As you get old, you become afraid of change. I'm afraid of anything that interferes with my status quo, at this point. And I need to work on that. I call it the faster horses problem: before there were cars, what did people want? Faster horses. Before people understood that true progressivism is the only path forward, what did every edited poll seem to indicate? Joe Biden might be a good compromise. [chuckles]
UPDATE: I wrote this article in February, right after the Iowa caucus, and just before the pandemic hit - some parts of it were written as far back as June of 2019. For some reason, I was reluctant to publish it. In the context of 'Bernie Bros' and the eternal battle between corporate neoliberals and the rest of us lefties, I chose to hold back. That mindset seems quaint now. Even Bernie himself has thrown us to the wolves, in his rush to justify the horrible cabinet picks of the upcoming Biden administration. Justifications everywhere, and no relief in sight. Anyway, read on. I was trying to make a statement about political messaging, and the danger we face as a society if everyone continues to retreat into the comfort of their media bubbles. Little did I know, that soon we would all be forced to do just that, by the arbitrary hand of Covid-19 and the piss-poor job that Trump did to contain it.
Today needs to be the day we start making up our own minds. What do I mean by that? Remove the wedges. Eliminate the hate. Get to what's true. Here's the thing you may not know about the Bernie Sanders Revolution - we are not coming for you. You are in no danger. We fight FOR you, we fight for everyone. If you can take a step back for one minute, and be honest with yourself about what is going on here, we might make some headway on this thing.
Why not Bernie? I have friends in town that are nice-ish, two come to mind, that seem to already have decided that Bernie is a no-go, for them personally. For both of them, it seems the problem is age - he is just too old. Which to me is a head-scratcher, until you realize the true power of both social media and identity politics in this daily media frenzy of click-bait and hate-mongering - the media landscape we are living in is truly breathtaking. All of the news is the same thing - celebrity pregnancies, pop-group rivalries, sports-star photo-ops - there is nothing left of substance. Nothing. Did you know that Brazil's current president is totally illegitimate? Did you know that we tried for 6 months to overthrow the government of Venezuela using bullshit as a political weapon, and failed? Did you know that we bribed Ecuador with hundreds of millions of dollars to finally drag Julian Assange out of the embassy like a stuck pig? No, you probably don't. But you are sure you have all the facts about Bernie, and you have already made up your mind. Let's break that down. Seriously - why not?
He's Too Old
Since when is agism a thing? Everyone in Congress is too old. That's a separate problem. Bernie made the joke but it is true - he runs on renewables. He has been fighting for decades on behalf of the working poor, and he has plenty of energy left. He packs houses and stadiums every week around the country. Maybe you don't realize the youth of this country overwhelmingly support Sanders, so you might want to consider getting out of the way of history. If not for anything else, do it for them.
He's Too Socialist
This is a trigger for a certain demographic, I think because it harkens back to the last time we manufactured an enemy like it was our job (remember the Cold War?), and reminds people of the ghost of Stalin. But today's socialism (now pre-pended with the word democratic!) is not about melting all the church bells, but rather giving people access to the things that they now struggle to pay for: healthcare, education, child care. So again, what's the problem? Is it a lingering fear of the unknown? Maybe you just like being in the 'center' because it makes you feel reasonable? All of that makes sense - just remember the faster horses. We can have it way better. What if we elect Sanders, eliminate student debt, everyone gets free college and healthcare, and the wheels don't actually fall off like you heard would happen on Fox News? What then?
He's Too Far Away from Me
This is the most powerful one, I think, because it speaks to our darkest fears, it is the most nebulous, and the most current. This is the legacy of the Correct the Record campaign to discredit Sanders supporters, and is typically a white, middle-class and upper-class demographic that thinks of Sanders supporters as 'Bernie bros'. This entire demographic is still angry that Hillary lost, never really had a moment of presence about what went wrong there, and was handed a newly demonized Sanders movement as the 'problem' at the exact moment that their rage was simmering.
When I was in college, I took a really interesting class called A Study in Civic Planning as a Tool for Institutionalized Racism, 20th Century, or something to that effect. We looked at how towns like Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Atlanta were laid out in the early 20th century, and how the roads and rails that were laid were done in such a way as to enshrine white communities, and ostracize those of color. It was very illuminating. I hope someone somewhere still offers that class to students. Why do I mention this? Wedge issues. Pit the Blacks against the Mexicans lest they rise up against the landowners; let's make Russia the enemy so that we never draw down our military empire; let's make the city mice hate the country mice for falling in love with Sanders; it's all just hate being used as a weapon. Many towns in this proud country, if not most of them, were specifically designed to create resentment between minorities as they struggle against the scourge of institutionalized scarcity. One for you, ten for me. Hey look, that guy's trying to take your job. Wedge issues are nothing new, and they are very effective. Hating is easy. If your decisions are being driven by hate or fear, you are an unwitting pawn in the media's war on the truth in the attempt to brand progressivism as crazy. Again, all you have to do is get out of the way.
Are we going to all of a sudden wake up, and start being honest with ourselves about how much we have lost already? How much public land is being privatized as we speak, under this administration? How many regulations meant to protect public health are suffering? How many children are taken from their parents when they need them most? I hope so. But what we need to do first is stop the hate.
I am calling for a simple return to positive messaging. What are you FOR? Let's make it a rule for this election cycle - no more hate. Talk to me about why your candidate is better. And let me make a simple statement: maybe that wedge issue is the problem. It's easy to hate, and it is hard to let go. But let go we must.
Bernie Sanders is the candidate of today, and tomorrow - he is overwhelmingly supported by the youth of America, by women and minorities, and he regularly polls above Trump. He will win, and give us back the America we all deserve.
Remove the hate. What is left? Progress.
Let's go there.
Photo credit: Associated Press.