The following is an essay by Member William:
I was watching the Wisconsin campaign dinner in Milwaukee, where both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders spoke. After that came a speech by Senator Al Franken from neighboring Minnesota. He spoke very warmly about Hillary, whom he supports. He told about how in 2008, Hillary and her husband, the former President, took the time to come out to Minnesota a few weeks before what was obviously an incredibly closely contested election which Franken won by about 350 votes. He recounted how even after that, Hillary called him just before Election Day, asking if she could help at all, and so she came out again to aid him.
What he didn’t mention, but should have been obvious, is that this was shortly after Hillary had “lost” the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama, even though she had more popular votes, had won virtually all the important primaries; and had been denied the nomination because of all sorts of caucus chicanery, and because the DNC was so determined to have Obama win the nomination, that they voided two primaries (Florida and Michigan) for the sin of trying to move up their primaries a week or two, so as to be more relevant. Then later the DNC reinstated the primaries, except that they handed Obama a bunch of delegates from those states which he had not won, including delegates that Hillary had won. Such manipulation was both palpable and shocking. But somehow Hillary, with all that disappointment, and the knowledge that she should have been the nominee, was caring enough about Franken, and by implication, the Democratic Party, to do everything she could to help him win the Senate seat.
Franken also talked about how he had been a lifelong Democrat; though while his mother was also one, his father was a liberal Republican, which there indeed were some of back then. He said that his parents were very concerned about civil rights; and that when his father saw the the integration saga play out down South; and knew that some key Republicans voted against the Civil Rights Act, he said that no Jewish person could ever support that kind of thing, and so became a Democrat as well.
My parents were always Democrats, and always very interested in politics, both nationally and locally. When I was a young boy, they bought their first house in a nice, but very conservative suburb of California. They moved there because I had rather severe pollen allergies then, and they were told by my mother’s allergist that this was the best spot to alleviate that. And I stopped my incessant coughing about three months after we moved there. So that was the sacrifice which my parents made for me; not that it was not a nice town with mostly decent people, but because it was not an intellectual place, and it was very right-wing, John Birch Society conservative.
We were proud Democrats, and my parents worked at the grass roots level, having a lot of fun, and meeting some other nice people, but of course almost always losing with their downticket candidates. I didn’t even know why they bothered. My father always said that if one gives up, he leaves the field to the bad guys. And even after we had moved away, to the more liberal Westside; and my parents were not active politically any more, we still always watched the conventions, talked about politics and issues. When I finally moved out on my own, we would always talk on election nights; and when the Democrats had done badly (which unfortunately was often the case), my mother would console me by pointing out that we had kept the Congress; or if not, at least won some good races, perhaps in our state of California. So there was always something to look forward to for the next time. And that is what one needs to do. Although during the Reagan and Bushes years, it was very hard to be too optimistic about anything. And after Bush vs. Gore, literally and judicially; and the horrible hijacking of our political system by the Supreme Court, it would have been so easy to chuck it in, and concentrate on UCLA sports, or good novels. But we never did.
My parents died in 2007, within three months of each other. I know that they would have strongly supported Hillary. My mother was always suspicious of how Obama had risen so quickly, and who was behind it. And of course she would have been excited about the chance for the first woman President. But more than that, I think that both of them would have been very impressed by what a wonderful candidate Hillary was. I know that I was not sure whom to support at the beginning of the 2008 campaign; but when I saw Hillary debate, and listened to her brilliant comprehension of issues, I became greatly impressed, and then thought it was an obvious choice. Of course I miss my parents, and wish that we could be following this campaign closely, and discussing all the aspects. They would have liked my essays on Hillary’s behalf.
Being a Democrat meant something to my parents and to me. Now, I am well aware that the Democratic Party has many flaws. In fact, there were whole election cycles where I virtually despised the Party. In 1968, when Johnson had control of the party machinery , and so forced the nomination of Humphrey on everyone, including those millions of people who were against the Vietnam War. In 1972, when the party was virtually taken over by a corps of activists, radicals, and kooks, who turned the convention into a farce, and got the nomination for George McGovern, who was an honorable man but a very poor candidate. In 1976, when after McGovern’s defeat and the rout of the liberals, Jimmy Carter stepped into the vacuum and won the Presidency, and then didn’t govern like a Democrat. In 1980, when Carter used the party machinery to defeat Ted Kennedy, whom I strongly supported. And of course in 2008, which no one should ever forget. Even with all this, there is no question in my mind that of the two parties, the Democrats are far, far better than the Republicans. In fact, and sadly enough, as the Democrats possibly get worse, the Republicans get ten times worse, thus giving one no real choice but to support the Democratic side.
And we do have a two party system in this country. Maybe we should have more parties, but the European countries which do, do not seem to benefit much by that. England has basically become a two-party system as well. So while my parents and I would in the difficult times talk about the possibility of a third party (we sort of wanted a party of intellectual liberals like Eugene McCarthy!), we realized that this was not feasible. And since then the barriers to a new party have gotten greater, as both major parties have collaborated to fix the playing field in that way.
One thing my parents and I both knew was the importance of the Democrats winning downticket races. This is because we actually knew something about history and politics and governance. We knew that bills originate in the Congress, and that we do not have an empire or a monarchy, where a potentate can make laws with a wave of his hand or pen. We knew that it was important that Democrats control as many state legislatures as possible, because that is crucial for drawing up favorable Congressional districts. And we watched with great dismay as the hard right Republicans learned how to fix and game the system to an extent that Representative Gerry (of “gerrymandering” notoriety) would have never believed. And of course now we see that the Republicans almost have a stranglehold on the House of Representatives; while the overwhelmingly Red states of the South, Border, and Rocky Mountains give them a lock on many Senate seats, which they use to dominate if in the majority, or filibuster the government to a standstill, if in the minority.
So this brings us to this campaign, in which the Democratic Party has two candidates competing. One is Hillary Clinton, who has raised $30 million or so this year for downticket candidates; who has spent her career campaigning for Democrats running for state offices; who describes herself as a proud Democrat, and who wants to completely rebuild the party at the state and local levels, after the current president essentially let it atrophy. And then we have Bernie Sanders, who has never held office as a Democrat, only as an Independent; and who has identified himself as a Socialist. Sanders has never campaigned outside his state for any Democrat. He has never raised money for any Democrat. This year, he has not raised one cent for a Democrat. When asked about it, he said that “he would see,” but first had to concentrate on winning the nomination. Translation: “You’re on your own, Democratic candidates. You’re going to have to win your seats without any help from me, or the national party, if I head the ticket.” And of course that means that if Sanders were nominated, the Democrats would not pick up Congressional seats, and might even lose more of them, just in time for the 2020 census, which could very literally give the Republicans control of Congress for the next 40 years.
Now, apparently there are some Democrats who do not care about this, or do not understand it. Those are the ones supporting Bernie Sanders. As Sanders does not care one iota about the Democratic Party, which he has never been a part of, or ever supported, so they cavalierly dismiss all of this. They strangely see in Sanders a party of one, someone who apparently will overturn 240 years of American history, and become the first American king. This sounds ludicrous when I write it; but what other explanation can there be for this fervency for Sanders among the very young? They must think that Sanders could be nominated, and then elected; and would not have to deal with Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell, or any of the other Republicans who control the legislative branch. They must think that Sanders, a man who is notorious for never compromising on anything, even within the party he cacuses with, is going to get people on both sides of the aisle to do what he wants, maybe because his yelling and handwaving will intimidate them.
All the things which Sanders declaims about; all the things he says we must change, literally amount to nothing. He cannot and would not do any of it. If Sanders got the nomination, he would probably lose the election, because the Republicans, who have very obviously not said one thing against him, would unleash billions of dollars of ads outlining his Socialist history, his support of the Castro regime, and so much more. And even if he could somehow be elected, he couldn’t do anything. The one area where the President has some power of his own, foreign relations, he does not know anything about. In the domestic area, the ball always starts in the court of the House. What is Sanders going to do when Ryan and his cohorts send up bill after bill? Veto them all? What if the Republicans threaten to shut down the government, not raise the debt ceiling? He is going to yell at them? He doesn’t compromise, remember. And the Democrats don’t have much use for him, either. Not one single Democratic Senator supports his candidacy. Why is that? Because they don’t think he would make a good president ,and they don’t think he would help the Democratic Party one bit. His supporters don’t know and don’t care; they want their fantasy world, and they want it now.
I would almost feel sorry for all the Sanders supporters, but this election is far too important, and Hillary Clinton is such a great potential president (the highly respected Senator from Ohio, Sherrod Brown, said that she was the best potential president he had seen in his life, including Bill Clinton, and he said it directly to him, and that Bill laughed and apparently agreed), that I would never waste that energy. But these people have zero chance of having free college tuition. Zero. Could that ever happen? Oh, maybe in twenty years or so. But not for them. I would bet them $100,000 to their $1,000 that Sanders as president would never, ever get them free tuition. In fact, I don’t think he would get them one dollar less in tuition, because he lacks the power to do it. Again, kids, this is a republic, not an empire, monarchy, or dictatorship. Didn’t they teach that in school somewhere? The sad thing is that their willful ignorance about all this is leading them down this blind road of futility, except for the great fun they have at fixing caucuses, shouting at HIllary during her campaign appearances, and writing disgusting insults about her and the people who support her.
If these people actually win, the Democratic Party will be essentially destroyed. Sanders would be defeated if he ran again, and a right-wing Republican (are there any other kind now?) would take over. I know that they don’t care about the Democratic Party at all, nor does their candidate. But in our system, it is the only viable alternative to the Republican Party. Al Franken knows this very well. My parents always knew it, and I quickly learned it, and have seen it born out for decades. If our side loses, their side wins. If we elect an essential non-Democrat like Carter, we pay for it for 20 years or so. If we nominate a Socialist who has spent this campaign threatening to, or actually suing the Democratic Party, we will lose any credibility this party has built up from the era of Franklin D. Roosevelt and after.
I realize that nothing I say or write is likely to dissuade any of them from their headlong rush to disaster and disillusion. I only wish that some of them had actually taken the time to learn about how the United States government and political system works. Because there is not going to be any revolution; there is not going to be a magic person who changes everything, like in a comic book. There is just the reality of the two-party system; the truly evil Republican Party which controls both houses of Congress; and a Supreme Court which has not been liberally oriented for four decades. We’ve got the best presidential candidate I have ever seen; someone who wants to work her hardest to rebuild the Democratic party at all the state levels; and yet these people happily disdain her for Puff the Magic Dragon, who will blow everything down in a revolution, and hand out free goodies to everyone. And if they do screw it all up for the country and the planet, all that will be left is the desolation some of them might feel twenty years down the line; but mostly the smug “Not my fault, bro,” which they have taken on as a veritable modus vivendi. Ayn Rand and her acolytes Rand Paul and Paul Ryan would be proud of them. What all of them have in common with Bernie Sanders is that they are not Democrats.
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