This article isn’t about Bernie’s policies. In fact it’s only sort of about Bernie Sanders. This article is my story, and one that I believe others will find some common ground with. If you are interested in asking me questions, discussing specific policies, challenging my views or Bernie’s views on specific issues, or anything else, I welcome you to reach out to me directly.
Before I became aware of Bernie Sanders in December of 2015, I had gone from naive hope, to giving up hope, in our political system, and frankly, in the people that make it up. I don’t mean the political elites and the donor class, I mean all of us. I had lost hope that we had what it takes to have the serious conflict and conversations required to rescue us from the embers of authoritarianism and oligarchy that were (and still are) growing hotter and hotter.
My mantra had become, “Don’t rock the vote. Rock the boat.”. I began to believe that what was required was some form of increasing conflict that would jolt us collectively from the perceived security of our middle class mirage with a two-car garage. I only hoped that it would come before it was too late.
The quote that ran through my head on most days was by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence.
“… all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”
Part of the cause of my despair and disillusionment was that my moral beliefs seemed to leave me stuck in between peer groups that were clashing over the latest flashy headline.
When I shared my beliefs with self-proclaimed “Liberal Democrats”, they accused me of being a right wing asshole. When I shared those same beliefs with self-proclaimed “Reagan Republicans”, they accused me of being a loser liberal, or commie scum.
I saw this both as a victory and defeat. I felt victorious, in that I was able to remain consistent to my values without getting sucked into the red team versus blue team dynamic that was constantly unfolding, driven by the 24-hour cable news frenzy. The crushing blow of defeat however, overshadowed the tiny boost from my fruitless victory. After all, what is left to fight for when your teammates are all convinced they are on opposing teams?
I got pleasure out of pointing out blatant intellectual hypocrisy on social media. I told myself that maybe when they went to sleep at night, they’d think “Damn, I am being a hypocrite… What’s more important, my values or my party affiliation?”. Of course that was never going to happen. My approach was only causing them to become further entrenched in their two-party mindset.
To my friends and those I met, I would say that I was just ready to make a bowl of popcorn and watch the world burn. Interestingly, in this context, most people were in agreement. Even people who would start reciting the latest propaganda from the evening news if one of the day’s hot political topics were mentioned, agreed that our current approach left us with little to no hope.
Ironically, their lack of hope was, to me, a glimmer of hope. It showed me that underneath their military issue red team and blue team gear, there was still a real person who knew that this was a game that had no winners, only losers in the end.
Still, it wasn’t until I received a text message from my, then friend (now girlfriend) Kelly in December of 2015 that I began to see not only hope, but a path to reach it. In between screaming at the TV while watching the NFL and entering more DraftKings fantasy football lineups, I saw her text.
“Hey Chris! I know you’re not very interested in politics right now, but can you do me one favor? Pretty please? Just watch this one video of Bernie Sanders and let me know what you think!” it read, leaving me feeling both obligated and annoyed.
I most likely thought to myself, “Sure Kelly, I’ll watch it, and then I’ll let you know all of the reasons you’re just falling for a new puppet with the same master as all the others”
That moment would become the biggest turning point I had ever experienced in my 33 years of life. As I watched the first Bernie Sanders speech, and then another and another and another, I felt like a volunteer firefighter who had just heard the station bell start ringing. The difference is that I was already well aware of the fire, but at that moment I suddenly learned that I wasn’t the only one who was ready to work together to put it out.
Within the next week, I had already made my first donation to Bernie’s 2016 Presidential campaign, and I had begun to make phone calls for the campaign to potential voters in early primary states. I was fired up and ready to go. How could anybody listen to this man speak without the illusion of left vs. right that we had been brainwashed to constrain ourselves in, shattering right before their very eyes?
The fire I was feeling caused me to find a new enemy of democracy that I had only been somewhat conscious of previously. As a society, we have developed a set of etiquette rules that are rigorously enforced about when and where “political conversation” is acceptable. As I quickly found out, the list of unacceptable venues often includes everything from a gathering of friends, or a local bar, to almost any other setting in which two or more people are in a position to engage each other verbally.
This presented quite a hurdle, and frankly the lack of acceptable venues for political discussion hasn’t improved all that much over the last 4 years. The problem is that it only takes one person to decide that a topic counts as political and that the continued discussion of that topic makes them uncomfortable. Once one person speaks up, others tend to give in out of a desire for social accord, rather than democratic confrontation.
What sort of political revolution can come to fruition without political discussion? This is still one of the biggest concerns I have to this day. Favoring the perceived security of political ignorance and apathy over the discomfort of true democratic conversation and debate has been, and continues to be, one of the greatest threats to the survival of our democracy.
Fortunately it also seems to be changing at an increasingly rapid pace as the largest grassroots movement in our modern political history continues to reach tipping point after tipping point. More and more people are seeing political discussion as a necessary part of living in a democratic society. Some out of shock at the reality TV sociopath that we let into the Oval Office, and others out of a belief for the first time that transformational change is possible.
The Red vs. Blue dynamic still exists, but it’s increasingly only the echo we hear ringing out across the land from those who are still plugged in to the mainstream media and two-party political establishment.
On Twitter for example, the “divide and conquer” strategy is becoming more and more of an unnatural and forced behavior engaged in by those with blue check marks and transparently fake mass-managed accounts. There are less and less examples of parroting divisive propaganda from real humans; the kind that check their Twitter notifications when they have a moment of solitude in their demanding day-to-day lives.
Throughout all the noise, there has been one voice that has refused to back down, refused to compromise our dignity and refused to accept the raw deal that our headfirst dive into the waterless pool of capitalism has left us with. There has been one voice imploring us to understand that what we need to not only survive, but to thrive, is not only possible, but has already been earned and then stolen from us in a calculated scheme to disconnect “The People” from the power that we represent.
That voice is the voice of Bernie Sanders. Bernie has changed the entire political landscape of America by running around this country telling us that real change is possible, and that the only way real change can happen is if we come together by the millions and demand it. Bernie has shown us that the government isn’t something to blame for our problems, it’s a tool for us to wield collectively in order to turn our problems into opportunities.
Bernie is the only Presidential candidate who has been calling Climate Change the greatest threat to our national security (and our planet!) since 2016. While others have adopted much of his rhetoric, their sincerity is belied by their incremental approaches that do more to attempt to pacify the upper-middle class, while protecting the profits of fossil fuel companies.
You name an issue and I can show you how only one candidate has refused to waver, constantly standing up for the principles of human dignity. All the while, billionaires spend massive sums of money misrepresenting and slandering his unimpeachable character.
The truth is, Bernie Sanders doesn’t represent either side in the game of political football that has been taking place for the last 50+ years. Bernie Sanders represents an escape from the illusion that moving back and forth across the same 100 yards of political grass is going to get us any closer to where we all know we need to be.
Deep down we already know this. The sooner we all hang up our cleats, stop looking at the scoreboard and redefine what winning means, the sooner we can wake up from the American Dream, and achieve the American Vision of life, liberty and justice for all.