First of all, some of my best friends are Feeling the Bern. Hell, most of them are. My partner is very much in the bag for him, and it annoys her to no end that I once was and have pretty much changed my mind entirely at this point; we can discuss it civilly for about 3 minutes at this point, and then we either have to change the subject or settle in for a fight. So believe me, I'm not unaware of the glories of the Way of Bernie, nor am I saying these things to somehow spite Bernie stans. So there you go; I think Bernie supporters are making an unwise decision, but I have nothing against them as people, by any means. And I'm actually glad he's running: I think the democratic process *needs* hard-fought primaries. We'll come back to my love of primaries in a minute, actually.
On the issues, I pretty much agree entirely with Bernie Sanders. But here's the thing: I don't really care about that so much, and it's not because I'm a cynical party stooge who hates hope and progress and likes to keep my goals nice and low. It's really just that I think the job of President of the entire goddamn nation is not solely, or even mostly, about being the Person Who's Most Right About Stuff. You know who else I agree with pretty much entirely all the time? ME. Would I vote for me for President? OH, GOOD CHRIST, NO, never ever, and nor should anyone else. I'm not qualified. I'd be bad at the job. Because it's not just about being right about stuff, and it absolutely is about having the skills the job requires. To get stuff done.
People talk about this a lot -- who can Get Stuff Done, and how much that matters. I think the conversation gets a little confused because a lot of us who support Hillary for the nomination are squeamish about saying exactly what we mean. The thing is, it's not about who can create some kind of imaginary bipartisan/"moderate" support for bipartisan/"moderate" policy platforms. Guys, we've been doing that for 8 years, and it doesn't work very well and we know it. Year by year, Congress does less and less, and it's a deliberate work slow-down so that Republicans can go forth and run on how "ineffective" Democrats are. We know this. It's going to be the same no matter which Democrat takes office. A Democrat could win with 70% of the vote, they could beat Ted Cruz's ass like he's the rotting corpse of Walter Mondale, and no Republican will ever believe there's a mandate for the Democratic agenda.
Okay, so here's where the Bernie supporters usually say "fine, so if a more moderate agenda doesn't win any friends, why shouldn't we do what the Republicans do and throw some real red meat to the base, so at least we have a strong voting block among progressives and especially young progressives? That's how the Republican party got driven right, so there's no reason we can't do the same thing and drive the Democratic party left." Sound theory. Wrong for one big reason.
The reason Bernie would be a *less effectual* President than Hillary isn't that Republicans hate socialists. Republicans hate everyone, it's their mission in life. We're writing them off right now. The reason is -- and I really feel like this hasn't been discussed enough out of a misguided sense of diplomacy -- DEMOCRATS DON'T LIKE HIM. And I mean the party, not Twitter. I mean -- gasp! -- The Establishment.
I know, I know, we all hate The Establishment. The fact that they don't like him is Bernie's big selling point! Because they're bad and corrupt and wrong about stuff, and they're scared that Bernie is going to clean house. This is the exact wave that Bernie is riding, and in that sense he resembles no one as much as (God help me) Donald Trump. The entire Republican Establishment has come out and said "do not under any circumstances elect this man, we hate him and everything about him," and voters are hearing that right now as "Trump's got 'em on the ropes now!" because Republican voters hate their party as much as Democratic voters hate ours. Yes, Bernie is better qualified and a better human being than Trump (by magnitudes of magnitudes), but essentially the dynamic is the same. "Nobody else in the entire party likes or wants to support this guy? That's good enough for me!"
Stop this. Stop this right now. This is sheerest insanity. When President Bernie Sanders gets to Washington, he's going to face an obstructionist Republican party, *and also* the very same people he spent his entire campaign yelling about being corrupt and ineffectual. He's been in the Senate for 40 years and he has like two fucking endorsements. They don't want him to run, they don't want him to win, they don't support him and *they don't like him.* It doesn't matter if he's right and they're wrong. Like any profession, politics is about relationships. Like *any human endeavor,* politics is about relationships. People will go out of their way for you if they think you're a friend and you'll do the same for them, if they relate to you, if you're one of their own. Otherwise they'll do the bare minimum required.
This is what the Bernie Sanders Generation is not grasping, in my opinion, about politics. The system is designed -- thankfully! -- to make it impossible for one fluke election to change much of anything. The 20th century saw two Presidents who were "transformative" -- FDR and Reagan, and what people don't realize is that they weren't catalysts of anything. They were the end-point. Roosevelt had the power to do what he did because of *decades* of labor activism, which included actual facts shooting and dying, and he also had the power of the absolute terror the plutocrats of his era were feeling in the wake of particularly the Russian Revolution, a genuine fear that these crazy poor people who didn't even seem to mind getting gunned down would literally overthrow the government. Nothing at this moment is analagous in the US. The Reagan Revolution was less dramatic in many ways, but it sure as hell wasn't about Reagan, who was just an old, grandfatherly weirdo who was medically incompetent for most of his presidency. He was a symbol and a rallying point for an organized and effective bloc of anti-Communist and anti-Great Society and anti-Civil Rights forces who played the fucking smartest politics of the century when they spent their energy packing courts and school boards and state legislatures during elections no one gave a shit about.
Bernie Sanders is only an effective President on the back of the Bernie Sanders Revolution. And guys, I'm sorry, but that Revolution -- which I want! like lots of people want it! -- will take time. Will take years. Will involve coalition-building and stacking lower offices, then eventually stacking Congress. The party as it is, right now, hates Bernie as much as he hates them. He's spent decades as an independent, making no effort to come out and campaign for Democrats, making no effort to show that he's part of the same team -- he literally *hasn't been* on the same team until this very minute, when he decided that Independent was good enough for Vermont but *now* he needs the DNC's money and megaphone to promote his candidacy, so *now* he wants the Democratic nomination, so he can rally a base to agree with him that the Democrats suck. OF COURSE THEY HATE HIM. Why in God's name wouldn't they?
So right now, with the Congress we have, with the state governments we have, he's useless. You don't start a fucking political movement from the top! Come on! That's not how this happens. I get the Bernie hard-sell a lot in my very liberal urban enclave of North Carolina. I admire the passion, but guess what, there's also a Senate race happening on that same primary ballot! And not a goddamn one of the kids who want to proselytize to me about the Bernie Revolution and how "excitement" for him is going to get young people to the polls can tell me which of the four Democratic candidates for the Senate they support.
It's a simple question. When all these excited young people come out in 5 weeks, which of these four candidates is going to *help Bernie* enact his revolutionary agenda? Because I'd think you'd want to punch a card for that person, too, but nobody seems to know who they support for that. I guess they're not "excited" about the Senate race. Christ, we have a disastrous Republican governor in this state, and no one from the Bernie Generation seems too "excited" about the gubernatorial primary, either. That should matter a fucking lot! Remember that Medicaid expansion that wasn't, because it got scotched on the state level for political reasons? The federal government can't operate effectively without state buy-in, so we can't just flip the Senate and ignore our reactionary state governments.
This is why I don't trust or believe in the Bernie Revolution. These kids aren't going to *keep showing up.* They're not going to roll up their sleeves and campaign for Deborah Ross. (Who? She's who I like for the Senate seat.) They're not going to get smart about the importance of flipping local Sheriff races and judicial races and learn who has whose back on the state level, let alone in Congress. You know who has the job of caring about all that? The Establishment.
If progressives think we can do a better job, then okay! But right now there's no evidence of that, and several years of evidence indicating that Millennial voters don't turn out for half-time elections, *let alone* for primaries. It's all "we don't do it because the party sucks!" and zero acknowledgment that if the party sucks, you *flip the party.* Election after election. Year after year. You find the progressive candidates. You raise money for them, you hammer your Facebook friends with their names, you fucking *vote for them.* You drive established politicians left because you actually give them something to be scared of by saying "be our friends on this issue, or we will make your re-election hell." An off-season local election can *absolutely* be flipped by a couple hundred passionate voters. Conservatives do it all the time. *They* show the fuck up, every election, every single time, and they know who they support, and they hold their elected officials' feet to the fire with real-world consequences. Progressives don't. Want to start? Great, start! Start now, start immediately! But don't think you're going to start with the fucking Presidency, because I really hope you learned in civics class that it doesn't work like that. Presidents don't go it alone, and right now you're setting Bernie up to potentially win a presidency and have to go it alone.
That will be a monumental disaster. I can't even express how damaging that would be to the party in the long run. And no matter how much you hate the party (and I feel you on that), it's insane to think that if you show a progressive President unable to get any traction with his own party, you'll somehow be proving the righteousness of progressivism. You'll be proving that it's toothless, because right now it essentially is.
Someday we get our progressive President. The person is out there right now, in the DA's office or working in the Department of Labor or thinking about running for the school board. *Find that person.* Back their candidacy hard for city council or Attorney General. Bernie Sanders is a crotchety old weirdo who doesn't appear to like anyone, but somewhere out there is your RL Leslie Knope, who's winning and charming and passionate about all your favorite issues, and that person needs this so-very-excited generation's help to get established. In ten years that person runs for Congress. In twenty for the presidency. If you don't want that person to win the old-fashioned way, through PACs and corporate donations and relationships with the party elite, great, give them a second option. Make sure they know they owe it to the base, and make sure they're coming up through the system surrounded by colleagues and allies who also owe it to the base.
But it can't be in 2016. The work hasn't been done yet, and tipping one election -- if Bernie supporters can manage it, which I honestly hope to God they can't -- doesn't constitute the work, not if everyone still knows that his supporters won't show up for any other candidates, not this year or next year, not for another four years. Elect him now, and you're stranding him completely helpless in the middle of a system that is designed to resist structural change and surrounded by people he's insulted and alienated. He's had a great Senate career. He's a great Senator. I beg of you not to do this to him. This is not how he deserves to go down in history.
Okay, that's it. I don't have a lot more to say about the 2016 primaries. Please vote. Please vote every single time, forever and always, until you die. Too many people *did* die to get us to universal suffrage, and the Other Guys are still trying to roll it back, because they know that if every single person in this country really cared about politics and really participated and voted every single time, they would never, ever win another election until the heat death of the universe.