Most of us evolve politically over time. I’ve evolved pretty quickly the last several months, going from a Hillary Clinton supporter to a belated fan of Bernie’s revolution.
It’s not that I was never skeptical of Hillary. During the 2008 primary I eagerly supported Barack Obama—Hillary’s vote for the Iraq War was the deciding factor. But this time I gave her the benefit of the doubt, believing she was the best chance to beat the Republican nominee, as well as build on Obama’s legacy.
Now admit I was wrong. Hindsight is always 20/20, but Hillary has some deep flaws that made her a terrible candidate for this moment. At a time of populist discontent among the electorate, she was the quintessential candidate of the establishment—anointed by Democratic superdelegates before the primary even began.
Unfairly or not, Hillary was associated with her husband’s legacy, which also tainted her as part of a political dynasty. For those of us that came of age in the 1990’s, we may remember a good economy, low unemployment, and paying off the national debt. But to a new, more progressive generation, Bill Clinton’s regressive welfare reform, Wall Street deregulation, and draconian crime bill take center stage. And for many working class voters, NAFTA is the sin they didn’t soon forget.
Instead of taking a firm stance on such issues, Hillary tried to straddle middle ground. She once called Obama’s own trade deal—TPP—the gold standard. After she left the state department, her remarks became more guarded. In her 2014 book, Hard Choices, she wrote: “Because TPP negotiations are still ongoing, it makes sense to reserve judgment until we can evaluate the final proposed agreement.”
By October 2015, during a debate with Bernie Sanders, she was against it—as she stated in her own convoluted fashion:
I did say, when I was secretary of state, three years ago, that I hoped it would be the gold standard. It was just finally negotiated last week, and in looking at it, it didn’t meet my standards. My standards for more new, good jobs for Americans, for raising wages for Americans. And I want to make sure that I can look into the eyes of any middle-class American and say, “This will help raise your wages.” And I concluded I could not.
This was just one example of Hillary’s approach—a sort of poll-tested shifting, a sort of inauthentic politispeak dependent on her opponent and audience.
At one time this approach may have worked, but it was now a different era. A new media and new generation required a different type of engagement—much of the electorate craved authenticity. This was a political climate Hillary was woefully unsuited for.
As election day approached, the polls assured me—like many others—that she would likely win. But a nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach told me that she was simply not connecting. It’s like when someone is telling you facts, but their body language is telling you something else—there was a profound disconnect.
But to be fair, I don’t think Hillary was solely responsible for her loss. No, I don’t blame the dual boogeymen of Comey and Putin—her campaign is what made the final, fatal errors. Going primarily off of analytics, they clung to the “demographics is destiny” myth. The Democratic Party had created this mythology, that the numbers were in their favor—they could simply ignore large segments of middle America and focus on ‘reliable’ voting blocks. A blue wall in the Rust Belt was one area that was taken for granted.
This led to incredible acts of negligence, like Hillary not even stepping foot in Wisconsin. It has been reported that the Service Employees International Union heard about the lack of enthusiasm in Michigan, and tried to convince the campaign to put boots on the ground there. Instead the campaign ordered them to stay in Iowa to convince Trump to compete there.
These too-clever-by-half Machiavellian moves became Clintonian hallmarks—and they usually backfired on them. There’s even the much touted conspiracy that Bill Clinton convinced Trump to run, the two reportedly played golf together. If true, Bill should hang his golf clubs up right away—his game is way off.
But maybe I’m being too hard on the Clintons, who I once cheered on. Scratch a little deeper, and you’ll find out that they’re merely emblematic of a Democratic Party that lost their soul starting in the 1970’s—trading in a robust New Deal liberalism to become the party of the elite.
Organized labor was mostly abandoned—the big money was followed to Wall Street and Silicon Valley. As Thomas Frank, author of Listen, Liberal, writes, the guiding principle of solidarity was traded in for competitive individualism and meritocracy.
Who was left that reflected this old Democratic Party—one that fought not only for civil rights, but economic equality? That would be the self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders—an independent who is closer to the ideals of the FDR’s party than most contemporary Democrats.Independent @BernieSanders best reflects the ideals @TheDemocrats once had but lost.Click To Tweet
I foolishly dismissed Bernie early on as a novelty candidate—but as I learned more about him my respect grew. My loyalties were divided during the primaries, and I leaned towards Hillary due to pragmatism (which seems especially shortsighted now). Still, if Bernie made it to the general, I would have enthusiastically voted for him. He reflected my values more than any other candidate this election cycle.
Which made me realize something vital—which I want to convey to every voter out there. Don’t ever vote in a primary based off of perceived electability. Vote your values! Vote for who you believe would be the ideal president! Perceived electability is political fool’s gold—one that both parties have tried to sell to us to keep their charade going.
My enthusiasm for Bernie has continued to grow even more strongly after the election. I’ve recently started to read his book Our Revolution. I encourage every democrat and progressive to read this book—Bernie’s vision is where the party needs to go in order to remain relevant in the 21st century.
In the end it’s not even about Bernie, or Hillary. It’s about the generation who came out in droves to support Bernie—who transformed him from a little-known senator from Vermont to a household name overnight. They are the ones with the ideals and vision. They are the ones who can deliver the new energy that an ossifying Democratic Party so desperately needs.Generation Bernie will give @TheDemocrats energy they so desperately need.Click To Tweet
If the Democratic Party is smart—as well as us older voters—we will listen to them.
So after a grueling election, after being disillusioned with the Democratic Party—as well as the American political system—I see a ray of light in the movement started by Bernie’s supporters. That’s why I’m no longer with her, I’m with them.