My Last Commentary on Politics (Well… at Least Until the General Election)

So here’s the thing: for all the raging and sneering I see on both sides of the Democratic Party right now, I actually believe that we on the left have a GREAT opportunity ahead of us in the coming election.

So long as we don’t let our internal differences screw it all up.

The country has had it with the status quo, and for the most part, the underlying causes are rooted in elements that Republicans (at least as the party self-identifies today) would want to continue to prop up and Democrats would want to change. Bernie’s candidacy has energized a base that was disaffected (and in some cases didn’t yet know it even was part of a base), and has reminded us of the core principles of what it means to be liberal. Meanwhile, Trump’s candidacy has brought home to roost the anger, fear, and bigotry that the leadership on the right has cynically played upon for decades to advance an agenda that works against the best interests of its base. Things are moving on both sides. And if you dig under the piles of vile hate-mongering that the right is using to obfuscate matters on its side, you’ll see that the great tectonic plates of the electorate in BOTH parties want, in my opinion, to shift towards the progressive (though many don’t yet recognize it as such, obviously).

michelle-obama-dnc-2016
Wasn’t she amazing? I now have another reason to hope that I can someday gain some small acclaim as a writer. Perhaps, if I’m lucky, I will one day meet Michelle at Princeton Reunions, and after I’m done babbling about what a fan I am, she’ll look at me and say, “oh, yeah, I know who you are.  I read your book.  It was pretty good.” Hey, a fella can dream.

And while honestly, neither Bernie (I’m a supporter, but he is not nearly left enough on guns for me, and frankly, I think he’s overly, knee-jerk left on the seriously nuanced issues of trade agreements and the position of the U.S. in the world at large) nor Clinton (too hawkish, too pro-business, and has made disturbing choices in her past that call into question her judgment and/or seem to show a willingness to go with short term political expediency over commitment to liberal ideals) is perfect, they are both FAR better than anything we’ve EVER seen on the right – much less the current choice, who very well may be the worst of all time.

Furthermore, we’ve gone through the primary process, and it has achieved its purpose, producing a compromise that is, while not where either candidate started, in fact, probably more representative of what the full SPECTRUM of the Democratic party wants. Hillary won, indicating that the majority of those left of center are not yet ready to skew all the way left, but Bernie garnered enough support to pull us further left than we’ve ever been before. As a result, though none of us got 100% of what we were seeking in a platform, most of us probably got 80-90%.

And so, we’ve reached a compromise consensus, and have an energized base that is advancing a truly liberal agenda, rather than simply fending off the right, for the first time in, what… forty, fifty years? This is a good thing.

Meanwhile, Trump’s candidacy, and the turmoil it has created in the Republican party, provides a great opportunity to take sufficient Democratic control of DC to advance that 80-90% consensus platform in ways that will shift this country leftwards for generations to come. This is also a good thing.

We need only overcome TWO major hurdles that threaten this potential for progress, in order to see this country in a much better place come next January:

1) The existing party machinery’s dependence on big money. The fact that they’ve sucked at the teat of large, fundamentally centrist, pro-status-quo, anti-regulation donors has hindered true progressive change, has disenchanted the more leftward-leaning portion of the party, and has simultaneously enabled the right-centrist (and right-right, given the fact that folks like the Kochs are willing to donate as much as they do) big donors to have a similar effect on the right; neither one wanted to cut off access to the cash, and consequently, we have the ever-worsening political gridlock we’ve had to endure for decades.

But Bernie’s campaign proved that in the age of the internet, you no longer need the big money donors to get elected.

So long as Hillary – and the DNC machinery at large – can wean itself away from the money nipple, DISAVOW it, and legislate it into oblivion (and appoint supreme court justices who will uphold that legislation), we are on a path to a good place. Not utopia, but a much better place than we have ever been, and a much, MUCH better place than we are now.

2) The insistence on ideological purity, and unwillingness to recognize the need for political practicality, in this case on behalf of the Bernie crowd. For crying out loud, we agree on 80-90% of the issues. And no one was ever going to impose 100% of what they wanted on everyone else – I mean, heck, that’s a defining characteristic of the Fascism we are seeing bubble through to the surface of the ooze on the right even as we sit here debating the 10-20% that divides us.

So long as the Bernie-or-Bust crew can take a deep breath, and make an effort to see the forest for the trees, we are likewise on a path to a good place. Again, it won’t be their version of utopia, but it’ll be a much better place than we have ever been, and a much, MUCH better place than we are now.

So, BERNIE SUPPORTERS, get off your moral high horses, accept the fact that we live in a world with shades of gray, and that part of living in a democracy is not getting your way all the time; in fact, it’s actually part of what makes this system of government the best available to us. Recognize that insistence on ideological purity is the enemy of practical social good. Get on board.

And HILLARY SUPPORTERS, lose the smugness and condescension, admit that in the past you’ve lived in a cynical DC bubble, and have allowed yourselves to become too resigned to the “necessary evil” of big money donors. Show graciousness in your victory, and recognize that you need to build a bridge to the disaffected on your left.

Again, we agree on 80-90% of the damn issues. If we continue to obsess over the 10-20% where we disagree, or worse, stew over petty resentments that arose during the course of the campaign, we will lose an enormous opportunity. I mean, did you REALLY just want your candidate to win, like it’s some kind of team sport? Or do you ACTUALLY want to see the causes of social, economic, and environmental progress advanced? Because if it’s the latter, you’ve got the best opportunity you’ve ever had in your lifetime right here in front of you. All you need to do, is think like a liberal – focus on the good.

Let’s come together and DO this!

 

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