Full disclosure: I'm a brand-new member of the Pike County Democratic Committee, a brand-new resident of Pike County (since December 31), and a Bernie supporter. I was asked to do a little blogging on the remodeled PCDC website because I blogged on my own and other sites from 2004 through 2011, and somebody thought this might be a good idea. We hope it may attract some readers and start some conversations. The Democratic party has a lot of soul-searching to do on its way to the White House this year; maybe we can help it along. What you should also know is that the opinions I express here have nothing to do with the platforms, goals, or stated endorsements of the PCDC, but are mine alone. I spent over 20 years in Philly, so I may be a little strong in my opinions (New Yorkers rest easy, I will NOT indulge in sports libel), but I'll keep it clean for the mainstream audience.
It wasn't hard to decide what to cover first: one of the most disturbing trends of the past few months is the increasing animosity between Hillary and Bernie supporters. At first I put it down to just a handful of people, and spent a lot of time defending my cohort against accusations from Hillary voters. But as time went on, I began to see this anger and vitriol surface more frequently and in more places. Facebook especially has become a veritable death cage match site for the opposing sides. Throughout liberal websites and on media sites, if the issue of the election comes up in comment threads (and sometimes even if it doesn't), you can be sure there will be people duking it out over which side is worse, and plenty of ad hominems being thrown around. People are accused of being in the tank for evil. People are accused of being racists, or heartless, or corrupt. These bombshell "discussions" are so full of rage they could be easily mistaken for Republicans going after Democrats. As a microcosm of the party at large, they make one feel the whole organization is crumbling into balkanized chaos.
If we step back and remember events of the last two presidential terms, we can see where some of this came from: the sense among many left-wing Dems that they have been used and then hung out to dry over the past 8 years. Hillary supporters of 2008 had the consolation of seeing their candidate take one of the highest-level cabinet posts in the new administration. Those of us who wanted more progressive goals found ourselves pushed to the outside of the tent, branded "f---ing retarded", and our unions forgotten or told "f--- the UAW". Obama's appointee to the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility, Alan Simpson, told Americans they were "The Greediest Generation" for wanting Social Security and Medicare, and called Social Security "...like a milk cow with 310 million tits." Many of us felt voiceless, hurt and betrayed by an administration we had worked so hard to put into place. Is it really surprising that the rise of a genuinely progressive candidate should finally unleash all the pent-up anger of the last 7 years?
But current developments are alarming, and not because people are arguing--that's a good thing and can lead to substantive changes for the better. What's not so good is the poisonous, personal insults and unfounded accusations (I've spent way too much time on Snopes) that many Dems take as gospel because it's what they want to believe, and that offer ammunition to a Republican Party that should never be allowed to be off the defensive in this crucial cycle. Some people have taken to absolutism and #neverHillary, and threatened to sit out the election or even worse, vote for Trump. Some think letting the party collapse, even letting the whole country collapse, is what will fix it, and they are willing to embrace anarchy to get there. But let's set aside crazy people--people who think chaos is fine, who think they could happily sit back with popcorn and a beer and watch the whole thing go up in flames--and focus on those who think it doesn't matter if Trump becomes president because Hillary is just as bad, or Bernie would be the Apocalypse. Let's ask them:
Do you have anything at stake if Trump becomes President?
- Do you collect SS, or Medicare, or SSI, or might you in the next 4 years?
- Do you have children who depend on WIC? Do you need food stamps?
- Do you collect the EITC? Do you have family who depend on any of these?
- Do you have parents, grandparents, children or grandchildren that may need any of the above one day?
- Are you a woman who needs reproductive health care, or breast and cervical cancer screenings, or do you have a woman in your family you care about who needs these things?
- Do you care if the campaign system is reformed to return power back to the voters?
- Do you want to see the judicial system become fairer? See it help reform law enforcement to make it fairer, safer and more equitable? See it reform the penal system to become restorative for victims and rehabilitative for offenders?
- Do you care about whether the country stands for the rule of law, or for the use of torture?
- Do you want a Supreme Court that reverses most of the outrageous decisions of the past 25 years, including Bush v Gore, and reasserts the rights of citizens to be free of discrimination?
If you care about any of these, you have something at stake. Your blithe dismissal of the upcoming general election and refusal to participate will damn each and every one of these concerns once Trump is in office.
If you have no interest or stake in any of these things, then you truly are speaking from a place of privilege, in that you don't have to worry about anything, no matter which way the political wind blows. Being in that catbird seat, able to look down on the rest of us who actually DO have something at stake, doesn't make you better or more moral; it makes you the Marie Antoinette of voters.