Bernie sanders

Side-Note on a Current Event: The Charlie Gard Case

I hesitated writing this. I thought about being vague as to my specific topic so as not to be part of the problem I intended to point out.I also wanted to be vague because I am a coward and didn’t want to be accused of insensitivity.

But it seems like the politicization of this tragedy was built on the security that any critic could be easily villainized. It is that security that I think is worth talking about. Because we are becoming less and less able to critique without an instant ad hominem backlash. It is possible, even in the most emotionally charged cases, to hold a different opinion and not be a monster.  If we reach the point that we are no longer capable of seeing our opinions as composites of millions of assumptions. If we automatically treat the questioning of any one of those assumptions as an assault on our whole person and our entire moral code, that is not just bad for politics, that sets up our society for the most bitter, pigheaded, and inefficient kind of discord. America is broken and this is not the way we fix it.

The sickest part of this case to me is how little it seems to be about the suffering of the actual people in the middle of it. This is a horrible case and a devastating loss for the family. I could not possibly comprehend the pain. I will not try to. Nor will I do them the disservice of making a grandstanding statement about the pain which I can not possibly comprehend.

It is not heartless to say that the politicization of this tragedy has nothing to do with the people affected by it. I think it is nieve to be unsuspicious of the attention this case has received from US outlets while the future of US Healthcare hangs in the balance. I have seen so many manipulative headlines which use the pain of actual people to draw an unnuanced view of an extremely difficult situation. This lack of nuance makes it easier to find villains where the political narrative would like them to be. Namely, in Socialized Healthcare. In the US, public opinion is warming to the notion but if that nuanced system can become a big, bad, one-dimensional enemy then it might cool.

It’s best in emotionally charged situations to give all parties, if not the benefit of the doubt, the benefit of humanity.  It is unreasonable to assume that any human being does not experience emotional life in the same way that you do. It is irrational to believe that the people who behave in a way you don’t like do so because they are incapable of empathy or because they are evil. I can say without reservation that nobody involved in this case wanted a child to suffer. I can say this because the idea of a simple evil defies logic. All humans experience emotions. Evil is never simple.

I do this too. I want to stop doing this. I unequivocally hate some of the things that are happening in this country. But do not think that evil things are ever the fault of one dastardly villain. It would be simpler if I could believe that because there would be an easy solution to evil. Unfortunately, in reality, evil is diffused. Evil is structural. Evil is a million tiny assumptions.

I do not have an opinion about the Charlie Gard case. I don’t think I have the right to an opinion here. It is not my family and it is not my country.

But I do have an opinion on what this case has come to represent in this country and I think the simple narrative has gotten it completely wrong. This is far from a simple matter but there is one simple truth; In America, after the tragedy would come the bankruptcy. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that every day in this country families are denied life-saving medical services because they must choose between their health and their ability to make ends meet. We do not have the luxury of choice, in fact, with privatized health insurance there is a de facto denial of care to anyone but the rich. We have the luxury of choice only in that the choice to preserve our health is considered a luxury. I do not consider Single Payer to be the perfect solution, that would come without complexities and faults but I do consider it to be the best solution.


Post Tuesday Blues

Well, I’m disappointed. It’s not as if I believed the highly unlikely would happen. I tried to temper my enthusiasm and remind myself that generally, there are never surprises in politics, it’s too big and too well orchestrated a game to have any unexpected results.
I was ready for Hillary in a big way. Almost immediately after I cast my vote for President Obama in 2012 I was eagerly anticipating her run in 2016. But then Bernie Sander’s entered the race.
Wednesday, in the aftermath of my disappointment I’ve been reading the liberal op-eds and their tone is far from victorious. It’s a strange reaction when you consider that we are so close to a history making election. But it makes sense when you take into account the tone of the Clinton campaign thus far.
When I said that there are never any surprises in politics what I should have said is that there are never any good surprises. He-who-shall-not-be-named (because every time we type his name it only increases his brand value) threw the republican primary into a sharp spiral towards the far right. When we had expected the usual battle between moderate forces and the theocratic Tea Party we ended up with a massacre of moderation in favor of bluster and hate speech.

On the other side, Senator Sanders’ entrance pushed mainstream debate further left and for liberal democrats like me it was thrilling. To have things like single payer insurance even enter the sunlight of the national discussion was something I had previously only dreamed of. Even if that discussion played out; “Single payer insurance? Psht, that will never work.”

The deficit of exuberance I think we are seeing post California is a result of the Clinton campaign’s winning strategy. She was forced to define herself from Sanders’ as the practical one, and define herself from you-know-who as the less evil one. Stuck in-between these two swelling tides, Clinton became the campaign of “Psht, that will never work.”

As much as moderation is a necessity for a healthy democracy there is still as sense of deflating when the supposedly cooler head has prevailed. I don’t think that this deflation is merely our idealistic bubble bursting. I reject the characterization that all Bernie supporters are a bunch of hippies chasing a pie in the sky. California is the unsatisfying reminder that liberal politics is not about ideals, is not about innovation, and it is certainly not about rocking the boat.

Of course, it is not great for government to be the sort of organization that moves on whims or gets too experimental, but when the fear of change stops even the conversation, when the knee jerk mistrust of anything remotely socialist means that the attitude that prevails in liberal discourse is dismissal of new and engaging ideas, those are circumstances that continue to make liberal voters disengage from the process. We have become the party of the safe bet and we are stagnating under incremental change that moves in millimeters.

The fact that the only challenge to the status quo which has managed to take root this primary season is the challenge to our decency and inclusiveness is a disconcerting indication of where American politics is headed. It is a result of timid liberalism that stifles itself with the fear of being challenged. I wish that we could be more comfortable with our critical capabilities and raise the level of debate over the punchy zingers or easily digestible, but nutritionally valueless, fluff. I am sick of throwing the socialist baby out with the communist bathwater, because politicians don’t have respect enough for the intelligence of American people to standup for a platform with any shades of nuance.

Negativity won the day Tuesday, both for the people who want to regress the country back to the point before all those irritating civil rights came about and for the people who look at a bold vision for real change in this country and think, “psht, that will never work.”

Hey, Bernie or Busters, You Say You Want a Revolution

I was thrilled when Senator Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy, thrilled in a way that I had never been about politics. Of course, I had been political for some time, anyone unfortunate enough to be my Facebook friend would know that. I had fought hard for President Obama’s second term (by which I mean about five posts a day. No campaign contributions or anything silly like that.) But much as I admired, and still admire President Obama, Sen. Sanders was someone who seemed to believe in all the things that were important to me. I want single payer insurance, I want less defense spending, I want to hold Wall Street accountable. The Democratic Party was never left enough for me, the incremental change was way too incremental. I had been finding it hard to keep defending the DNC to my more idealistic friends. Bernie was like the cavalry, he was riding in to save my faith in American politics.

I attended the first Sanders rally in Dallas. Up until that point I had only ever been an armchair politico, so I have nothing to compare it to but the crowd was massive and electric. It filled the ballroom of the Sheraton hotel and spilled out, almost filling the lobby. When he spoke people screamed with utter joy as he breathed fresh life into suffocated liberalism. The Millennials in the room especially, finally felt like at last the timidity of progressivism and empty rhetoric was done and now there was going to be some real action.  We are a generation so over McCarthyism and its absurd paranoia. We have seen the banks ruin the world economy take their bonuses and get away with it. We are third wave feminists who understand intersectionality and structural inequality. This was our guy, one hundred percent he got us.

It’s been a long and somewhat depressing road since then. Media ends every of the few sentences it utters about Sen. Sanders with words like “unlikely” and “longshot”. The DNC seems dead set on its choice of candidate, electorate be damned. We, who are still in the Bernie camp, know that our devotion is not diminished, that despite near constant undervaluing, that crowd in Dallas and thousands like it are still in love with the ideas of the senator from Vermont.

But that’s just politics and we accept the will of the system with grace- except, wait no of course we don’t; enter Bernie or Bust.

I’ve had qualms about criticizing the movement up to this point, mostly because my primary complaint against it is an aversion to eating one’s own. Petty infighting is for republicans, not democrats. We’re supposed to be the party of cool headed reason. I wanted to pretend that we could all get along, that despite our differences we’d all be able to back the candidate that won the establishment contest and therefor stood the best chance of defeating the rightwing in November.

But the posts on the Bernie Sander’s for President Facebook feed (which I’m sure do not reflect the opinions of the man himself) have become more and more venomously anti-Clinton. Bernie supporters there have painted themselves into a moral corner, if Secretary Clinton is the candidate of the established leftwing, in order to vote progressive, they would have to vote for someone who they have spent months calling a liar, a criminal, and a corporate shill.

Still I would have refrained from joining in and only further frothing the water of our drowning political respectability, if I hadn’t made the mistake of trying to understand the movement by reading articles  purporting to present with that cool liberal reason a defense of Bernie or Bust. My understanding from my reading is that Busters feel justified in not voting or voting for Trump because they’ve had enough and it’s time for a political revolution. It’s a bad argument and all peacemaking aside, I cannot let a bad argument go unchallenged.

I’ll start my rebuttal by simply stating that democracy, any democracy, has always been and ever shall be a system of choosing the lesser evil. It’s is in the very architecture of the philosophy. A government which is truly representative of and responsive to the will of the people will never comprehensively match the will of any one person. Compromise is everything and it’s something we’ve certainly forgotten, John Boehner’s out of a job because we forgotten it. Protection against the supremacy of one ideology over all others is the reason why the majority of the power in our government resides in congress and not in the presidency. It is diffused across 535 people. 535 people who, if they were doing their job correctly, would be participating in a lot of comprise all the time. But rather than caring about those contests which actually matter a lot more we put all our energy into the big name prize fight because it feels like a bigger victory and it’s easier to keep track of the players.

The stakes always feel so high in a presidential race because the height of the rhetoric. It puts us in a fever of fear. I thought Mitt Romney would be the worst thing to ever happen to this country… boy, if I had only waited a few years I could have saved up all my Nazi metaphors for someone supported by actual Nazis, instead of wasting them on the Affordable Care Act.

Maybe I’m older and wiser, but it all just feels so theatrical and self defeating this time around. Constantly  portraying the people with whom we disagree as the worst and most evil of all human beings makes compromise impossible, hinders discourse which could sharpen our ideals, and just plain obstructs everything. That’s the attitude that makes us vote for a “winner” rather than someone who’s says and believe things that matter. It’s  also the attitude that hands midterm elections to the Tea Party voters who are will to show up, rather than the liberals who’d rather sit around and complain that voting is pointless and will only feel their point is justified when the people they took no part in electing fail to represent them (Hint: it’s because they don’t). I really, heartily, disagree that kicking your feet and holding your breath until the candidate that is your absolute favorite wins counts as political stance. Not voting is not a statement, it is the opposite of a statement, it is pouting in a corner because you don’t want to play. Nobody cares about the kid in the corner, they’re just going to keep right on playing.

Does this mean that if you truly think that Secretary Clinton is not a progressive, that if you believe she is not just a concession within but an actual opponent to progressive ideals that I’m arguing that you should still vote for her just because she’s got the democratic label? No, of course not, there are other options, but we’ll get to that later. My point is that abstaining from politics by not voting is a direct misunderstanding of what democracy is and how it works. You do not win anything by sitting it out and waiting for the perfect good, you’re handing your rights of citizenship over to whatever takers remain, good or evil.

Which brings me to my second point, and I’ll try to tackle this one without undoing that great point I just made about not portray political rivals as pure evil. Threating to vote for Donald Trump because Hillary Clinton is not progressive enough is utter nonsense. It is cutting off your nose to spite your face in the worst way. Threatening to vote for someone whose key platforms involve hawkish military posturing and vilifying immigrants, someone who really strikes a chord with white supremacists (whether he disavows them or not), threatening to vote for that man because Sen. Sander’s is not the democratic candidate makes me question whether or not you ever believed in what Sander’s was saying in the first place.

Bernie Sander’s is an exciting candidate because he doesn’t just spout out a bunch of fluff about inequality; he seems to have a deep understanding of its structural roots. Sen. Sander’s is opposed to military expansion. He is for fair and humane immigration reform. He bullishly determined to level the playing field for the middle and lower classes with government investment into medical care and education, two expenses which cripple those classes with inescapable debt. How does any of that jive with Trump? If you want to stick it to Hillary so bad that you will vote for the man who suggested we halt the immigration of Muslims when heavily Islamic regions of the world are in the midst of  the defining human right emergency of our generation, then forgive me but I don’t think you like Bernie like I like Bernie. People are drowned by the thousands in the Mediterranean Sea, but you want to prove some point about how unfair it is that super delegates exist.

This is a revolution, right? That what Busters say. This is the moment where we can wrestle out of the vice like grip of the two party system, let me tell you I am all about that. But I cannot see how a vote for Trump (real or in absentia) accomplishes that.

The one bright side to this nightmare of a preliminary has been the glimmer of hope that the Republicans might do what they probably should have done as soon as the Tea Party arrived. As the writing was definitely on the wall and Kasich and Cruz were more or less flailing in their death throws I was waiting for someone to say those three magic words “third party candidate.” I’ve heard it muttered a few times, but nobody is exactly shouting it just yet. It puts me in an awkward position, I’m really rooting for the libertarians to get it together. Me, a big government loving girl, rooting for those Ayn Rand obsessed anarchists to present a good case.

I’m worried like everyone not supporting Trump or Bernie or Busting that all this venom going around the Democrats could  put Trump in the White House. The strategic thing to do would be to keep the progressive vote together and let the Republicans split. But if we’re really going to be idealistic about this, then let’s actually live up to those ideals. If this is going to be the election where we finally make it about the interests of the people rather than preserving behemoth parties then why is plan of action merely to trade one behemoth for another? There are other alternatives.

I can understand the frustration behind Bernie or Bust. But I  don’t think the movement is living up to what it thinks it’s living up to. You want the ideals of Bernie not to fade out of mainstream public discussion, you care so much about what he stands for, and believe that Hilary is the antithesis of true progressivism? Then why are you not learning the name Dr. Jill Stein? Surely that’s the card up your sleeve? To completely ignore the real progressive alternative in this race makes Bernie or Bust seem less like they love the ideas of Bernie Sanders and more like they just really hate Hillary Clinton. This could be an opportunity to harness the excitement Senator Sanders and channel that it into some actual change, something for those of us more left of center to hold on to.

I get that he’s still in this and it’s not over till Debbie Wasserman Schultz sings. To suggest that the diehard Berniecrates go green at this stage in the game is a little soon. But at end of the day, if Bernie or Bust wants to defend itself as something more then an empty threat or a petulant whine, as a real contender for big change in politics then not voting or voting for Trump should not be their weapons of choice. That’s not a revolution, that’s a surrender. This is supposed to be about making our democracy more responsive to it’s people and we do that with multiple parties.

Maybe  California will change everything, but maybe you should also look up Jill Stein