I’m an old guy, in my eighth decade of life. I was once a young firebrand during my fourth decade in life. I’ve been in my lifetime apolitical, a conservative, a radical/revolutionary, a moderate, and a liberal/progressive person. I remember how all of those ways of being felt. I am hoping to shed some light on the current debate within the Democratic Party about who should lead it.
My dad was a good-hearted “John Wayne” type Republican and my mom, having lived in poverty, was a New Deal Democrat. But they both liked Eisenhower, if that gives you any clue. As a shy, smart, in-the-closet kid, I basically ignored the political process. I had enough problems to deal with just finding myself.
But I did find myself being attracted to other men, and I did find that I was basically a truth-teller. I just had to get up the gumption to move myself to where I needed to be. I solved the truth-teller part of the equation first, by becoming a professor at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, where I taught, researched and served various aspects of education at the local, state and national levels.
My political education followed a different path. I became friends with two social scientists who awakened me from my complacent slumber in the state of white straight male privilege into a more radicalized perspective on the need for civil rights advances for women, people of color and other disadvantages. Also I was fortunate that in the early 1970s gay student groups were exploding across the United States. I became friends with a fearless student gay activist on my campus, and I recognized that I was being called to the courageous work that he was doing in trying to educate people to the oppression of gay people.
I spent the next ten years actively campaigning on my campus for equal rights for gays and lesbians (this was before widespread awareness of transgender and intersex issues). I also supported my progressive colleagues in their quest for other forms of civil rights. This background of mine today gives me a good perspective on many of the people who not only support Bernie Sanders for Democratic representative for President, but find that they cannot support Hillary Clinton. I became aware that the justice system was completely broken with regard to rights for gays and lesbians and felt I had to damn caution and protest on principle. I could no longer “be reasonable and wait my turn” as we had been doing for an entire Century.
In fact, there are some times in some people’s lives when they feel they simply must stand up and be counted on a principle of justice, even though they may not have complete experience or knowledge of the consequences of their actions. I believe that we should rejoice that this phenomenon exists. It is essential to improving the lot of the commonality, especially in a country that at least by name and by Constitution is a representative democracy.
If you are a person who has never stood up to an opponent when the cards were stacked against you, I would recommend the experience. We all need to learn to live in an increasingly frightening world in a fearless way. Learning to do this while also practicing being compassionate with your fellow struggling human being is even more of a challenge. I have done both these things, and I do not face the future fearfully, but rather rejoicing in my own personal strength.
All this said, however, it’s true that the system is and has been rigged in favor of rich white males, for so long and so intently that the system is truly broken. Bernie is right that it cannot be fixed without a revolution. So why did I vote for Hillary in the primary? I will answer that question in a moment, but first I need to make a crucial observation.
From my point of view, neither Democratic candidate and certainly not the Republicans are anything but conservative when it comes to addressing the issue of climate change. I’m not going to take the time to spell it out here, but if you don’t know that there’s only the slimmest of chances that human life on this planet will survive more than 10,000 years, then you’ve had your head in a very dark place. Just study it, and you will agree. It’s clear to me that the world’s nations will have to find a way to radically change and work together to solve this problem, if in fact it is solvable.
What is broken about the system is not just the politics of the thing. What is broken is that the cycle of harvesting the earth’s resources, manufacturing products designed to be obsolete, and the consumption and disposal of these items is destroying the earth. Fast. And, there is not a politician running for President today that sees that growth is no longer a viable goal to solve problems. Seeking growth is enhancing the earth’s destruction. Rather, we must set as criteria the survival and thriving of the earth, the sharing of existing resources and monitoring of the earth’s human and other populations.
Now I’m not so dumb that I think Clinton or Sanders should be running on such a platform. Lemmings don’t know that they’re going over a cliff, they just follow along. What I do think is that the revolution that Sanders seeks will not only not occur with his election, but this “tear down and rebuild with the support of millions” will simply not fly. Clearly, Clinton knows how to broker deals, and wants to build on what Obama has started, and it is an amazing start, in my opinion. I’m not blind to the fact that she has a hawkish record; that I don’t like.
But I also think that the Republicans have held out just about as long as they can, they have lost all credibility with most thinking people. If the Democrats win the Presidency again, Republicans will have to change their tactics. Things will move left again. I want a President who has progressive goals but who will work to build coalitions and settle for compromise. Bernie is running on a no-compromise platform.
We could dicker about all the bad things that are said about Clinton, but that is being done well enough already. There is one thing that is not being debated enough. Clinton will be the first woman to be President. I know many say “but not this woman;” I won’t change those minds. But here is my main point: the woman is qualified, and we simply need to break the back of the male monopoly on the Presidency. Male privilege MUST fail, or we are never going to move beyond “Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.” This is it, this would be the ultimate shattering of the glass ceiling. This country would never be the same. This would be a true revolution, not just an imagined one.
We are slowly dying of testosterone poisoning. Men as a group can’t help it, they like being in control and they will fight and kill to stay in control. Women as a group like sharing responsibility. They are wired that way. Of course, I know all about the normal distribution and that within group variance often exceeds between group variance. But you cannot tell me that the struggle for civil rights in this country and in the world has not in large part been a struggle against white straight male privilege.
And ultimately I think shattering the glass ceiling will bring us closer to working with other countries to bring about a global solution to climate change, Hillary’s vote for war on Iraq notwithstanding.
Oh yeah, and I do have to be honest about this one. I have absolutely no rational defense for it, and admit that it’s just my personal whim. This woman has given her entire life in the service of this country. I’ve been with her all the way. None of us really know her heart, though we do know that she’s a consummate politician, and such people will say and do things from time to time to stay in power that stink a little bit. Hey, that doesn’t offend me. I believe it is possible for a woman to be not only intensely political and ambitious and at the same time committed to bringing about liberal values wherever she can. She’s worked, she’s endured, she’s waited, she’s cooperated. It’s time.
But like I said, if Bernie should win, I’m there with him 100%.