Bernie Sanders announced another run for President of the United States on Tuesday.
Many who follow my writing (or with whom I am friends with on Facebook or follow on Twitter) erupted in the type of joy and exuberance usually reserved for that moment the ball drops on New Years Eve. Good for them. Look, for much of the last few years, seemingly everything about politics in America has been about division, or anger. While I do not “Feel the Bern” I am always pleased to see people (especially, people on the left) enthusiastic about politics and about moving our country in the direction of the common good.
I am not going to vote for Bernie in the primary. I would struggle tremendously trying to force myself to vote for Bernie Sanders in the 2020 general election were he to secure the Democratic nomination. Having spent three years railing against Republicans who held their noses and voted for Donald Trump because even a vote for the devil is better than allowing the other side to win (plus, that devil brought one or two Supreme Court Justices), could I really bring myself to do the same thing?
Could I vote for a candidate I did not like, and who I did not think was good for America, just so the other side would not win?
Allow Donald Trump to be re-elected or tattoo ‘hypocrite’ across my forehead? That is a choice I hope to avoid.
Sure, I could write 2,000 words today about Bernie Sanders’ proposed policies, or his past votes, or the nagging rumors of sexism that seem to always be trailing him like a shadow. But really, are there any saints out there, especially among people willing to subject themsleves to the kind of scrutiny one faces running for the highest elected office in the world? And for all Donald Trump’s whining about the media, he is right about one thing: tearing people down sells more newspapers and gets more link clicks than feel-good stories. This early part of the primary season should be about more than preemptively tearing people down. We can have more serious discussions about the candidates and their pasts once the full field is set.
I could rehash the 2016 election and discuss whether Bernie Sanders is partially responsible for Donald Trump being president. Or, I could make a list of past primary runners-up who seemed so close one cycle only to be among the first out the next. I won’t make a list, but just look at Rick Santorum. Look how long he hung around in 2012, winning 11 primaries. Had Newt Gingrich dropped out as soon as it was clear he was not a viable candidate and not split the vote in so many southern states depriving Santorum of needed wins, Santorum might have approached the 23 primaries Bernie Sanders won in 2016. In 2016, Rick Santorum lasted one primary, finishing dead last with less than 1% of the vote in Iowa after practically living there for a year. Second acts are not easy in politics, and they are even more difficult when a candidate moves the discussion (or the policy) and there ideas no longer seem fresh or innovative but rather mainstream. But rather than make a list of grievances people have against Bernie Sanders and hurt a lot of feelings among his supporters, I will give you a hopefully relatable example that best expresses my opinion about Bernie Sanders in a more positive way.
Imagine you wanted to build yourself a nice house, and that you had the money to do so. You first need to acquire land, right? A nice tract on the edge of town is available but must be split off (subdivided) from another, larger parcel. You appear before the town council with your subdivision plan. Bernie Sanders is there to argue that subdivision leads to more traffic, and more kids, which necessitates more schools (and higher taxes), and that he thinks it makes more sense for the council to deny your subdivision plan and for you to just buy an existing house. You prevail.
Next, you need to change the zoning on the newly acquired parcel, as the land used to be a farm and now needs to zoned residential to permit the construction of your house. That means another hearing, and Bernie Sanders is there again, raging about disappearing farmland and overdevelopment and sprawl. He does not care that the price you paid for the house was based on the value as developable land instead of farmland. He cares about his positions and voicing them in the loudest possible voice. Again, you prevail.
When construction begins, Bernie Sanders is as much a fixture on your street as the construction workers. One day he is carrying signs picketing the noise. The next, the dust. He rants that your building materials are not ‘green’ enough, and that your house will block the view of the adjoining woods. Almost every day he is at the town offices lodging formal complaints trying to get your project shut down or at least flooding you with paperwork to answer to make the process as tedious as possible. He does not live anywhere near your lot, so none of the issues would affect him if he just went home instead of standing outside the construction site all day with his signs and megaphone, but he just refuses to go home. And he refuses to be quiet. Eventually, you prevail.
Finally, the construction is complete, and you are so excited to have the keys to your new home. The first day you come home from work though, you are stunned to see a man splashing and swimming in your pool. It is Bernie Sanders, of course. You storm out into the yard to ask, “What the hell are you doing?” Bernie looks at you with his shoulders shrugged and his palms turned up, completely unable to figure out why you are so angry, and says, “What? It’s 100 degrees out. You have a pool and I don’t.” Then he asks for a towel, some lemonade, and complains your pool floats are not sufficiently inflated.