Page Two: Snatching Defeat From the Jaws of Victory

The path to a Republican presidency

Page Two

This column was going to be part of a two-step with last week's, spelling out in some detail why I so passionately support Bernie Sanders for president. This includes that his utopian economic fantasies are far more achievable and admirable than critics insist. But especially that the Sanders candidacy is a reinvigorating political new wind, reminding us that the best part of this country is about dreaming of a greater future for all citizens, where the standards are not personal wealth, tribal racism, and parochial, petty nationalism. The best idea of America is a melting pot. A melting pot of people, ideas, beliefs, customs, and cultures where the drive toward social, economic, racial, and sexual identity justice is an admirable goal deeply rooted in the Founding Fathers' formative vision. As Americans we have a moral, philosophical, and ideological obligation to strive for a better, more equitable world. This drive is neither secretly fascistic communism or toward a modern politically correct repressive inquisition, but is a noble quest tied deeply to the vision that gave our nation birth.

It was going to begin by suggesting that even those long cognizant of the duplicitous nature of American politics can still allow for galvanizing moments. Recalling an old Doonesbury where Mark, riding with striking truckers, alerts his friends to dig out gas masks and riot helmets from the bottom drawers where they had long languished because the revolution is alive, I was going to echo the call that it was time again for the old left to rise. To courageously blast away the blasé, hardened feelings built up by too many decades of watching real-world politics. That once more it was time for those now settled and secure to recall the sweet air of optimistic possibility and passionate belief. Even if this people's campaign did not lead to Bernie Sanders getting nominated or winning the election, this beat-up old democratic republic of ours could stand the infusion of common and shared decency. Thomas Jefferson said, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." I've always taken that as more a metaphoric statement, even when my more lunatic friends, especially decades back, took it as a prescription for real revolutionary violence. We all saw how that worked out. The acceptance of violence as a political tool has rarely favored liberation, but far more often reactionary repression.

But that column stalled because increasingly the "if my candidate is right your candidate is not only wrong but evil and corrupt" strategies that are infecting these campaigns suggested that any kind of partisan championing, no matter how well-intentioned, inherently became part of this destructive political psychosis.

Does anyone really care that Hillary Clinton was once a pro-Goldwater Republican? Better put, outside of using any bullet in an increasingly destructive civil war, does anybody genuinely believe that somehow taints her lifelong political involvement in this country? Let me come clean: When I was 12 and 13 I very foolishly supported the war in Vietnam, championing it as a necessary international intervention by the United States. Having read most of the deeply anti-Communist books of Dr. Tom Dooley, I believed that invasion was not just necessary but morally correct. If that taints the hundreds of political columns I've written over the past three decades, then they are so stained.

More and more the vicious teardowns being conducted by supporters of the two Democratic presidential candidates against their opponent are spiraling out of control. During SXSW, our good friend Fab Five Freddy visiting from NYC suggested that the conceptual structure of the Republican primary campaign was quite simply the World Wrestling Federation. As usual with FFF, this seemed an astonishingly simple and appropriate description. Unfortunately it now seems our Democratic family has embraced the same WWF model. Governing is not about cooperation, respect for opposing views, and the necessary compromises demanded by our constitutional-based government. It is about inane mythologizing and partisan boasting, as well as demonizing and denigrating opponents.

All around, most of the criticism claims to be rooted in ideology, but in reality are philosophical arguments being used to justify competitive sports team enthusiasms. I support Sanders. I am not a fan of Clinton. But the attacks on her are beyond reason. Innuendo becomes fact, assumption is confirmation. This is true in the other direction as well. Anyone in public life for any period of time has had to make numerous compromises. Ted Cruz may well be an exception to this – not that he is principled, but as a strategic demagogue whose drive is power rather than ideology or an actual legislative agenda, compromise is really not a tool to accomplish his goals.

Those who voted for Nader privileged their principles over the real-world consequences. This is not to taint Nader personally but to talk about the actual results of his run. I suspect few of his supporters accept blame for the tens of thousands of dead Iraqis; after all, they are halfway around the world. At the time, the argument of his supporters was, roughly, "My conscience is clearer than yours because I did not vote for the lesser of two evils. My vote was principled." Of course those dead, wounded, and orphaned in Iraq were not polled for their input.

If any progressive/liberal/what-have-you believes the Republican candidate is better than having to settle for Clinton or Sanders, I am at a loss for words. I've been watching politics for a long time. The thinking that we should let things get worse because that will instigate a mass movement in the other direction has consistently failed as a liberal policy. Unfortunately, the success of progressive agendas has mobilized conservative reactions. Making things worse serves the right more than the left. And it is a disaster for those it affects.

There is a difference between Democrats and Republicans. There are real-world responsibilities to how we vote. Voting is not a sacrosanct, egoistic act in which one's intellectual purity is the goal. It is our responsibility as citizens. We are not being asked what we think. It is not a poll. We are being asked who are the best people to lead us. If our personal choice is not a candidate, this does not remove the responsibility of the consequence of our vote. Petulant tantrums have real-world consequences.

It is not just Bernie Sanders for President, but has become Definitely Not Clinton if she is the chosen candidate. The Clintonites disdain Sanders. Until then, every attempt to drag her through the mud and destroy her is perceived as legitimate despite the likely general election consequences. But many are now arguing to sit out the election or vote for a third-party candidate. Last time we ended up with Bush. This time we could end up with Cruz or Trump. If that happens, may God forgive us because few others will.

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