratic nomination is one of the most important political developments of my lifetime. His overarching theme of wresting the apparati of state and nation back from the oligarch class and putting it to work for the common good makes my heart soar. His indictment of the warping effects of money in politics is trenchant and is clearly resonating in the hearts and minds of millions of citizens. He’s given a voice to ideas and positions I think many of us despaired would ever be so clearly articulated on the national stage, and his grassroots organizing campaign has upended the conventional wisdom about running for office without the assistance of either SuperPAC money or mainstream media coverage.

And, frankly, he’s losing.

It’s not over yet. It is at least theoretically possible for him to overcome the odds win a majority of pledged delegates (superdelegates would, I think, fall in line at that point, as they did in 2008, when President Obama overtook Hillary Clinton). But it’s really, really unlikely. By the accounts I trust, he’d need to win something like 60-40 in every one of the remaining contests to make up his current deficit and come to the convention in Philadelphia with a winning majority.

I hope he does. But I don’t expect he will. The odds are overwhelmingly against it.

That said, I don’t think he will —  or should — drop out of the race. For one thing, the message he articulates deserves as wide a hearing as can be accomplished, and the longer he stays in the race, the better he’ll be able to do that. The more attention he can bring to the fundamental causes of wealth and income inequality, the more acceptable talking about it becomes in the national discourse. Which means maybe finally we’ll be able to do something about it. And the more he talks about what Democratic Socialism actually means, and the policy choices that fall within its penumbra, the more the national discourse will be empowered and/or forced to give them a fair hearing.

Every vote Bernie gets and has gotten only makes that case stronger. And the grassroots organization he’s built can accomplish a great deal going forward, whether or not he gets the nomination or is elected to the Presidency.

But the odds are that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. Not only that, and despite the gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair that is my facebook feed these days, the odds are that she will be our next President.

And I’m okay with that. Continue reading “About This Whole Hillary/Bernie Thing”

A Pragmatic Idealist’s Guide to Caucus/Primary Season

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? Continue reading “A Pragmatic Idealist’s Guide to Caucus/Primary Season”