I get why young Progressives are supporting Bernie Sanders. I’d be disappointed in them if they didn’t.
Don’t get me wrong. I completely support Hillary Clinton. I list my reasons in an essay published in July. My opinion hasn’t changed; it’s just become firmer: She’s tough, smart and tested. Plus it’s time.
But Bernie Sanders is saying the things that I love. Universal health care, free college, increase taxes on the 1%, these are all things near and dear to my heart.
But here’s the deal. These things are only amazing because no one has said them for a very long time. No one who is young right now knows that political life in America used to be full of big, ambitious, outrageous talk. When the wonderful Beyonce did her Formation yesterday at the Super Bowl with the Black Panther theme, well, guess what, there were once ACTUAL Black Panthers. There was the SDS, student radicals taking over university buildings, people stopping the Democratic National Convention, protests in the streets year after year that ended the War in Vietnam.
We had people talking about real income redistribution, change so huge and fundamental that it was impossible to get one’s head around it. Civil rights, ending poverty, ridding the world of oppression – these were things that were part of everyday discourse. You wanted to be part of the real world? You needed to lace up your boots and pick up your damn sign.
So in the past twenty or thirty years, we have politicians that are so worried about public disapproval that they operate in a box about two feet in diameter. If Barack Obama ever uttered the words universal health care, he’d have been impeached. Instead, he wove together the wacky quilt that is the Affordable Care Act. Am I glad we have ACA? Yes, you bet. Does it approach universal health care? No, sorry.
Radical talk is the stuff of scrapbooks in attics. I remember it. But young people in their twenties think that Bernie Sanders is the first person to have these radical ideas. Nope. You think it’s new but it’s just new to you.
So what have all us older folks learned since we marched and sat in? This is what we learned: saying doesn’t make it so. I love Bernie Sanders for saying all the wonderful things that I remember from the past. But saying them isn’t enough. We learned that the first time. It takes skill, stamina and smarts to make change. It takes the ability to move Congress, a fact that gets skipped over by Sen. Sanders and many others. A President doesn’t get to do whatever he/she wants; there is policy, budget, negotiation and compromise involved.
I don’t want a speech. I’ve heard the speech. The speech is not enough.
Sorry, Bernie Sanders supporters, I’m looking for action. I’ve waited long enough.