Feel the Bern, but Remember the Titans
“It’s not fair!” Sheryl Yoast screams at the top of her indignant 10-year-old lungs.
“My daddy’s head coach! This is gonna be his Hall of Fame year! You can’t just walk in here and take my daddy’s job away!”
Bill Yoast tries to assuage his incensed young daughter, but she storms off with a scowl; though not before giving a swift kick to the shin of the well-dressed athletic director tasked with delivering the news.
When Yoast’s players get word their football coach is to be replaced by a black man named Herman Boone – who himself boasts five state championships and a 99–8 record – they share their own dissatisfaction…
“Coach, he stole your job! I’m not playing for him,” asserts Gerry Bertier, the team captain. “I started a petition, and I’m sitting this season out!”
“Boycott T. C.! Boycott the school!” shouts a voice from the crowd.
“Coach, I’m out, too,” says another.
“I’m not playing for no thief!”
“Coach, if you go, I go.”
“I only play for you, Coach Yoast!”
Unarguably flattered at the gesture of devotion, Bill Yoast nevertheless lets reason overcome any hubristic notions. “You know none of these boys can afford to go to some other district just to play ball,” he tells a flustered, fuming Tim Ware. “They sit this one out, they put their futures on the line.”
With the grace of a defeated yet not dishonored general, he bends the knees for the sake of his team and accepts a role as the defensive coordinator under Coach Boone.
“It’s the world we live in,” laments the school’s athletic director.
“God help us all.”
I am, admittedly, a Bernie Sanders supporter.
I wrote what was essentially an official endorsement of the guy all the way back in June; I’ve spent more than a few hours of my life cold-calling, conversing with, and debating random strangers as part of official and unofficial Bernie Sanders phone banks; I tell everyone I know that Sanders wallops both Trump and Cruz in hypothetical matchups, polling better than Clinton in both cases.
I’m the annoying friend who brings up how Bernie’s 51% favorable/38% unfavorable rating is the best of any candidate, and how his favorability with independent voters is higher than any of his rivals from either party; I argue Sanders’ call for universal health care and a living wage is resonating with working-class whites in key Midwestern swing states who were lost to the Republican Party decades ago; I point out that, as of this writing, he’s won six of the last seven contests, some by resounding margins. I discuss, despite Bill Barnwell’s protests, the enigmatic concept of “momentum.”
Hell, I just donated five (more) dollars so I could get this Birdie Sanders# sticker…
I want Bernie Sanders to win.
However, that doesn’t change the fact that, depending on how badly the fever dream of the Bern is affecting your sense of logic and reasoning, the writing on the wall is getting clearer and bolder with each passing day:
Follow the math – which Harry Enten of FiveThirtyEight would love to explain to you – and look at what would have to conceivably happen for Bernie to catch Hillary (for starters, here’s an explanation on how super delegates work). It’s a depressing, infuriating reality, but it’s
damn near impossible statistically very unlikely Bernie Sanders ends up being the 2016 Democratic nominee.
Obama is already privately telling donors (at Democratic National Committee fundraisers hosted by real estate moguls where attendees paid as much as $33,400 a ticket) to consolidate around Clinton, and not a single Democratic senator has endorsed Sanders; not even Elizabeth Warren, who did soften her lack of an endorsement by saying, “He has put the right issues on the table both for the Democratic Party and for the country in general so I’m still cheering Bernie on.”
Nonetheless, I will continue to phone bank and donate and Feel the Bern all the way up until Bernie is able to wrangle an official change in the Democratic party platform# and give what I know will be an historic speech at the convention in July.
However, I understand something Coach Boone reminds his wide-eyed team at their very first meeting…
“This is no democracy.”
During a recent roundtable discussion on Jacobin, Danny Katch of the International Socialist Organization laid out the cold, hard truth about the Democratic primary as it relates to Bernie Sanders supporters better than anyone I’ve seen it:
“Hillary Clinton is not going to win the Democratic nomination because she has a better message than Bernie Sanders, and it’s certainly not because Bernie Sanders’s social-democratic policies somehow don’t connect with women or African Americans, or all the crap you see Hillary supporters putting out.
The reason why in almost all likelihood Hillary Clinton is going to get the nomination is because the Democratic Party is not a democratic party. It’s a very misnamed party because it’s run by money primaries, connections to corporate media, and rigged internal structures like superdelegates, who are all already pledging that they’re going to support Hillary Clinton.”
It’s an obviously biased take on an extremely complex election, but if you’re a recently-converted “democratic socialist” it’s probably not far off from how you feel when confronted with the deluge of stories and polls preemptively proclaiming Hillary victorious.
However, Katch presses even further, predicting the inevitable tension as the primary comes to a conclusion but attempting to abdicate his and his fellow far-Lefties’ responsibility to the greater good if Clinton does in fact become the nominee…
“In a few months, when we have that race, in all likelihood between Hillary Clinton and a loathsome Republican, and you don’t support Hillary Clinton, you’re going to be accused of supporting Trump because that’s the logic of lesser-evilism. You’re going to be accused of not caring about Planned Parenthood.
It doesn’t matter if you were one of the people who were at the protest against Donald Trump last night at Columbus Circle, or you’re one of the people who helped organize that protest. You’re going to be accused of not caring about the consequences of Donald Trump, and you’ll be accused of that by some people whose only response to Donald Trump is to say, ‘Oh, Trump is terrible, send more money to my campaign’ which is basically what Hillary Clinton is saying about Donald Trump after being friends with him for twenty years.
And unfortunately, in a few months Bernie Sanders and most of the upper-level organizers in his campaign are going to tell their supporters that they need to now get behind Hillary Clinton to prevent that horrible Republican victory. And the pressure on the people who think we need to build something independent of that is going to be enormous.
He is right about a few things, though.
Because when we do have that general election race, in all likelihood between Hillary Clinton and
a loathsome Republican Donald Trump, you will be supporting Trump if you don’t vote for Hillary Clinton, thanks to the logic of “lesser-evilism.” You will be accused of not caring about Planned Parenthood, and you will be blamed if Donald Trump is the person nominating our Supreme Court vacancies.
Bernie and most of the upper-level organizers in his campaign are going to tell their supporters they need to get behind Hillary Clinton to prevent that horrible Republican victory, but that’s because their supporters actually need to get behind Hillary Clinton to prevent that horrible Republican victory!
As Coach Yoast reminds Coach Boone, “There’s a fine line between tough and crazy, and you’re flirting with it.”
The Sanders campaign has already had to deal with the Bernie Bro phenomenon – their own version of Trumpers – whose actions they have had to repeatedly apologize for and denounce#.
Still, a more damaging faction of their constituents might be those rallying around the “Bernie or Bust” slogan, who say they will sit out a general election or support Jill Stein (the leading recognized candidate in the Green Party).
This Sanders line from Saturday sounded like a thinly veiled rebuke to "Bernie or bust." https://t.co/mXmr4iajsM
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) March 28, 2016
In a recent WSJ/NBC poll, 33% of Sanders voters said they wouldn’t vote for Clinton, and while that is just one poll taken at a vulnerable time in the campaign process, it is disconcerting that more than 60,000 people have already signed a #BernieOrBust pledge.
Especially when it’s being promoted by people who write like this#:
“Hillary Clinton is a plutocrat who owns 5 mansions. Last year she took $250,000 from her campaign donations which is revolting. She also displays 9 of the 14 characteristics of fascism, fewer than Trump. She also supports climate-warming hydrofracking of gas and oil, increased military spending (she’s a neo-conservative) and the uber-fascistic so-called “free-trade agreements” being crafted by and for transnational corporations. (Yes, she supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership, regardless of her supposed “opposition” to it.)
While we intend to vote for Bernie in the Democratic primaries, we also aim to sign up at least 1,000,000+ American voters pledged to write-in Senator Bernie Sanders for President or vote Green in the general election of 2016. Why? #SheepNoMore”
And especially when Sanders and Clinton ultimately mostly agree on big policy questions.
Watch any debate and you’ll hear both candidates hammer home the point that while they have their differences in opinion, they are ideologically worlds apart from their counterparts in the GOP. “The differences between Sanders and Clinton on policy just aren’t very great, and they get blown out of proportion in a primary contest,” Alan Abramowitz, a political science professor at Emory University, recently told Vox’s Jeff Stein.
.@BernieSanders: "Hillary Clinton and I agree that it is absolutely imperative that no Republican make it to the Oval Office."
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) March 26, 2016
To wit, this was Trump’s answer to The Washington Post’s question about climate change, something most Green Party supporters say is a key issue:
“I am not a great believer in man-made climate change. I’m not a great believer… I know it’s probably a killer with this room – but I am not a believer. Perhaps there’s a minor effect, but I’m not a big believer in man-made climate change.”
Now, I may be a mean cuss, but I’m the same mean cuss with everybody, so pardon my french when I say that these “Bernie Or Bust” loyalists are coming off like a bunch of fifth-grade sissies after a cat fight when they say they’d rather stay home than vote for Clinton.
I mean, they’ve got anger, and that’s good; we’re gonna need it. They got aggression, and that’s even better; we’re gonna need that, too. But any little two-year-old child can throw a fit…
Democracy is about controlling that anger, harnessing that aggression into a team effort to achieve perfection.
If we Democrats don’t come together in July, on the hallowed ground of the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, we will be destroyed. So I don’t care if you Berners and you Standing With Her don’t like each other, but you will respect each other.
Besides, if you really want to change the political landscape, there are much more effective, practical ways…
In the 2014 federal elections, turnout was the lowest it has been in 74 years, with less than 50% of eligible population coming out in 43 of the 50 states#. And during that Jacobin roundtable, Gloria Mattera of Jill Stein’s Green Party campaign made sure to point out, “We are a great talk shop, but how many people in this room know how to do the work to get someone elected? Whether it’s president, or whether it’s city council, or whether it’s your village alderman if you’re outside New York City, you need to learn.”
It’s these local elections the Kochs have funneled their money into. It is these drops in the state legislature and city council buckets that lead to the absurdly conservative policies that drive liberals insane. “To change that state of affairs,” David Dayen recently wrote for New Republic, “you need Sanders Democrats — progressive leaders willing to compete for marginal seats and battle from inside the Capitol Building.”
Like, ya know, these people…
To quote Ms. Mattera again, “in 2017 and all the off election years, the most important thing is running candidates on the local level from the Black Lives Matter movement, from the single-payer health care movement, from the stop mass incarceration movement, etc.”
The GOP, like Hayfield High School in 1971#, doesn’t have to worry about such complex, electorate-splitting as race (and gender equality, and immigration reform, and voter rights, and gun control, and…,). We as liberals do. But, like the Titans of T.C. Williams, we are ultimately better for it.
The modern Democratic Party has always juggled progressive aspirations with the limiting binds of practicality, confident there is, after hard work and compromise, no mountain high enough or valley low enough to stop us from moving forward; sometimes in Bernie-esque bursts, sometimes in Clinton-like increments. Sure Hillary may seem like she’s only one game-clinging primary win away from pulling a “Who’s your daddy? And whose team is this? Is this your team, or is this your daddy’s team?”#, but as Sanders continues to demonstrate he, indeed, has soul power and Clinton continues to demonstrate she’s in fact too strong, there will be a moment in the next few months when both candidates must stop slapping each other’s shoulder pads# and face the same direction before the ball is snapped.
When that happens, we liberals will make Donald Trump remember the day he took on the Democrats.
We will leave no doubt#, and we will send the GOP home crying for their mommies like it’s 1964 all over again…
Feel the Bern, but remember the Titans.
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