A LETTER TO THE YOUNGER GENERATION
HERE’S THE PROBLEM WITH NOT VOTING FOR THE “EVIL ONE,” SITTING OUT THE ELECTION OR WRITING IN BERNIE ON NOVEMBER 8 THIS YEAR
Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is looking like a winner in next Tuesday’s Wisconsin primary as he continues his remarkable success across the country. I’ve been paying attention to the caucuses and listening to folks trying to convince the other side – Bernie supporters trying to convince Hillary supporters and vice versa – and I am impressed, as I always am, by the young Bernie supporters’ passion and integrity. In fact, they remind me of my time when I was in my 20’s and was equally passionate about such issues as Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, and the War in Viet Nam. They were serious issues and I had no problem putting my ass our there in the streets to say so. And because we had a draft back then and my daft number – 153 – was low enough to have been drafted into the Army, you could also say that my life was on the line. (I was classified 4-F after my induction physical, much to my relief.)
But, I get a tad discouraged, even dismayed, at comments like: “We are tired of voting for the lesser of two evils.” “Bernie has integrity, Hillary does not.” “Hillary is untrustworthy and I won’t vote for her if she’s nominated.” “If Hillary is the Democratic nominee, I’m staying home.” I appreciate that you folks are so dedicated to your principles. But such comments, if acted upon, will only empower Republicans and whether their nominee is Trump or Cruz which seems to be the current prognosis (although God knows given this year’s Republican presidential campaign) a repetition of 2010 when Tea Party candidates took the House from Republicans and in 2012 when many Democrats stayed home, Republicans took over the Senate. And you know what’s happened since them. Then, too, there was the election of 2000 where maybe if fewer folks had voted for Ralph Nader, we wouldn’t have wound up with George Bush.
Disappointed with Obama and think that Hillary will be a continuation of his Presidency? Sure, I’m disappointed with Obama. I, too, am in favor of the single payer option. I too want our food labeled for what it contains and where it comes from. Citizen’s United overturned? Absolutely. Breaking the stranglehold of Big Business over our lives? Positively. Reversing the increasing divide between the rich and the rest of us? Damned straight. You see, you a Millennial and me, a Baby Boomer, are pretty much precisely aligned over what we see as what needs to be changed about life in America today.
I do not want to preach nor do I think I have some greater wisdom than you do. What I do have, however, is experience. (Many years of it!) Experience in precisely the same kind of politics that you are invested in today. I know how frustrating it is when your perfectly rational, perfectly sensible and perfectly legitimate political aims and desires are thwarted. I’ve been there. Done that. But bear with me, here and let’s see if I can convince you that there are times when you have to put idealism aside, hold your nose and make practical decisions.
While, for you, the Civil Rights movement might be – or is – a couple of pages in a high school textbook, I lived it. We were there. We, like you today, worked tirelessly to change the direction of the country when it came to the status and lives of Black Americans. Now, had John Kennedy lost to Barry Goldwater back in 1960, had JFK not been assassinated and Democrat Lyndon Johnson, his Vice President, become President, frankly all of our efforts, all of the Voting Rights Drives, Freedom Rides, the lynchings, and murders of Civil Rights workers down South, might have been for naught. Trust me, none of us liked Lyndon Johnson. First, he was from Texas and while Texas back then was not the solid Red State that it is today, he was seen, and indeed he was, the Senate’s most powerful wheeler dealer and had a reputation for underhanded tactics to get what he wanted in Congress. But he succeeded in getting the 1964 Civil Rights Act passed through a hostile Congress, one of the most nation-changing pieces of legislation in our country’s history.
Yes, it cost the Democratic Party the South. The entire South went Republican and remains so today. We hated Lyndon Johnson for his continuing pursuit of the War in Viet Nam but we held our noses and voted for him in 1964 against Barry Goldwater who resembles no one more than today’s Donald Trump. When Johnson announced that he would not run for re-election in 1969, we were overjoyed. Problem was, Richard Nixon was elected (by what he called the “Silent Majority” one of Trump’s campaign memes) and continued the war in Viet Nam until 1975 racking up 58,220 dead American soldiers over the course of that sorry, misguided war.
Let’s consider the disappointment that is Barack Obama. But if you are disappointed, then you must also consider what our situation would be if John McCain had been elected President, particularly with Tea Party darling and part-time Alaska Governor, Sara Palin as his VP. What would Sara have taken on as her First Lady project? Teaching all of us how to skin moose? De-feather turkeys? All, right, I joke. And even if you think that Obama hasn’t gone far enough on climate change, or punishing Wall Street’s brilliant mavens who brought us the crash in 2008, or hasn’t spent enough attention on student debt and the income and wealth gap, think about whether any of these issues would have been taken on by John McCain. There is no way. Would Mitt Romney have raised taxes on the rich? Forgiven student loans? Not on your life. Proof? Every single Republican candidate for the Presidency this year is still stumping for the very same policies that have so devastated you and the rest of us for three decades now.
Imagine, if you will, a Donald Trump presidency. Would you trust him to keep us out of Middle East un-winnable wars? He says we should ban Muslims from entering the country. Ted Cruz? He’s a war hawk and wants to “patrol” Muslim neighborhoods. But you know all this, just as I do. Republicans are offering more of the same. Worse, in fact, given the “policy proposals” of Trump and Cruz this time around. And this explains why Bernie Sanders is your guy. And he’s my guy too. I’m an old Socialist from way back wanting America to become more like France where college tuition runs $700 a year and health care is free. Where doctors make house calls and new mothers get six months of in-home help for free. Where 44 paid holidays from work is the norm.
The rock bottom question is “How do we make this revolution happen?” It doesn’t have to be France or Sweden or Denmark but unlike conservatives, we know that the unfettered Free Market Capitalism policies they push have been strangling the country (Democrats too, I know) for thirty years and they have simply failed. Which brings me back to Obama. As disappointed as you and I might be that he has not brought about Denmark between our bordering seas, the man has accomplished more to shift America to a new paradigm than any President since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. We are now freed from dependence of Middle East oil. 13% of our energy comes from alternate sources, up from 9% in 2000. 12 million more Americans now have health insurance. While we are not free from terrorist attacks, he has kept U.S. troops out of war despite endless criticism and pleas from right wingers including Trump and Cruz for boots on the ground.
And Barack Hussein Obama has accomplished this given the most arduous obstruction from Congress I have ever seen in my life. And that life covers Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama. Remember, it was only during the first two years of the Obama Administration that he got legislation, particularly the ACA, though Congress when both houses were controlled by Democrats. Nothing since then.
Herein lies the Achilles heel of sitting out next November’s election if your guy isn’t the Democratic nominee. You will simply be allowing Trump or Cruz and the Tea Party and their minions to keep control of Congress. Even though you have enthusiastically voted for Bernie in primaries all across the country, more Republicans than Democrats have voted in the Republican primaries. They, like you, are energized particularly after their success of 2010 and 2012, and utterly determined to prevail next November. After all, the Tea Baggers have been complaining for years that Republicans haven’t mounted a “conservative enough” candidate to be able to win the Presidency. Well, this year they have.
If Trump or Cruz wins it means that the House will surely remain in Republican hands and most likely the Senate too. The result of this will be, at the very best, more years of legislative stagnation or, worse, a flood of conservative legislation that not only continues the path for us began by Ronald Reagan but such backward legislation to roll back LGBT rights, abortion rights, banning of Muslims, and a host of even more repressive laws than we’ve had over the past thirty years. No Democratic candidate would ever propose such claptrap in 2016. It would be political suicide.
Experience has taught me that there is no such thing as a “one-shot” revolution. At least here in America. There will be no mass rising up of us liberals and progressives. And if there was (like Occupy Wall Street on steroids) such an uprising would be forcibly put down under a Trump or Cruz Presidency. So in thinking about your role in America’s future, think about this: It is legislation, laws passed by Congress (like the ACA, or making abortion legal, the Civil Rights Act, the Housing Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Roosevelt’s New Deal, establishing the EPA, etc. etc.) that is most effective in changing the nature and the course of the country. Barack Obama, with both Houses of Congress in Republican hands, can’t even get Congress to agree to hold a hearing on his Supreme Court nominee. That’s how conservatives and reactionaries stop progress and this is what all of us will face should Trump or Cruz win.
If Bernie wins the Democratic nomination, it is unlikely that he will win the general election. I know you don’t believe this. But consider. The right wing propaganda network has done an excellent job of slandering Hillary (it’s why you don’t trust her) over the past two decades and as a Socialist, the same network will paint Bernie as an un-American, traitorous Commie and convince fence voters that he is simply too radical, too dangerous to entrust with the Presidency. You can bet your lives on this one. The very fact that Hillary Clinton - in the absence of a being charged with single crime since 1993 despite Judicial Watch’s best efforts (18 lawsuits) – is deemed “untrustworthy” by your generation, demonstrates how effective they will be. We’ve had candidates like Bernie before, Eugene McCarthy, most recently, (Google him) who was profoundly anti-Viet Nam War and for whom all of us liberals voted for in the 1968 primaries. He was by far one of the most decent, honorable and trustworthy politicians ever to hold office. And he won the popular vote in the Democratic primaries but lost the party’s nomination to Hubert Humphrey at the most violent convention scene in America’s history. I voted for the Socialist Party candidate that year because I thought Humphrey would have been “more of the same politics” that we had fought against out in the streets. As a result, we got Richard Nixon, without a doubt one of the most criminal President’s in our history.
I wasn’t the only one who wouldn’t vote for Hubert Humphrey. There were many of us. And many liberals and Democrats sat out that election. But our not voting elected Richard Milhous Nixon President of the United States of America. (All right, maybe an exaggeration, but you get my point. Election 2000 is no exaggeration, however.)
Don’t let this happen to us this year. If Bernie doesn’t win the nomination and Hillary is the Democratic candidate, put aside your moral principles and your integrity and your passion and vote for her. Compromise, after all, is what Republicans – purists to the core – have adamantly refused to do under Obama. Yes, Bernie is “purer” than Hillary. But purity of purpose and principle doesn’t get legislation passed through Congress and that’s where change occurs. I admire Bernie, I respect Bernie, I am a fan. But after three decades of the virtual destruction of everything that I hold dear as an American citizen, three decades of seeing America’s working and middle classes suffer, three decades of hoping against hope that the nation would come to its collective senses and figure out that “cutting taxes creates jobs” is just a slogan, not a policy, much less an effective economic tool to boost the economy.
And finally it’s happening. There seems to be an awakening across the country, sparked by Occupy Wall Street and Elizabeth Warren and spearheaded by your support of Bernie Sanders. But it’s fragile. It’s fragile because it is not supported by public policies, by legislation, by newly enacted laws or even if the majority of Americans are on board. And no one knows where Trump’s “Silent Majority” is going to wind up. As a nation, we are still trapped in the thrall of conservatism even though this suffocating wall is beginning to crack. But we are at the beginnings of not a revolution, but a long, hard struggle to recapture the very essence of America. Imagine, if you will, that he right wing captures all three branches of the U.S. Government: Executive, Legislative and Judicial. (Well, they already have the Supreme Court and have had for decades.). It’s not impossible. In fact, given this year’s wild and wooly primary season, I certainly cannot predict the outcome. Trump’s “no more business as usual” rhetoric has broad appeal. So, it’s looking as if the future of our country might rest in your hands. You might determine the outcome of the November 8 Presidential election. Please, don’t blow it. We simply cannot afford another Richard Nixon or George Bush presidency. I beg you not to let it happen. Don’t let this new wave of pushback against the powers that be, be nipped in the bud. Way too much is at stake. Not only for the country, but for you and me personally.