This year’s presidential primary has been incredibly challenging. Not just for the country, but for me personally. Today, even as I entered the polling place, I had committed to neither Hillary nor Bernie.
I will certainly not face a similar problem in November. I will support whatever Democrat stands against Trump, Cruz, the ostensibly “reasonable” Kasich, or any other Tea-Party-satisfying person the Republicans might offer.
So what’s been my problem during this primary season?
Let’s start with the wide array of things I actually do support: the rights of women; the rights of black and brown and red and yellow people; the rights of people of all (or no) religions; the rights of those who cannot or simply will not embrace the heterosexual norm; the rights of all working people to know they are free of poverty; the rights of other people, in other nations, not to fear the armored intrusions of the United States; and, perhaps most of all, the need for governments throughout the world to do everything possible to protect our planet.
I know that no Republican candidate opens his clenched arms to the suffering immigrants who seek comfort in our nation. I think it’s clear such Republicans do not care about the Latino workers who have, through their labor, saved the agricultural and building trades of our country. I know that the vast majority of Republicans, both in state houses and in Congress, deny or dismiss the importance of global warming. I know it’s obvious that no Republican disavows the jingoistic fervor that has informed our hateful foreign policy stances prior to Obama’s also troublesome administration.
But I also know that Hillary Clinton is one of the chief architects and ongoing supporters of those hawkish foreign policies, from her rash eagerness to unseat the Libyan government to her unwavering support of Netanyahu’s oppressive regime. In 2008, I was still furious over her vote to grant George W the power to unleash the terrorism made explicit by the choice of “Shock and Awe” to characterize our invasion of Iraq. I might more easily forgive her lack of judgment and humanity if she were not still one of the most bellicose Democrats in our government.
On the other hand, Hillary is a brilliant feminist and resolute champion of women’s rights—reproductive, economic, and cultural. I have also long admired Clinton’s wonderful wonkiness, her mastery of details and her ability to field any question and to explain her position on any and all complex issues. She is so brilliant in so many ways. Besides, she ranked as one of the most liberal members of the Senate throughout her tenure representing New York in D.C., well to the left of Joe Biden and only slightly to the right of Bernie Sanders, so the insistent notion that she is in the thrall and pocket of Wall Street doesn’t survive a search for supporting evidence.
And then there’s Bernie Sanders. I’ve always been a fan. I am, after all, a somewhat bohemian Unitarian. I am proud to be a union member because unions empowered the working class, making it (at least for a while) the middle class. I am the son of a doctor and hospital administrator who always hoped single-payer health insurance would come to America. I am a teacher who believes that education is a road toward fulfillment, empowerment, and liberation, and who, as a result, certainly wants us to find some way of guaranteeing an advanced education for every citizen ready to prosper in college. And, just as I am delighted to have an accomplished woman on the verge of being our next president, I am tickled pink to see a Jewish socialist also in the running.
On the other hand, Bernie has a stridently self-righteous streak that leaves him dismissive of anyone not ready for his particular brand of revolution. And in the past, he has never been very successful as a revolutionary. He has “crossed the aisle” to strike the occasional deal, but prior to this exceptionally odd year in U.S. politics, he never showed the savvy—the congressional street smarts—to emerge as a real political force, a truly meaningful agent of change. I delight to see him having an influence on the Democratic Party policies now, and I hope he will, should he lose the nomination, keep up the ardent pressure on mainstream Democratic thinking. I love his values. I question his political abilities. I see him, should he be elected, as the next Jimmy Carter: a truly great man and sadly failed president.
So? Who did I vote for today, in Connecticut’s primary?
When I started writing this piece, I thought I would reveal my vote in the end. (You know…Relieving the tension created by my earlier inability to decide.) I did cast a vote. I did make a choice. But I also realize that the choice isn’t the point.
What really matters, at least to me, is that Democrats and independents recognize the absurdity and mindlessness of the Republican contenders. That we who support Sanders or Clinton absolutely must, in November, vote for whichever one wins the nomination. If you are sick of voting for “the lesser of two evils,” you have to get over it. The presidential election will not be about a lesser evil. It will be about a thoughtful and experienced candidate who deserves support because he or she stands in opposition to a yahoo who represents a reactionary, narrow-minded, cruel, racist, homophobic, and anti-science vision of the world.
Do you Feel the Bern? Are you High on Hillary? I applaud you, either way. But the two of you must not devour each other in the face of a truly great enemy. It’s already time to unite.