Saturday, February 20, 2016

Feeling Berned Out

Look, I understand. Every time you see Hillary Clinton you're reminded of that friend who would come over to your home for lunch and go through your house checking for dust on the shelves and mildew in the bathroom. She'd give you that fake hug, you know the one that says please don't mess my hair; I'm going out tonight with someone I actually give a shit about. And the conversation would be SO banal. Seriously, you would've done better inviting a homeless person over. But you didn't, so you're stuck with her. And then that moment comes when she departs and you can finally exhale and say, "Thank Christ that's over. That's two hours of my life I'll never get back."

That's Hillary Clinton almost to a T. She's transparent, she's obvious, and if there IS a genuine bone in her body, it must've been removed when she was a teenager, because for the life of me, there's no evidence of it anywhere. Every word that comes out of her mouth is carefully calculated so as not to piss anyone off. Her campaign will likely set a record for taking polls of just about every conceivable issue and topic in the free world. I hear she even took one to find out what her favorite food should be.

Hillary Clinton is the consummate politician. She makes her husband Bill look like Clark Kent. She's the Democratic equivalent of Jeb Bush, only without a trillion dollar war hanging over her head. And I understand perfectly well why so many progressives can't stand her. She wants to be liked the way Elizabeth Warren is adored, but more often than not she comes across as Cruella de Vil in 101 Dalmatians. She even has the same laugh, doesn't she?

Bernie Sanders, by comparison, is like your grandpa who comes over and gives you candy and maybe even some loose change in his pocket. When he gives you a hug, it's a bear hug that takes the air out of you lungs. You have to kick him out of you house because he makes himself so at home. Who could hate someone like that? That's like not believing in Santa Claus. And his supporters? They're like groupies at a Grateful Dead concert. Just try and not feel the Bern. Go ahead, I dare you.

But while I admire Bernie's supporters for their spirit and obvious good taste in candidates, it's time they admit a painful truth to themselves. Much of the reason for their support of the senator from Vermont stems from their contempt for Hillary, or more to the point, what Hillary represents. Eight years ago, they fell in love with a charismatic freshman senator who spoke of hope and change. Then he got elected and they quickly discovered what most children discover when they grow up. There really isn't any Santa Claus, after all.

Barack Obama was supposed to change the way things were done in Washington. Only instead Washington ended up changing him. Progressives felt they'd been sold down the river and they were pissed as hell. You don't hear much about it, especially with everything that's been going on in the GOP, but progressives have long memories, too. For instance, when they thought Bill Clinton had betrayed them, they took it out on Al Gore. Now, sixteen years later, many of them seem poised to do the same to Bill's wife.

In this topsy turvy election year, up is down and down is up. Being an outsider isn't just cool, it's now mandatory for many voters who feel as though they've been screwed by the system. It's why Donald Trump is ahead in virtually all of the Republican polls and Bernie Sanders is seriously challenging Hillary Clinton for the lead in the Democratic ones. Being an establishment candidate is akin to bringing a cross or a mirror to a vampire convention.

Bernie Sanders has captured the hearts and minds of many progressives in a way we haven't seen in this country since Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression years. In fact, the parallel is staggering. But despite the similarities in temperament and maybe some in policy positions, there is one huge difference between FDR and Sanders: the former had a working majority in Congress and the majority of the population in his corner. Sanders, if he were to get elected, will have neither. Yes, his supporters will have his back, but a hostile Republican-led House and a determined Republican Senate, combined with the most polarized electorate in the history of the country, will work to undermine him from the moment he sets foot in the White House.

Bernie will be resolute, he will be determined, he will hold onto his core principles to the very end, and he will most certainly fail, big time. Why? Because he has no choice, or more to the point, he has given himself no choice. For most of his political life Sanders has been both blessed and cursed with two undeniable traits: one, he believes in what he stands for; and two, he is unwilling to compromise that belief in order to accommodate other view points. This makes him a man of great conviction; it also makes him a lousy leader. Leaders not only have the courage of their convictions but the wisdom to know when to alter course.

I keep listening to the things he says and the promises he makes and the first thing that pops into my head is, can I get a pony to go with that? I'm serious. If you actually think that Bernie Sanders is going to be able to enact any of his agenda once he gets to the White House, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn I can sell you for a song. It took Obama two years to get the Affordable Care Act through Congress with 60 Democratic seats in the Senate and an overwhelming Democratic majority in the House to work with. And Bernie is going to replace it with Medicare for all with, maybe, a slight Democratic majority in the Senate and a Republican majority in the House? Not to mention the two most powerful lobbies in the country: the insurance and pharmaceutical industries? Sure he is. And I'm Captain America. You think the GOP obstructed Obama? Just wait'll they get their hands on Bernie.

It's one thing to be pissed off and disillusioned; it's quite another to be delusional. And sadly, many of Sanders' supporters are just that. Bernie talks about a revolution; he's going to need a coupe to accomplish any of his goals. A fifteen dollar an hour minimum wage? When pigs fly. He isn't the second coming of Lincoln or Adams or Teddy Roosevelt or FDR or even Bobby Kennedy. What he reminds me of is a bitter old university professor who thinks he knows it all and who can't resist lecturing his students about his vast intellect. Sorry, Bernie, but I'm done with college.

You won't get any argument from me that Hillary Clinton leaves a lot to be desired. But, face it, between the two of them, she is far more likely than he to get things done if elected president. Progress isn't measured in waves; more often than not it's measured incrementally. Yes, the system is rigged and, yes, you and I are both fucked and have been for quite some time. But electing Bernie Sanders president won't fix any of that. What is more likely to happen is that Sanders will end up being a failed one-term president followed by an extreme two-term Republican one.

And that is simply unacceptable.

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