Dear Fellow Dems:
Hiya. How’re you doing? It’s been a long time since we’ve had a little chat. How’re you recovering from the election shock? I hope you are practicing self-care. That said, we have to have a talk. Grab your favorite (non-alcoholic) beverage, sit back, and listen to Auntie Minna preach some wisdom. Or rant. One or the other. You can decide which it is after you’ve finished reading this letter.
Listen. I know it’s been rough. I know we’re all grieving, especially given the antics of our current *sigh* president. It’s hard to believe that a man-sized toddler is in charge of our country, but it’s our reality, unfortunately. Our job is to figure out what we did wrong during the last election and to change our MO in order to win the next election, if there is one. That’s what we should be doing, but, instead, many Dems on social media are rehashing the primaries as if it were fucking Groundhog Day. The movie, not the actual day.
Full disclosure: I supported and voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary. His views aligned better with mine, and while I had my doubts as how he’d actually be as president*, I was uneasy with having another Clinton as president for several reasons. I knew Bernie most likely wouldn’t win the primaries, but I wanted his voice to be heard.
Eight years ago, I would have labeled myself a progressive. I’m far left in terms of ideas, but I’m also a triple minority, so I know the difficulties of getting shit done. I started to get uncomfortable with the progressive movement within the Democratic Party when they started opposing anything PBO did, no matter what. It became clear that some of it was racial animus, but it was mostly ideological purity–nothing was ever good enough. This mentality crystallized and became clear for me during the healthcare debate. Progressives wanted PBO to stump for single-payer or nothing, which was pure folly. We were having a difficult time trying to get the watered-down version we have now through–how the hell would single-payer ever be seriously considered? It didn’t matter to them. We had to take a stand. Single-payer, or we take our balls and go home. The millions of people who’d be covered under Obamacare? Didn’t matter to them; the uninsured were just casualties in their purity war.
I am a humanist first and foremost. I don’t believe that trading off real lives in order to make a point is worth it. Now, we could go down the slippery slope of when would I consider it worth it to make that stand, but that isn’t the point of this post. One of the problems with ideologues is that they don’t really consider the human cost. It’s the ideas that matter, not people. While I’m an idealist in many ways, I can’t extract the humanity from my beliefs. Millions of people not getting insurance isn’t a shoulder shrug and and ‘oh well’ to me.
I started calling myself a pragmatist. I want to get shit done, which means making compromises. I appreciated the progressive movement for bringing up issues that the Democratic Party doesn’t always want to address, but I felt they fell short when it came to how we should actually implement the ideas. However, in PBO’s second term, I became uncomfortable with the so-called pragmatists of the party because oftentimes, they were little more than cheerleaders for PBO. I am not the type of person to idolize anyone, especially not a politician, and it made me uneasy to see Obots try to shut down any opposition to President Obama. Look. He’s a brilliant, compassionate, complex man, and he’s the best president of my lifetime. However, he’s still human, which means he’s not perfect. I stepped away from calling myself a pragmatist because in my mind, it became synonymous with, ‘If Obama does it, it’s OK’ in my brain.
Fuller disclosure: I am not a group person in general. I find them limiting and resistant to change most of the time. I am a Democrat by default, but I’ve never been loyal to the party. I’ve never felt like the party establishment gave a shit about me, only my dollars, and I stuck with them because they’re better than the alternative. Then, Candidate Obama came along, and he was amazing. He made me feel included for the first time, and that’s one of the reasons I was excited to vote for him. He was my candidate in a way that no one else has been or probably could be. He dragged the DFL into the next millennium, almost against their will. He talked about diversity in a way that seemed natural and not contrived, which is one reason I believe he won. He mobilized millions of people who never gave a shit about politics before. Yes, some people voted for him as a way of negating eight long and grueling years of W., but more voted for him because of the hope and change he promised.
The problem is, the DFL didn’t fully realize what an outlier Obama was. He wasn’t supposed to win in 2008 (they backed Hillary Clinton then as well), and they took the wrong message from his win, apparently. They didn’t say, ‘Millions of people voted specifically for Barack Obama and what HE represented’; in 2016, they just doubled-down on what hadn’t worked before. Clinton was picked as the candidate well before the election actually started, and I was skeptical when the DFL rallied around her. First of all, we’ve already had two Bushes and a Clinton as president. I’m wary of having oligarchies in America, and the specter of a Bush/Clinton election choice made me very uncomfortable. We call ourselves a democracy, and, yet, it takes millions if not billions of dollars and name recognition to run for president. Anybody can grow up and be president? Not likely.
In addition, rightly or wrongly, the Clintons are hated by many people in this country. We can speculate why this is or decry the rightwing machinations that have made this the case, but it’s undeniably true. So, Clinton already had that albatross around her neck when she entered the race. In addition, she’s solidly establishment, and many people are tired of that. In other words, there were legitimate reasons not to run Hillary Clinton as our candidate. However, that’s not to say she wasn’t qualified–she was eminently so–or that she would have been just as bad as this president. That’s just utter bullshit, and anyone saying such should be automatically disqualified from commenting on politics. What I’m trying to say is that both sides of the divide were right–and they were both wrong as well.
Yes, I’m the parent who’s in the front of the car listening to the kids squabble in the backseat, and suddenly shouts, “Shut up, or I’m turning this car around right now!” I’m so fucking tired of watching the BernieBros and the HillaryHunks** yelling past each other, each convinced their side is the truly righteous one when the truth is somewhere in the middle. I think the DNC has been too much about saying what it’s not in relation to what the Republicans are than actually boldly proclaiming what it stands for. It started doing that during the last election, but then after losing, thought maybe it needed to ditch diversity to win over disgruntled white people. Oh, that’s not what they said, but that’s how I saw it for a brief moment. In addition, the in-fighting over who should be the chair of the DFL was like the primary all over again. It seemed shady to me that with Rep. Keith Ellison running, the job suddenly became a full-time position. Then, the powers that be decided Tom Perez should be the anointed one, and I knew the minute he was announced as a candidate that he would win.
I saw many supposed liberal Dems display Islamophobia over Ellison’s run. The same people who declared that black lives matter, had no problem disparaging Ellison or his decades-old connection with the Muslim Brotherhood. They said he was anti-Semitic because he questioned why we were so loyal to Israel. He disavowed and apologized for some of his earlier statements, but I don’t think he’s wrong about our connection with Israel being fucked up. It showed me that nativism is deeper than most other ideologues and is scary because most people don’t even realize they’re exhibiting it. I have a chip on my shoulder because Rep. Ellison has been tireless in his avocation of the underclass, and the shit he got was, well, bullshit. I must emphasize that I think Perez is fine as the DNC chief. I think he’ll do a good job; I just don’t like the way he was brought into the race in the first place.
The bottom line is that I’m tired of the Democratic Party eating its own tail. We have more pressing problems than constantly pointing fingers at each other and rehashing the goddamn primaries. Neither Bernie or Hillary is president, and we have to get our shit together so that we can end our current national nightmare. For once, can we please act like we’re on the same team?
*Better than this choad, I’ll tell you what.
**I made that up. It never caught on, sadly.