In explaining my decision to enter the world of the absurd the past couple of weeks, my escape into the history of the Hohenzollerns and their connection to other royals, I’ve said it’s because I can’t stand the endless chatter about Trump and Cruz, Hillary and Sanders. I came out as a Bernie Sanders fan a long time ago, and, while I remain willing to argue with all my Hillary-supporting friends, I really find the horse race game the media play pretty unbearable. At least with royals there are characters like Rasputin. And Prince Philip’s mother, Alice, who was diagnosed a paranoid schizophrenic and forcibly institutionalized. And Freud suggesting x-raying her ovaries to kill off her libido. All before she became a Greek Orthodox nun and a member of the “righteous among the nations,” a Jewish “really really good guy, maybe saint, even,” and being buried in Jerusalem. So much more fun than listening to Trump call Mexicans rapists over and over again in the lefty press.
But in the past couple of weeks or so I've begun to feel disheartened that my friends are settling for second best, and I just want to say so. I think there’s something terribly wrong with the big picture.
Here’s how I see the big picture.
Without going on about how badly broken the system is, I see three choices: one good, one not so good, and one really really bad.
Good is Bernie Sanders. The only one of the three candidates seriously engaging with the question of how to whittle away at the kleptocracy that America has become. Then comes Hillary, who is the person to vote for if you don’t think the status quo is all that bad. The third choice, Trump, is not a choice.
Here’s what my Hillary-supporting friends are saying about the choice between Bernie and Hillary.
1. Bernie is not used to playing with the big boys. They will eat him alive. Which is baloney. First off, there’s a good chance that the voters who would come out for Bernie are the kind of voters who would also throw the obstructionist Republican bums out and give Bernie a democratic congress to work with. And even if they don’t, there would be such a sigh of relief that there finally is a radically different type of person in the Oval Office, that I’m sure he would not be left high and dry. We might even get Nancy Pelosi back. Look how effective she was in her day. Have you noticed she still has not come down off the fence, by the way? A woman still not ready to endorse Hillary?
2. Bernie has no international experience. Hillary did a bang-up job as Secretary of State. You got me there. But Obama should get some credit for putting a good Secretary of State in office. Why couldn’t Bernie Sanders do the same?
3. The biggest argument I keep hearing against Bernie is that he is a spoiler. Ralph Nader revisited. He couldn’t get out the vote and all he is doing is splitting the democratic party. This argument, with all due respect to my dear friends putting it forward, is just plain wrong. And it's based on the cynical notion that the system is rigged and we have to choose an insider or lose the game. It's surrendering before the game has started. Besides, all Nader could do was syphon votes off the bottom of the pile of democrats. Bernie is drawing major support - he's far more of an equal - if the polls comparing Bernie to Hillary are taken seriously. I know polls have been proven unreliable lately, but then what’s the argument for ignoring the polls?
Here’s the results of the latest NBC News/SurveyMonkey Tracking Poll, conducted online between May 2 and May 8:
Bernie vs. Trump: 53 to 40%
Hillary vs. Trump: 49 to 44%
The problem seems to be Hillary’s unpopularity.
According to HuffPost, a look at ten different polls (with one exception, CNN) shows Hillary’s unpopularity rating is roughly between 10 and 20% points ahead of her popularity rating:
See also HuffPost’s reasoning behind its endorsement of Bernie here.
By contrast, Bernie’s ratings are the mirror image – between 10 and 20%, for the most part, favorable ahead of unfavorable. CNN is once more an outlier here. It has Bernie’s favorable ratings 28 points ahead of his unfavorable ratings. (Nice to hear, but note to self: continue ignoring CNN as a source of information.)
Then there is the Quinnipiac poll showing Hillary beating Trump in Florida by only one point, while Bernie is beating him by 2. In Ohio she is four points behind Trump, while Bernie leads there as well, by 2. And in Pennsylvania, she’s ahead of Trump by only one point, Bernie by 6. The argument that she’s a better candidate than Bernie does not seem to be holding water lately. (And while you’re checking out that page, note that after giving figures showing Bernie a stronger candidate, the entire rest of the article compares only Hillary to Trump. Same media slighting of Bernie as we've seen all along.)
Common Dreams has this to say: “a new national poll out Tuesday shows that the most surefire way to derail the GOP frontrunner: Put Bernie Sanders on the Democratic ticket.”
Another way of looking at the election is shown in the opening lines of an editorial in today’s Chicago Tribune: “Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump can be glad that ‘none of the above’ won't be on the ballot in November. If it were, they'd probably both lose.
So much for the beatability argument. If you’re going to go for Hillary over Bernie, the burden is on you, it seems to me, to make the case. You're going to have to begin with “Even though Bernie is a safer choice at keeping Trump out of the White House, you should still vote for Hillary. It’s riskier, but she’s the one to vote for because…”
To get behind Hillary, it seems to me, is to turn a blind eye to just how inequitable a place the United States has become, how we’ve thrown away our focus on education (just look at the history of California in the last fifty years, dropping from arguably best in the world to 49th in the nation, for example ) how we’ve turned our backs on voting rights, stopped rewarding productivity and rewarded financial shenanigans instead. And totally surrendered to corporate greed. Read Thomas Frank’s Pity the Billionaire for a good treatment of that story, or Les Leopold’s Runaway Inequality, or check out Noam Chomsky’s latest, the Requiem for the American Dream, and then consider Hillary’s half-hearted attempt to change the fact that for every house and average American worker might afford to buy any more his or her CEO boss could buy 844 houses.
If Hillary wins the nomination, I will get behind her and hope everybody else does likewise – allowing a man to become president who wants to bar Muslims from entering the country would be a cataclysmic disaster for the country (and the rest of the world).
But it's not over yet. I know it's a big uphill climb, and it's the two political parties, not the American people, who determine who gets to the top. But California, Oregon and New Jersey have not had their primaries yet, and the struggle is still engaged.
It's been a long time since we've had much hope things could be turned around. Why abandon so quickly the only voice in the game seriously addressing America's inequities? What will it hurt to wait a while longer before throwing in the towel and settling for second best?