I’m Supporting Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) — and Here’s Why:

I’ve spent a great deal of time and mental anguish trying to reach the decision regarding whom I will support in the 2016 presidential election and the Democratic primaries, were I to support a Democrat. 2004 was my first election cycle — I was 19 on Election Day, and 18 when the campaign season began. I was a college freshman in the center of the presidential race political universe — New Hampshire, and despite the overwhelming popularity of former Gov. Howard Dean (D-VT) (Vermont was literally within walking distance — just across the bridge from Hanover) and my ideological affinity with then-Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), I joined a team of what ended up to be just three for a long time supporting the campaign of then-Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). And we worked our asses off. Cold-calling ten hours a day, canvassing in -20 F wind chills in the pitch black, enduring the jeers of the Dean supermajority on campus — all in the game, yo, all in the game.

We won. We won the New Hampshire primary, and in the general election, New Hampshire went for Kerry. We all know how it ended up nationwide, but in the Granite State, we did everything we could and we pulled it off. I’m proud of the work we did and the success we had in that state. I am not proud that I chose to support Kerry more for pragmatic reasons than for the principles for which I stand personally. I compromised my principles thinking instrumentally about who “could” win rather than what that potential winner would stand for. In 2008 and 2012, I supported Barack Obama; in 2008, his rhetoric matched my principles, and though he’s largely failed to live up to them, I supported him again in 2012. Though he’s disappointed me many times (most recently with his support of the disastrous Trans-Pacific Partnership), he’s been the most progressive occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania since at least Carter.

I will support whomever emerges as the Democratic nominee; I have enough pragmatism left to realize that, given the structural intractability of our two-party system (I personally would prefer a proportional parliamentary-style system, but that’s another post for another time). If, as all polls seem to indicate, that person is Hillary Clinton, I will do all that I can to ensure her election as the United States’s first female president (which is, regardless of ideology or party, long overdue). Yet I bring up Sen./Sec. Kerry and President Obama to emphasize a contrast with my political approach this cycle. I’m tired of the cynical nature of American politics, dominated as it is by big and bigger money, ignorant but loud media and an even more ignorant populace manipulated with ease by the above. This time, I vote and devote my activism to my principles.

Those principles include pacifism, a fair playing field for the middle class, meaningful regulation of the corporate conglomerates which — especially post-Citizens United — buy our legislatures, federal and state, the protection of this, the only planet we have, conservation of biodiversity, strong unions, vibrant public education, public infrastructure, equality for women, for LGBTQA individuals and families, an end to the prison-industrial complex and a shift to a criminal justice system that actually cares about the second of those two words, universal health care — as health must be considered a right and a public good, not a privilege for those fortunate enough to afford it — support for the arts as a public good, and in general, a reorientation of American policy and perspective from strictly individual success to the recognition that such a thing as the “public good” exists and benefits each and every one of us. I find those principles most embodied by the viewpoints of Sen. Bernie Sanders.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s been extremely difficult for me to make this decision, as my pragmatism has combatted my… I guess you can call it “idealism,” though I’d prefer to describe it as “realism” at every point. I don’t expect Bernie to win the nomination, but I do know that I am now prepared to do what I can to do what every talking head declares to be impossible. So…

Bernie 2016!

Addendum: This is no way intended as a rebuke to Sen./Sec. Clinton; I deeply admire her and applaud her embrace of progressive principles, and will vote for her if she is the Democratic nominee. By the same token, I also deeply admire Dr. Jill Stein, running for president as the Green Party’s nominee; *if* we lived in a parliamentary democracy, I would likely vote for Dr. Stein, but pragmatism rears again its ugly head. To quote at length one of my personal heroes, Utah Phillips, quoted here in a 27 May 2008 Democracy Now! broadcast of a January 2004 interview:

[I]t does appear to me that these fascists that have taken over have got to get — we’ve got to get rid of them. They’re not Republicans, and they’re not Democrats up there. You know, they’re something else. They’re corporate fascists. And they got to be out of there. And the only organized force on the planet — in the country that I know of that can do that is the Democratic Party. God help us all. You know, it’s like buying a seat on the Titanic, the Democratic Party, but they’re the only force, organized force, that has the ability to do it. So it’s imperative that the entire progressive movement come together, like they did in the Great Depression at the time of the CIO.

My statement is an endorsement of Sen. Sanders and what he has fought for his entire political career, from Burlington through the House and to the Senate, an affirmation of the principles that animate my personal and political life and a sincere — if quixotic — wish to renew the Democratic Party of FDR and domestic policy-oriented LBJ.

~ by Benji on June 24, 2015.

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