Chasing the Rabbit is Feeling the Bern
Hillary Clinton is running, I think it’s fair to say, a rather cynical campaign. It’s premised on the idea that Clinton is the least-worst candidate for President out of the current field—not an unlikeable asshole, not a fascist, actually electable. The reasonable choice. Conservative, but liberal. A “progressive who gets things done”. Bipartisan. A compromise candidate. This cynicism—this calculation—affects every movement Clinton’s campaign makes. Irregularities, screwing with your opposition, that’s fine and dandy, so long as you win. You can YASS QUEEN and Nae Nae and Emoji your way into Millennials’ hearts. You can push an Establishment candidate as a scrappy outsider underdog. She’s the least-worst candidate out there.
And honestly, I’m a cynic and I should be behind Clinton because of that. I’m a cynic because the President for the majority of my childhood failed upward into the Governorship of Texas, ratfucked his way into the Republican presidential nomination, and was handed the Presidency through a lawsuit. I’m a cynic because he took the moment of national unity that followed 9/11. I’m a cynic because “support the troops” and “God bless America” were used as thought-terminating cliches in the days that followed. I’m a cynic because we invaded a country on a pack of lies and that country turned into a nightmarish quagmire of a sandpit. I’m a cynic because the Right has used Jesus as a wedge. I’m a cynic because when I was in fifth grade the economy folded like a house of cards.
And I’m a cynic because the election of our first black President proved that we’re a hell of a lot more racist than we’d thought. I’m a cynic because of the Tea Party, because of Mitt Romney, because of any one of a dozen social-media harassment campaigns. I like being a cynic—it’s probably done wonders for my blood pressure. It’d be easy to back a politician because I thought she was as cynical as I am—the game’s rigged but you can’t get out, so best minimize your losses.
But—and here’s the thing—I don’t consume cynical media. Partly it’s because I’m also optimistic. Partly it’s fear of confirmation bias. But I don’t really go in for negativity. I like Superman, I like Parks and Recreation, I like Kamala Khan, I like Star Trek.
And I like Bernie Sanders. It comes back to that optimism/cynicism thing I’ve been shoehorning into threading through this post. It’s that cynicism that makes me unable to back Hillary; it’s that optimism that makes me back Bernie. And I like Hillary! She wouldn’t be a bad President! Probably she’d be less disastrous than any of the Republicans running! Certainly she’d be less disastrous than Donald Trump! I’m just not going to vote for someone in a position of power who shares my cynicism!
To clarify, with fewer exclamation points: While I like Hillary Clinton quite a bit, her cynicism—and the cynicism of her supporters—turns me off, and while I’ll probably vote for her in the general election if it comes to that, I will not be caucusing for her tomorrow. A Clinton Presidency would mean a continuation of the policies of the Obama Administration, and while that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing—at least I wouldn’t consider that a bad thing—surely we can do better. The preferred label for those of us on the left of the political spectrum has shifted over the past twenty-odd years from “liberal” to “moderate” to the current “progressive“. There’s some semantic debate—I prefer “liberal” or “Socialist,” myself, depending on how I’m feeling—but let’s take it as a given that “progressive” is the label of choice for most Democrats; certainly Hillary Clinton identifies as one. As I understand it, “progress” refers to forward movement, not staying in place—however comfortable that place may be.
And I hate to keep harping on this, but it’s so damned cynical! Yes, the Affordable Care Act, however flawed, has put millions who would not otherwise be insured on the insurance rolls. Yes, student debt is a problem. Yes, reproductive rights are important. Marriage equality, fuckin’-A. Immigration reform, yeah, that’s big. Supreme Court’s the only functioning branch of our government at the moment, the R’s wanna obstruct the shit out of it? Yeah, not gonna happen. But we can do more. Yes, in a democracy, it’s important to be cynical and skeptical of your government—and here’s where I’d insert a Thomas Paine or Thomas Jefferson quote to buttress my argument and give me that air of legitimacy, but I can’t think of any off the top of my head and I’m too lazy to look one up. But—and this is important—there’s a long, deep vein of optimism going through the American psyche back to the beginning. Forget E pluribus unum or In God we trust: The grass is always greener on the other side is a much more accurate national motto. That feeling that there’s always something better over yonder hill—that’s what America is. (And if there happen to be other people over yonder hill—fuck ’em.) More than that, there’s the feeling that tomorrow will be—must be—better. It’s a given in the American psyche—our children will have a better life than we did. It may well be that all we can do at the moment is hold the line. But we can’t just write off the possibility of reform. The Obama Administration’s gains should be a stepping-stone, a foundation on which to build our new future, not the be-all and end-all.
Look, forget about the political revolution. Forget about the fine distinctions of liberal versus progressive versus socialist. Forget about tactical voting, about electability. Leave any assumptions you may have about what could or couldn’t happen in November at the door—this election has repeatedly failed to make any sense, it’s not going to start now. Vote your conscience on Saturday. But consider Bernie. It’s the least you can do.