I have to start this post with an apology. I truly try to keep politics out of my writing and blogging, but I feel the need to break my silence on this matter.
I am an educated woman. A mother. An employed individual. An American. A dreamer. A person who tries her damnedest in this life to be better than I was the day before. I read contracts, news, social media, blogs, environmental essays, and legislation when I’m bored and can’t sleep.
And I am terrified of the future and the world my children will inherit. Higher education was once a right afforded to many, but now it’s a privilege available to the few who can afford it, or the many who become so burdened by student debt, there’s no way up or out after accumulating that debt. I look at the pittance I’ve managed to put aside for my children’s higher education and realize it wouldn’t even grow to be sufficient for one term’s worth of college. Add to that research has put the glacial melting intensifying at an unprecedented rate, means that our global landscape could change drastically within the next 30-100 years. That doesn’t even touch on the refugee crisis, the instability in the middle east, and the loss of human life that is staggering and numbing all at once.
In this age of fear and terror, Bernie Sanders represented a leader who identified with the massive change we need in this society to create a livable world for our children. Is he a perfect candidate? No, but we are not a perfect people. Were there supporters who flocked to his cause for the wrong reason, or who displayed childish behavior (and yes, I’m talking about the Bernie Bros), yes. But those individuals are not Bernie and they do not represent the majority of his supporters. Every segment of society has among it those people who will troll for a cause. Don’t lump all of us together so you can more easily dismiss our movement. It’s easier to dismiss the minorities, the poor, the unprivileged, when you take away their voice by your dismissal, you take away their meaning.
But Bernie accomplished a ground-breaking thing, all in the face of relative media silence.
But all of that’s old news. Now, in light of Hillary’s win in California, in spite of the treatment of a candidate that verges on voter suppression, there’s a cry from many in the Democratic party for Bernie supporters to give it up already, to come over to Hillary.
Look! they say. Look at that boogey man over there! A vote for the Green Party or a non-vote is the same thing as a vote for the boogey man!
Except it isn’t. A vote isn’t a number, it isn’t just a chit or chad to be tallied. A vote is the only voice every single person has in this political system.
They also say, “I’m more pragmatic, not a dreamer like you! I’m smarter! I know what’s best for you, and my voice, and the voice of all those that think like me, matters more than yours!”
Except it doesn’t. It’s not that you’re “more pragmatic”, because the election isn’t about pragmatism. It’s about the fact that many people are no longer content to be marginalized in the political process. About many people feeling like the political establishment doesn’t represent them, and for those who have to give up a day’s work and wages when they can’t afford to feed themselves or pay for the electricity, it simply and truly doesn’t. Pragmatism has nothing to do with filling the stomachs of those who are starving, education, or replacing systems that have allowed for-profit prisons to flourish, where more prisons are built each year than schools… When your loved ones are dying, when you have to jump through so many hoops and fill out paper every month to prove that you’re working and qualify for assistance, can you tell me that your tear-filled days will not bleed into each other, until you are crushed, broken-spirited, waiting for someone to see you as a person, with a voice and a valid opinion?
There’s so much to lose! The Supreme Court!
Nominating a judge to the Supreme Court is of the utmost importance. It is extremely important to bring about the end of Citizens United, to bring back a Voting Rights Act that will put an end to the voter suppression that sadly still occurs. But still – our vote is our voice, and if the Democratic party continues to nominate folks that fail to unify our people, EVEN against an opponent like Trump?
You are holding the wrong people accountable.
Many people, especially our youth — you know, the ones looking at inheriting our system, our debt, who are entering the workforce with mountains of loans and bleak future — see him as the voice for the voiceless. He rallied those who so long felt there was no politician out there who would take up their banner. The independent voters that led to record-breaking numbers of people in multiple states to register and swell the democratic ranks. He heard their voices, and, even when his opponents told him to give it up already, he continued bearing their banner, because that’s what leaders do. They don’t stop when it’s hard, or when others tell them that “enough is enough”. They stop only when there’s no road left for them to walk, to show their followers that so long as there is a fight to be fought, they will fight for them.
It is not Bernie’s responsibility to ensure his supporters vote for Hillary. It’s not going to be Bernie’s fault or his supporters fault if Hillary loses the election. It will be her fault. It will be the fault of the Democratic party for failing to understand that party unity means that sometimes, the candidate needs to meet them in the middle, address the concerns, and show that she can be the candidate that everyone needs.
A democracy exists when the people vote for the leaders who have won their vote, plain and simple. We elect the people who will represent us. We use our vote to choose the people who will fight for us. It is the right of every person to feel like their vote matters and that everyone be afforded the opportunity to actually vote in the primaries. When you tell someone to give up already, even if there’s the remote chance they could win despite abundant obstacles, then you are part of the problem. You are part of a system that is guilty of oppressing people who don’t agree with you. You are part of a system that is built to bully people who feel that the government isn’t working for them. By your acts, you are affirming their political insignificance.
It is the right of every person to vote according to their conscience, to elect the person who they believe most represent their ideals.
When I say, “wow, finally! A democratic socialist who actually represents my ideals!” I have been repeatedly met with a “But, a woman!” Each time I have been floored. What do I say in response to that, the proclamation that supposedly says all there is that needs to be said? I’d like to say this was not an actual conversation I’ve had multiple times, but it has. As a woman in the modern era, I have an unprecedented opportunity to vote for a woman! Oh, wait, there have been women running on the progressive ticket since 1872?
Now, certainly, a woman has an actual shot, which is great. But I do not want Hillary to win just because she is a woman, or because the U.S. wanted to have a woman president, just to show the other first world nations who beat us to the punch, that we can do it, too.
I hold Hillary to the same standards as her male counterparts. I want her to show me she can earn my vote. I will not be easier on her because she shares my gender. Am I excited as hell that a female candidate has garnered this much support in the face of the inequity, abuse, and sexism that has been heaped on her by the media, her male counterparts, and, hell, society? F(*%, yeah.
And yet, thus far, Hillary has not earned my vote. She told Black Lives Matter supporters that if they wanted her support, they would have to organize themselves and present a cohesive movement. She has made the people who are being oppressed responsible for getting her a package she can sell. You can see the video here. Her response starts at 3:35, and begins reasonably, but I disagree fundamentally with her opinion, which was also a statement to me that said she does not yet understand what it means to be a leader. Leading doesn’t mean taking up the banner when someone else has done all the work. It doesn’t mean waiting for the people who are systemically mistreated, abused to find just the right words for you to hear and understand their justifiable terror and begin working to allay them.
A leader unites the fractured. A leader provides the voice to the voiceless. A leader provides the rallying cry that calls people to his or her banner. A leader picks up the cause of the broken-spirited, and unites them. She or he is not looking for a package to sell before she’ll even listen. She packages it for them. She does their work, without waiting until it’s popular.
A leader is the champion of the people, not merely a champion of the people already best represented.
It is not my responsibility, or any of Bernie’s supporters’ responsibility, to make sure we cast our vote just to make sure the orange-skinned, racist, thin-skinned Boogeyman doesn’t win. If he wins, it’s because no clear leader emerged to rally the disaffected to their cause.
You want to be the leader of the people? Lead the people. Be their voice. Quell the divisive, bullying tactics that push the timid, the voiceless, the oppressed from your cause. If a Greenpeace protester asks you about your campaign and fossil fuels, don’t just lump them in with the “Bernie people” who are “believing his lies“. Bernie’s people are your people. Well, they could be your people. Are their claims perhaps sometimes inaccurate, since the system is far more complicated than was alleged? Sure. But there is something to be said that many of those interested in fossil fuels, lobbyists, have been donating, within the limits currently allowed, to her campaign. So, technically, there’s nothing illegal or wrong about accepting donations from private citizens. They have the right, just as everyone else does, to vote and to spend their money as they will.
But, if you want to truly earn the vote of the people who feel disenfranchised, that’s not enough. You can’t just say “I feel sorry for them. They’re not doing their own research.” The voiceless don’t want pity and you will not win anyone to your cause with disdain. Pity and disdain helps no one. It makes no wound better, lessens no sorrows, calms no fears or anger, and brings no sustenance to those in need. Those without any money or any power want someone to tell them their voice has value. Their concerns have weight. Their cause matters. Their lives matter. You feel your potential followers are uneducated about matters? Educate them, don’t disparage them. Write papers, share your work, be absolutely transparent. Don’t alienate them.
So, Hillary, you want to lead the people? You want to win Bernie’s supporters to your cause?
Bear their banner. Lift their spirits. Meet with the people, and, by God, bridge the gap and unite them to your cause. Show them how their causes are your causes. Show them how you can listen. Show them what you will do for them.
Don’t tell us who to vote for, don’t treat us with disdain, don’t make us more afraid than we already are about the nightmares lurking in the dark. We are already cold, starving, depressed and terrified. We don’t need more terror.
You want to lead?
Be our hope. Be our salvation. Be our champion. Be the light in the dark, the flame for that dampened candle, the torch that will light the fires and burn evils of inequity to the ground.
Be our leader. Don’t wait for us, grudging, to trudge to your camp because, brow-beaten and bullied, we have given up on the things that matter to us.
Give us a battle cry that shakes us to our core. Don’t tell us – show us how you will be our leader. Then, we will be the army you need. Show us not that you deserve our vote, show us that you are the leader we need.
Lead us. Then we will follow.
If you cannot be the leader we need, then you should step down. Be what we need, whether you want to or not, whether you think we are deserving or not, and we will flock to you.
But if you do not represent us, you do not deserve our vote. It is time the people realized that our leaders are there for us, paid by us, supported for life by us, and they owe us their fealty, not the other way around.