In 1960, I was nine years old and not paying much attention to politics. I knew my Mother was a Republican and didn’t like John F. Kennedy or any of the Kennedy’s at that time and so I just assumed I didn’t either. I really didn’t give it much thought at that time. It wasn’t until Kennedy was assassinated November 22nd, 1963 that I started to “tune in.” My Mother had expressed so much hate toward Kennedy that I was actually surprised when those in my classroom reacted with shock and horror that he had been killed. From all that I had ever heard up until that point, it seemed like surely the country would be better off now that he was dead? But something was amiss. It seemed like the entire country was grieving! It made me realize that maybe I wasn’t getting the “whole story” at home. Maybe my Mother didn’t actually know everything there was to know about people and politics. Maybe I might have a different opinion even. Maybe it was time to start paying attention!
The Civil Rights movement was in full swing and, as I started paying attention to the news, I saw African-Americans being sprayed with water cannons and being treated unfairly. I had lived in Abilene, Texas during the fifth grade and I had personal experience of how horrible racist Southerners actually were. It seemed a good thing to me when Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. If baffled me that my Republican Mother and Republican relatives could possibly have any objections to “equal rights.” They would talk about “communists” everywhere, while it seemed more obvious to me that the real problem was not “communists,” but racists.
I was paying more attention to the election in 1964 when Barry Goldwater ran against Lyndon Johnson. I remember the “Daisy Ad” that ended with the atomic bomb. I had learned about this threat a few years earlier during the “Cuban Missal Crises,” when everyone was talking about building “bomb shelters.” That guy my Mom and her relatives hated so much actually seemed to have handled all of that “crises” pretty well as it turned out that none of us really needed those bomb shelters after all!! I read the book, “None Dare Call it Treason,” that my Mother and her right wing, John Birch Society relatives were reading at the time because they all seemed so “alarmed” by what it was saying. Even at 13, it seemed like a very poorly written book, full of illogical hyperbole that was pretty transparent. It just shocked me that any “adult” wouldn’t see through this nonsense? My Mom and I had some interesting conversations about that.
Lyndon Johnson won that election but within a couple of years, I was questioning the Democratic Party, too. Viet Nam was heating up on television and we were beginning to see the injustices there and now there were protests in the streets. It certainly didn’t make any sense to me for us to be fighting there, despite what my right wing relatives were saying at the time about “the domino theory” and the “red threat.” I tried to grasp what they were talking about but it seemed like they were coming to conclusions that were not necessarily logical or had much to do with facts. People on the left were shouting, “L.B.J., how many kids have you killed today.” I was confused and glad to see Johnson would not run for another term. (In my mature years, I can now see Johnson’s accomplishments on civil rights much more clearly).
I was becoming more opinionated by this time and I supported Eugene McCarthy early in the primaries and then Robert Kennedy when he started running , the anti-Viet Nam candidates. By this time, I was joining the protests and filing my papers with the draft board as a “conscientious objector.” Then Robert Kennedy was assassinated and I got behind McGovern entirely against Humphrey. I was shocked to see Humphrey become the nominee over McGovern. I was pretty disappointed in the Democratic Party and became pretty cynical about politics and our country that year (much like some millennials are going to be disappointed and cynical this election cycle). It didn’t seem to matter which party won, since they both seemed to be pro-war. It was now the height of “the cultural revolution” in 1968, the year after the “Summer of Love,” and our cynicism had led many of us to “tune in, turn on and drop out” by this time. Richard Nixon won that election and for the first time in my youth, since Eisenhower, the country was now under a right wing regime.
By 1972, there was “hope” again. George McGovern was back and seemed better than ever! Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew just seemed slimy to me and most of my friends, but even my “Democratic” Father was going to vote for them!! This just seemed crazy to me! There was chaos in the Democratic party at the time which undermined McGovern. His candidacy was referred to as being about “amnesty, abortion and legalization of pot,” which all seemed fine to me! Ted Kennedy, Walter Mondale, Hubert Humphrey, Edmund Muskie, and Birch Bayh, all refused to be his running mate which undermined him further. He selected Thomas Eagleton but then it was discovered Eagleton had a history of being treated for “depression” with electro-convulsive treatments, (E.C.T.) that was popular at the time, (which several members of my own family had been subjected to), and the media made a big deal about it and so he was replaced with Sargent Shriver. The Democratic Party just looked flakey and in disarray!
Before the actual election in 1972, news was trickling out about a break-in at the Watergate office complex in Washington D.C. and there were rumors that Richard Nixon was involved. I remember talking to me Father about it but he wouldn’t believe it. Nobody seemed to care!! None of the “grown ups” I knew would even consider McGovern and Nixon won in a landslide. Ultimately, the American People would come to see just how slimy Nixon really was as the Watergate scandal grew and Nixon left office in disgrace and replaced with bumbling Gerald Ford, who was actually much more likable, except for the fact of “pardoning” Nixon for his crimes.
I was definitely on board for Jimmy Carter in 1976 as were the American People. He was actually a pretty good President despite circumstances over which he had little control. The oil embargo hurt and so did high unemployment, inflation and the Iran hostage crises. By 1980, a lot of us were having doubts about Carter. I was excited by Jerry Brown during the primaries and then Ted Kennedy seemed like he might have a shot. All that happened, though was Carter was undermined by Edward Kennedy running against him and dividing the Democratic Party, and it seemed in disarray once again as in 1972.
Carter won the primary but when he ran again in 1980 against the B-list actor, Ronald Reagan, I made the biggest voting mistake of my lifetime that I will always regret. I voted for John Anderson because it seemed like the country really DID need a third party! After enduring eight years of Ronald Reagan tearing apart F.D.R.’s “New Deal” and creating problems we still haven’t recovered from, i would never, ever vote for a third party candidate again that divided the Democratic Party. I now knew where my “political home” was and where it would remain for the rest of my life. The experiences of a “divided party” in ’72 and ’80 must never happen again! We must ALWAYS unite against Republicans that had moved the country further and further to the right with racism, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, evangelical fundamentalism, and dividing the American people with propaganda and hate.
In 1984, I obviously voted for Walter Mondale. The racist Willie Horton ad that the George H. W. Bush campaign ran disgusted me. Dan Quayle was an idiot. My friends and I were out in the streets protesting the first Bush “War for Oil” during the next four years as the Republicans continued their march to the right with war mongering and trying to get rid of the separation of church and state. If you are judged by the company you keep, The Republican Party was keeping some pretty slimy company with Jerry Falwell and other televangelists.
In 1982, I was struck by the eloquence of Bill Clinton speeches. We were desperate by that time to keep the country from moving any further to the right and I joined his campaign, “phone banking” from a local union hall. In the context of the times, he was obviously to the left of the Republican Party but today, when he is judged out of the context of those times, in some ways we remember him as being almost a “moderate” Republican because the Republican Party had moved so far to the right. His wife, Hillary, really seemed at that time to be to Bill Clinton’s left. She advocated for universal healthcare and was labeled a “socialist” by Republicans. From then, until today, the Republican Party has had a relentless, ongoing campaign of smears against her that would continue to this day. Bill Clinton did save us from another four years of George H.W. Bush and brought us a good economy but in some other ways, just held the country in a holding pattern to keep it from drifting too far to the right.
By 2000, I had moved from San Francisco to the suburbs of Vallejo. I couldn’t have cared less about Bill Clinton’s sex life but apparently Al Gore did and did not utilize Bill Clinton in his campaign. I was not thrilled with his choice of running mate, Joe Lieberman, though. Joe Lieberman was a “Blue Dog Democrat,” Democrat in Name Only (DINO) and was way too far to the right as far as I was concerned and would be a an anchor around our necks dragging us down, a festering boil that would release it’s toxic pus a few years later. Thankfully, over the years, most of those “Blue Dogs” are gone.
It was an extremely close race between Gore and Bush, made even closer by Green Party candidate Ralph Nader. Initially, I had been interested in Ralph Nader’s campaign, but then I came to my senses, remembering what had happened in ’72 and ’80 when the left was divided. I did phone bank for Al Gore but he was not the most exciting candidate that I would have liked. A “recount” was required in Florida because the vote was so close, Ralph Nader syphoning off many Democrats for his Green Party, but ultimately Al Gore was winning until the Republican candidate’s brother, Jeb Bush, co-conspired with Republican Secretary of State, Katherine Harris, and the Supreme Court to stop the recount and hand the election to G.W. Bush.
Then there was 9/11, when the twin towers came down. It was shortly after this that I joined a group in Vallejo called “The Solano Peace and Justice Coalition.” What I didn’t realize when I joined it was that much of the initial leadership were Green Party members. These were the same people that had contributed to syphoning votes away from the Democratic Party in Florida so that it was a tight enough race to require the recount in the first place!! Essentially, they had helped hand the 2000 election to G.W. Bush, who then ignored the warnings about Osama Bin Laden preparing to attack. It is very likely that if Al Gore had become president, HE would have heeded Richard Clark’s warnings about the famous “memo” and Gore would have kept us safe and there would have probably been no 9/11, no war in Afghanistan or Iraq and no “Great Recession.”
I stayed involved with the S.P.J.C. for several years despite adamantly disagreeing with some of the initial leadership. Most of the Green Party members drifted away over time, having been mostly about “sound and fury signifying nothing. They were always denigrating the Democratic Party and any of it’s candidates and could never see how this just fed into the desires of the Republican party and was totally self defeating of any progressive agenda.
In 2004, I made calls for John Kerry and went with a friend to Nevada to register people to vote. Republicans purged voter lists and suppressed as many Democratic votes as possible. The Republicans made it more difficult to vote in Democratic districts, creating a situation with longer lines to vote and there were many suspicions of fraud and many rigged voting machines in Ohio. There were huge discrepancies between exit polls and actual votes. Republicans WERE ruthless. Kerry was labeled a “Massachusetts liberal” and famously “Swift boated” which was another one of a long line of Republican “dirty tricks” of which they were the masters. Again, there were those on the far left, too, that joined the Republicans in undermining the candidate and contributed to G.W. Bush winning another term.
By this point, I had learned my lessons well. There would be no “perfect” candidates that would meet every purity test for those on the far left. Too much dissension in the primaries only undermined the party and helped the Republicans win elections. I had seen the Democrats lose too many times. Often, those on the left hurt the party more than those on the right. Democrats could be their own worst enemy!! I was never going to contribute to THAT again!!
By 2008, G.W. Bush had us in two wars that hadn’t been paid for, had blown up the countries deficits and crashed the economy. We were in dire straights. We had two great candidates running in the primaries, both more progressive than any candidate in a long time, Obama and Hillary. The prospect of having the first woman president was exciting but Obama was so incredibly eloquent! Hillary had been more of a centrist when she was a Senator, though, and had voted to give G.W. Bush authorization to go into war in Iraq, based on lies that she was not aware of at the time. I supported Obama but was ready to vote for Hillary if he failed to win the nomination. When he won, I did hope that Hillary might have another opportunity in eight years to run. She graciously bowed out at the right time and she and her husband campaigned hard for Obama. He made her an integral part of his administration as Secretary of State. She did the right thing for the party and the country at that time and I appreciated that and would remember it in 2016, which many apparently forgot.
Obama was, without a doubt, the best President that I had seen in my lifetime. Sure, there are always those posturing and posing on the far left that will nitpick and find fault but in the context of history, Obama will go down as one of the greats. He inherited a mess from G.W. Bush and the Republicans, verging on another Great Depression. It would be forever called “The G.W. Bush Great Recession.” He actually got Osama Bin Laden which Bush had dismally failed to do. The G.W. Bush administration had been full of incompetence and had lowered the countries standing throughout the world. Obama brought the country back from the devastation and restored our reputation. Throughout his eight years, the Republicans only obstructed and during the first two years were joined by the Blue Dog Democrat DINO’s. For much of the eight years, Obama kept trying to compromise with the right to make deals to keep the country going but the Republicans consistently put party over country. Many spineless Democrats foolishly kept a distance from Obama at times which gave the Republicans a majority in both houses. The Republican Party lurched even further to the right with the “Tea party” contingent and lifted up fools like Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman. Their propaganda machine, Fox News, worked overtime to denigrate our President.
So, now, in 2016, after an incredible presidency and high approval ratings despite constant lies from the right, Obama must leave office as mandated by the Constitution. Hillary WAS running again. For the entire eight years of obstructing Obama, the Republican Party had never relented on denigrating Hillary, too. In fact, the Republican Party had never stopped denigrating Hillary since she had tried to do “universal health care” during her husbands administration! Now, though, the “Independent” candidate from Vermont that labeled himself a “socialist” was running against Hillary in the primaries.
There was much to be said for Bernie Sanders. The millennials seemed to love him. His policies were to the left of Hillary and that seemed fine to me. Bernie Sanders policies did seem to pull Hillary further to the left and I actually appreciated that. I was not ready to commit to him, though, because it seemed to me that he had made several huge mistakes early in his campaign. He had never been a “Democrat” previous to running for president as a “Democrat” and, because of previous experiences of defeat due to denigrating the party, I felt hesitant about that. We essentially have a two party system and one has to decide on which side they stand and then work within that party to make it move in the direction you want it to move. After the past failures brought on by divisiveness, I didn’t see how abandoning the party really helped?
t also felt that Bernie labeling himself with the poisonous “socialist” label was a self-inflicted wound which was unnecessary and which I thought would make him unelectable in a general election, But I was ready to give him the benefit of the doubt and see where it went.
The third big mistake that materialized as the primary season went along was that it became evident that he was from a state that was 99% white and, although he had participated in some civil rights marches in the 60’s, he had not really cultivated relationships with communities of color which the Clintons had done so well over the years.
Bernie often spoke in broad, general terms and rarely laid out detailed plans on how he would accomplish his goals, while Hillary just seemed more knowledgable and specific on almost any topic. In the debates, Bernie never had an adequate response to Hillary when she pointed out that he wanted to abandon the ACA and start all over with another contentious debate. I remembered how difficult it had been to get the ACA passed in the first place!! I wanted Bernie OR Hillary to say that the next step in healthcare was to add a “public option,” working toward “Medicare for All,” eventually. Bernie never had an answer. After doing some searching, I did find Hillary’s answer, though, that she DID want to add a public option, although I did think she needed to say this louder and more often.
Bernie seemed to always repeat the same speech, over and over without much variation, while Hillary seemed better to me at taking on new topics or going “off message.” People might accuse Hillary of seeming “contrived” but that seemed ridiculous in comparison to Bernie’s robotic speech that rarely deviated from the speech he had given the day before or would give the day after. Hillary’s grasp of issues was amazing. The way she handled the silly Benghazi witch hunt was incredible! Her stamina to sit there for 11 hours and deflect that barrage of lies thrown at her was very impressive. Bernie just seemed repetitious with the same stump speech over and over and over.
After eight years with an obstructing Congress that created a stalemate on everything. it was never quite clear how Bernie would ever be able to succeed with the obstructing Republicans. Hillary had a history of working with Republicans in the past, although I have my doubts that this Congress would ever work with either candidate. Bernie would admit that it would “take a revolution” of the American People rising up. I watched to see if there would be any indication of this “revolution” during the primaries. It just never materialized. Only a few millennials were rising up at his rally’s but not always turning out to vote. Hillary was getting many more votes despite constant smears from the Republican party propaganda machine which was eerily silent when it came to Bernie.
The rules for the primaries had been written years before Bernie had ever decided to run but when his campaign started slipping behind in the actual votes and delegate counts,,he, and his supporters started accusing the DNC of writing the rules to exclude them and favor Hillary. They whined about “closed primaries” because, in states where there were “open primaries,” independents and Republicans couldn’t vote in the Democratic primaries and affect the outcome. I could never see why that was a good thing? It seemed to me that those that wanted to vote in a Democratic Primary should register as Democrats? Why should Republicans have the opportunity to manipulate the outcome of Democratic Primaries? I was a Democrat. My vote is the one that should count, not those that were Green Party, Libertarians, Republicans, “Independents” or anyone else that had chosen NOT to be Democrats. The line of reasoning of Bernie and his supporters just seemed ludicrous and full of holes.
I kept waiting for the “revolution” to materialize to this date before making any commitments to Hillary. Bernie could win caucus states where the process really did seem a little more “rigged” but he had trouble winning actual primary states. Hillary’s vote count kept going up faster than Bernie’s. Masses of people were not “rising up” for Bernie as they were still sitting on their couches watching t.v. as they usually did. If they had not risen up and took to the streets when G.W. Bush crashed the economy, why did Bernie and his supporters think they would turn off their t.v.’s long enough to do so now? They point to flawed polls saying that Bernie would have a better chance against the fascist, Donald Trump, but it was obvious to any objective person able to reason, that the polls only appeared that way because Hillary has been “vetted” for twenty some years with a constant onslaught of smears from the right wing, while Bernie has never had any negative campaigning against him like he would face in a general. The Republicans have been careful to only smear Hilary during the primaries as Bernie would be the candidate they would most like to run against and easily beat in a general when they started running negative ads calling him a “socialist” and a “communist” and pointed out that he honeymooned in Russia. Of course, none of that would matter on either coast, especially in liberal “bubbles” but it WOULD matter if you went more than a 100 miles inland from either coast. There was no way this country would vote for anyone labelled a “socialist.” Self labeling as a socialist just showed poor judgement in my mind.
There was more and more Bernie supporters denigrating the party and Hillary. I had seen this movie too many times before and didn’t like how it ended in 1968, 1972, 1980, 1984, 1988, 2000, and 2004. The 2016 remake didn’t appeal to me at all. Bernie’s supporters had all kinds of “purity tests” and reasons to take their ball and go home. When it became obvious that Hillary would be the nominee, Bernie continued to hold out and hold on. I was fine with this but the writing was on the wall and I was concerned about the general election by this point. Bernie and his supporters were starting to bruise the Hillary campaign a bit, which I suppose is to be expected in any primary but, I just couldn’t see the point for me to hesitate any longer. Bernie had served his purpose and, for me, it was time to start “uniting.” Waiting too long in the past had dire consequences too many times.
Life had taught be to be somewhat of a pragmatist. At this point, my goal is always to elect the most progressive candidates possible to elect. I don’t believe that is Bernie in this election cycle. All candidates are always imperfect. I am old enough to understand that no candidate is going to do everything that i want them to do or meet every “purity” test. The good news is that there are fewer and fewer “Blue Dog” type, Democrats In Name Only (DINO’s) over the years. The party has moved further to the left. The party has accomplished an enormous amount in my lifetime. I would rather focus on the positive and continue to push, pull and prod the party to the left because that is what has gotten results over my lifetime. Life has taught me that the “revolution” didn’t start with Bernie. It will not end with Bernie. It isn’t about one candidate, one election cycle or one generation. It’s a lifelong marathon, not a sprint. It is about staying engaged with the party, as flawed as it may be, which every human endeavor and every organization is, Bernie included.
Ultimately, the Democratic party is not the enemy. If anyone on the left wants to make it the enemy, I’m really not interested in that conversation as I don’t see any positive outcome to that line of thinking, taken to it’s conclusion. I am not the enemy. Hillary is not the enemy. The Democratic Party is not the enemy. Those that would make it so are not helping “the progressive cause.” They are undermining it. Racism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, trans-phobia, ignorance, fascism, social injustice, economic injustice, Donald Trump and the Republican Party are the enemy. I have no interest in serving those things by trying to make Hillary, the DNC or the Democratic Party the enemy. Do THAT if it “feels good” to you. It is certainly “easy.”
I am not looking to convince anybody that I am more to “the left” than them just because it may “feel good” to my ego to pose and posture. THAT serves no purpose and has no real positive outcomes for progressives and the progressive agenda. For me, the collective party and the collective agenda is more important than my individual egocentric “issues” which all of us have. As individuals, we are not as powerful as we are when we come together in a union or in a party. To those that call the Democratic Party or the DNC corrupt, I would say that ever institution ever created by man has been corrupt and imperfect in some way. Unions are corrupt but no more so that corporations and I believe we still accomplish more with unions for the workers than without. Yes, political parties may be corrupt but what is the alternative? Letting corporations just run everything as if they are not corrupt too???
I believe that coming together is what we need to be doing at this point as the primary season comes to its conclusion. We can either be full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, or we can come together and win against racism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, trans-phobia, ignorance, fascism, social injustice and, hopefully, in the long run, make some headway toward economic injustice as well. That is why I am voting in the primary for Hillary Clinton and why I will also vote for her in the general. She is qualified. She has received the most votes. She has been a Democrat most of her life. She supports other Democrats in the party and works to get them elected. She is pragmatic like I am. She has detailed plans of what she wants to do.
Is Hillary a “perfect candidate?” I don’t believe there is any such thing. Will she go as far left as I would like her to go? Probably not, but I think she will keep us on track in that direction and the fact is that we have already accomplished much that I thought would be impossible in my lifetime!
Eventually, hopefully, still in my lifetime, maybe in another eight years, there will be a more progressive candidate that will actually be a “Democrat” and will have enough sense to not self-label himself as a “socialist” which we know is poison in this country. Maybe they can call themselves a “New Deal” Democrat. Maybe someone like Gavin Newsome? Or maybe one of the Castro brothers? How old will Elizabeth Warren be in eight years?
Meanwhile, we will continue to push, pull and prod Hillary and the Democratic Party further to the left and hold all politicians “feet to the fire.” We never quit. We never give up. The “real” revolution continues.
I have been “political” since I got kicked out of school at 13 for having a Beatle haircut, became a Conscientious Objector at 18 and protested the Viet Nam War, came out of the closet as gay, and spent much of my life protesting war and advocating for civil rights, social justice and economic justice. I feel like the real revolution started in the 60’s, not with Bernie Sanders but with MLK, Rosa Parks, Betty Friedan, and continued through the 70’s with Harvey Milk. The “revolution” is NOT about one candidate, one election cycle or one generation. It IS a marathon.
Although the Democratic Party has always been imperfect as is EVERY candidate, including Bernie Sanders, the Democratic party is the vehicle that has brought us Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the civil rights act, gay marriage and so much more. There have always been those on the fringes of the left that give into cynicism and their own individual “purity tests” over the collective consensus of the party, posing and posturing and feeling good about their steadfast egocentric tantrum of sound and fury signifying nothing, ready to take their ball and go home, while the rest of us continue the real work of pushing, pulling, and prodding the Democratic party to the left, hopefully back to a “New Deal” and away from the real threat of rising fascism. For me, the way to do that is to commit to our candidate, Hillary Clinton at this time, donate money to her campaign and work like hell to get her elected and save our country from the very real threat of fascism.