Berning Questions?

“Let The Revolution Begin!” That is the first thing I heard upon entering the Duluth Entertainment & Convention Center for my first ever political rally last week.  But it wasn’t spoken by the man of the hour, Bernie Sanders, or any of his rabid supporters.  It was the familiar sounds of Flogging Molly’s aptly titled song “Revolution”.  Of course, it wasn’t the last time I would hear those words that day. Or the next day. Or the next week. Or any of the weeks or months before it for that matter. Even if you’re not #FeelingtheBern it’s hard not to have heard the battle cry for a political revolution. No, the hard part is actually getting revved up for it.

Obviously some people are eager to revolt; judging by the large crowds at most of Sanders’s rallies or by his near victory in the Iowa Caucus, people are digging what Larry David seems to be saying. The weird thing is: I am too. I always have. Long before Sanders even announced that he was running for President I’ve bitched and moaned about taxing the rich. Hate Wall Street? Sure do. Think that all politicians are corrupted by big donors? Absolutely. Looking for another Democratic candidate that isn’t as slimy as Hillary? You betcha.  After months of listening to Bernie Sanders, there’s nearly nothing that I disagree with him about.  Still, after listening to the man talk in person for the first time I left the rally not inspired but questioning. What’s really the point of all of this?

It’s not that I think Clinton is guaranteed to win.  Sanders has shown he’s at least somewhat electable, and isn’t not voting for someone because you don’t think they can win a self-defeating, self-fulfilling prophecy? If enough people value income inequality as high as they do on social media Sanders should at least stay in the race for a long time.  But again, why should we care? Well, morally its obvious why we should care. And if Sanders gets the nod, great. But if Hillary does, I’m still going to vote for her even if she is a pandering, two-faced, dishonest, uh, politician. Why vote for Hillary if I don’t trust her? Because its important to vote for someone that you hope will do the thing that you want over the people that you know are trying to do the things you don’t want.  No amount of email scandals will get me to vote for a party that favors conservative “values” instead.  Plus there’s that whole Supreme Court nomination factor.  It’s inevitable that I will be choosing between the two. But I don’t think I’m lukewarm on Sanders just because its fait accompli that Clinton is going to win the nomination. I’m just not certain that Sanders is the most qualified to run the country.

It seems intuitive that you would vote for the person that most represents your views, but maybe that’s not actually the smart thing to do.  I mean, I wouldn’t vote for myself for president.  Yes, I whole-heartedly believe that Bernie and myself are right that the rich people in America are getting away with murder.  But I still don’t know the first thing about running this country and I’m not sure that he does either.  Clinton seems more competent to me and that probably shouldn’t be ignored.  If someone gets a job that you’re less qualified for, that’s okay right?  While I’d be pissed if someone I didn’t personally like beat me, I know that I wouldn’t have much of a case just because of my convictions on one particular thing.  I mean, Trump is great because he’s an asshole, calling out some people who deserve it like his fellow Republican candidates.  But he also scapegoats Mexicans and Muslims, make fun of disabled reporters, proposes ridiculous things, uses outdated Charlie Sheen catchphrases, is only rich because he inherited a ton of wealth, and even though he appeals to frustrated working class people he proposes tax plans that favor the rich. I’m sure there are plenty of mildly amusing blowhards to be found at every local bar that will be voting for Trump in an election soon, but it doesn’t mean that choosing someone like you is always smart.

I’d like to think that a vote for Sanders is a more rational one, or at the very least a more informed one.  It’s not because I find myself to be personally alike Senator Sanders, but because I’ve watched the debates, I’ve gone to the rally in Duluth, and I’ve read thousands of pages of political think pieces over the last few months.  Other than the desire for self torture and general boredom killing, I do this because I want to understand what I’m voting for. And I do think I understand not only what Sanders believes but what he’ll do as president if elected, and…. that just makes me questions why I’m doing this all over again.  Will the big banks really be broken up? Will anyone on Wall Street be accountable? Will single payer healthcare become a thing? Will people be able to start earning a living wage? Probably not.  With a Republican Congress there is no chance anything will get done.  But there’s no room for pessimism in a political revolution.

Critics are quick to point out that if Sanders was to be elected and then actually accomplished nothing he has the political revolution thing to fall back on.  He’s admitting now that he can’t do it alone, which if people are as lazy as usual and don’t vote for anything other than President (which apparently is too tough for 40% of the population already) that it won’t matter because despite what Fox News might tell you, the executive office is not a dictatorship.  So basically, a vote for Sanders isn’t just picking the best candidate for the broken system that we have but for one that we’ve imagined in our liberal fairy tale land.  There’s a lot truth to this argument of course: that nothing Sanders pledges will likely come to fruition, at least not in the dramatic ways that he is proposing it.  But… isn’t that true for any candidate? Would Trump really build his glorious wall? Would Cruz really carpet bomb ISIS into oblivion? Would Marco Rubio really further strip abortion rights throughout the US? Actually, he probably would do that.  Don’t vote for Rubio. Even though he seems the most sane and likable he still supports some of the most conservative social policies and also favors tax plans that fellate the rich.

Really you’re not going to consider switching parties and neither am I. So for me, the big question is still Hillary vs Bernie. Poor a 40oz of Olde English out for Martin O’Mally at your earliest convenience.  And this should be an easy decision.  My views align more closely with Sanders’s platform.  So vote for Bernie in the primary and if he loses to Clinton, vote for her in the general.  Even her sliminess isn’t enough to even give a second thought to considering someone as hateable as Ted fucking Cruz.  Still, I’ve got a few weeks until its time to vote, and I’ve got commitment jitters.  Would Bernie really not be as good of a President as Hillary? I mean, they seem to agree on a lot of things.  And Republicans are going to fiercely attack either one because, you know, politics.  I know Clinton is chameleon-ish enough to have shifted left with the rest of the Democrats this year, so is the biggest difference between the two of them just her wonkishness and perceived abilities to tackle everything vs Sanders’s tunnel vision on income inequality. That probably shouldn’t be underestimated. I mean it’s a huge passion issue for me too but I can’t pretend like fixing it is a panacea for all that ails the United States.  Nor can I be certain anything can be done about it, voting revolution or not.

Sanders also doesn’t seem to give a shit about foreign policy, but Clinton, while knowledgeable, is hawkish as hell and would probably just fuck things up too. Is “knowing” really half the battle when what you “know” is against everything that I “know”.   Again I’m torn between valuing experience vs shared personal beliefs vs we’re screwed either way.  Also, does foreign policy really matter when the president gets a slew of advisers, who regardless of party has made horrible mistakes and committed atrocities throughout our entire existence as an international presence? I mean Obama has admittedly given up and just subscribes to the “Don’t Do Stupid Shit” Doctrine, and even that has been a source of clusterfuckery. Sanders seems less likely to get involved in another hopeless war or global conflict or whatever the hell we want to pretend we’re not involved in, but does anyone know for sure if that is the right call?

Really unless an enemy attacks US soil or this conservative-liberal rhetoric battle turns into an actual civil war, do I really give a shit about military policy? Do I think that I know better than people with greater access to information and actual motivation to fix the world’s problems? Probably not. Most Democrats really don’t give a shit, that’s why it hardly gets brought up during the primary season.  On the Republican side they can’t get enough of the anti ISIS fear-mongering, but again I’m not voting for any of those pricks that see bombing civilians as too weak and think the best solution is more bombs. I’m not totally apathetic. I’ve read countless stories on everything that is happening in Syrian. And Iraq. And Yemen.  For some reason I still check out all the articles on North Korea’s probably fake Nuclear program, Putin’s dabbling with poison, and Iran & Saudia Arabia’s blood feud.  But I know that whoever gets into office probably doesn’t have a fucking clue what to do about any of it.  And whatever they decide to do people will still be bitching about both sides of it decades later. What’s the point?

No. Really though. What is the point? My interest in foreign policy or campaign promises still get me one lousy vote. Which is the same amount of lousy votes that is given to some illiterate boob who voted for Trump because they like trucker hats and think “Make America Great Again” actually means something.  I don’t know, maybe there is something there.  It doesn’t matter if Trump actually bans the Muslims that haunt their poor xenophobic dreams or if he emphatically tells China to go fuck itself, it’s really the symbolism.  The idea of standing up to, well, whatever the hell people think Trump is standing up to.  Personally, I think he’s a fraud who is convincing dummies to vote against their own self interests, but hey, that’s politics right? Me though? I’m supposed to be an informed voter, fully aware of Bernie’s policies. And I am.  And I support them for the most part, even if that means I’m getting taxed more or that his single payer proposal would probably eliminate my current private healthcare job. Shit. Beliefs really can trump self interest. Maybe I’m a dummy too.

Still, it’s important to stand up for what you believe in. I know that everyone having free healthcare and tuition is a pipe dream, that Congress is never going to approve a federal minimum wage that doubles what people are making now, and that big business will continue to run the world until the planet is destroyed and only the super rich escape in their private rockets.  But I appreciate a candidate speaking out against these things all the same.  It’s the symbolism of someone in politics actually giving a shit.  If everyone is promising you things that won’t happen, you might as well support the person promising you things you’d actually want.

But its hard to not be discouraged by the whole thing.  None of this will probably make a difference.  Which is exactly how you’re not supposed to feel if you want things to change. Fuck.  But I can’t help it.  It’s like this sinister voice telling me to give up before I try.  To not get invested because I have no control.  It’s particularly weird to feel this as a sports fan.  Every year we cheer for our teams, spending time and money dedicating ourselves to them when the chances of everything going right is nearly impossible.  And yeah if they lose, you’ll still have other teams to cheer for, or more likely cheer against, because sports and politics aren’t all or nothing.  But you don’t give up on your team half way through the season because you think they are just going to lose in the end.  You don’t turn your back and start routing for another team (or candidate) because you think they have a better chance of winning the whole thing.  You know there are reasons why others don’t like your team, you know there are things that your team just can’t do well, but if you want them to win, you at least wait until they are eliminated before jumping ship.  But clinging to hopes and prayers vs actual ability may be better left in sports. Maybe. I don’t know.

I read about sports just as much as I do about politics and I’ve questioned lately why I give a shit about either one.  Whether you win an election or the World Series people are probably going ask what have they done for me lately about 5 minutes after your victory. It’s thankless, and even the people that supposedly support you question every move you make. There are always candidates or teams that are underdogs and most often they fade away and are forgotten in a year or two.  And people really love when it the favorites crash and burn.  But in sports it’s supposed to just be entertainment.  If your team loses, ah well, try again next season.  Hopefully even in defeat they gave you something to follow along with for a few months.  Politics is supposed to have more meaning, with the stakes like healthcare, wages, and civil rights having more significance than how many home runs someone hit.  But the more you read about it, the more you feel like politics is just a game, just a lot of hot takes and nothing that matters long term.  Just manufactured story lines, over-sized characters, and just a general distraction to the everyday bullshit.  Ideally getting involved with politics would provide an opportunity to change not just distract from the everyday bullshit of your life, but, come on…politics.

Bernie Sander’s political revolution is supposed to be an alternative to the way politics currently work; a reason to believe that it’s not just bullshit or entertainment. And while I don’t feel like he’s just blowing smoke up our collective liberal ass, I’m not sure I believe in its potential either.  Do I believe that I can get over my confidence struggle in Sanders’s abilities to lead and cast a vote for him in the primary? Yeah, I think I could manage that much.  Because for all the build up of Clinton’s credentials, she’s carrying some serious flaws of her own.  I believe that Sanders might actually be the best choice.  But do I have the confidence in others to not only get off their ass and vote for Sanders twice in 2016, but also to start giving a shit about other elections?  To really pay attention to economic disparities or look at political proposals and ask something other than how much will my taxes go up? To trust that people want actual change instead of just another disposable cause to hashtag it and forget it? That might be too much for me.  I’m glad it’s not too much for others. People should vote for what they believe in.  I honestly wish I shared the optimism of those “Feeling the Bern”. As Fox Mulder has repeated 40 times over the last few weeks of the X-Files: “I Want To Believe”.  But in reality, I just don’t.  I believe in Bernie, you know, for the most part, but that’s not enough. Because really I don’t believe in everyone else.

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