After the Bernie rally, I approached what was left of the crowd just to feel the vibe. I was soon waved down by my neighbor who was there with a friend. My neighbor thought Bernie’s speech was interesting.
And her friend chimed in “But I wonder whether he’s really qualified to be president.” (This was one of Hillary’s most recent talking points.)
In our conversation, my neighbor shuddered at the thought of a Trump presidency which she saw as the worst of all possible evils. She wondered who would do better against Trump, Hillary or Bernie. I told her, that actually Bernie had polled better against Trump.
My neighbor’s friend said that it was fine to talk about the changes Bernie wanted to make, “but how was he actually going to make any of that happen?”
I told her that I felt, “At the very least it was time to start having a conversation about changing the status quo.” “In the aftermath of the 2007 financial crisis,” I said “there was very little attempt to fix the system.” “Dodd-Frank was just a band aid on a system that needed to be completely reformed.” “Wasn’t it time to start holding people accountable?”, I asked.
“Yea, yea, yea,” my neighbor’s friend said, “but that’s what Bernie just said, I already heard that.” She pivoted, clearly irritated and said, “As a woman, I just think it’s time to have a woman President.”
“I can understand why you would feel that way,” I said. “It’s really wrong that we’ve never had a woman president, but it’s also time to think about changing the status quo of our unequal economic system.”
And she pivoted again and blurted out, “I just can’t deal with this now.” And she quickly turned to leave. My neighbor, followed her, even though she had seemed to be enjoying our discussion. In an attempt to close out our conversation, my neighbor turned and said, “Let’s all say a big prayer for the country.”
In this year’s New York primary, I’ve seen this same scenario play out dozens of times in slightly different ways. I’ve worn a Bernie shirt in my hood and got many puzzled looks from my neighbors. I’ve knocked on doors for the Bernie campaign and gotten looks like: “Why are you here? Isn’t Hillary the nominee? Can you please go away?” And people who I’ve known for years have abruptly ended conversations and indicated that to question the inevitability of Hillary’s candidacy would come to no good.
And by and large, the news media has taken much the same tact. No matter the result of each primary, each story seems to begin with a Hillary inevitability statement. And looking back, they took this tact even before the first vote was cast. And more recently Hillary’s surrogates and even Hillary herself have expressed extreme frustration that her candidacy could even contain a question mark, like it’s an absurdity that the primary process is even continuing.
If anyone deserves to be president, it’s Hillary. From a resume point of view, her qualifications, are more impressive than any of the other candidates. She has groomed herself for the Presidency to be her most impressive success in a long line of impressive successes. But still the notion that now it’s her turn, the notion that anyone actually deserves to be President is unsettling to me. And what perhaps bothers me most is that so many of her supporters share the view that her candidacy is inevitable, that now it’s simply her turn.
I have no doubt that Hillary will make a good president and help bring about progressive changes that I personally believe in. And I truly feel that it’s long past due that this country has had a woman president. But still I question if she’s really the one we need at this moment.
In my lifetime, I’ve seen very few moments that held the possibility of rapid progressive change, very few game changers that could change our core values, that could change the way we do business, that could give the status quo a really good shake. And in Bernie, with the excitement he has generated, not just in young people, but in a wide swath of the American fabric, I see such a game changer. In Bernie, I see a rare opportunity to effect something more than slow incremental change. And I feel a real need to seize this moment.
One wonders under what circumstances a Trump presidency could be possible. While my own crystal ball is rusty, I do know that Trump’s odds increase when his supporters begin to turn off their minds, to no longer check the facts, to forget the practical implications of Trump’s fantasy solutions as well as to dismiss the possibility that anyone else could be theÂ candidate. At this point it’s easy to start blocking out inconvenient facts, like the rules of the primary process or that the nomination is not yet a done deal.
As a Democratic partisan, it’s tempting for me to believe that Trump’s supporters are simply uninformed. But because an important part of their psychology is their belief in the man rather than an analysis of his ideas, I’d have to concede that much the same thing is currently going on with Hillary supporters. Both camps seem to be marching lock-step behind their candidates and mentally blocking out any new information. This makes it easy for both sides to stop paying attention, to stop listening and yes to become steadily more uninformed.
In this political cycle, it’s disturbing that there are so many similarities in the way the faithful are supporting their front-runners. In my opinion, the same mental submissiveness that could be a gateway to a Trump presidency has a hold on far too many Hillary supporters. And history tells us that this type of blind support can easily lead to mistakes on a grand scale.
So Hillary supporters should at least take notice. They would do well to realize the extent that they are emulating the mindset of their opponents. And they need to find a way to keep their minds just a little more open, to exercise just a little more caution, and to express just little more humility. And while I concede that the path ahead for Bernie has become more of a long shot, the nomination is still not a done deal. So listen to me Hillary supporters, you need to find a way to “just deal with this now.”
And while we’re at it let’s take my neighbor’s advice and “Say a big prayer for the country.” Mere humans seem all too prone to making bad choices, even for what they truly believe are all of the right reasons.