My Journey from Hillary Gal to Bernie Bro
I have never been a particularly political person, but that is probably because no one really challenged my viewpoints…Until recently. Politics are about debate, after all, and if you are stuck in your ways, it sometimes takes another person’s initially seemingly insane and irrational perspective to get you unstuck.
My friend Phil, who is (for reasons now elucidated to me) a die-hard Bernie fan, a member of the “left-wing” movement may have changed my politics a little.
Now, I was never all for Hillary, as a lot of people (e.g. women) were during the 2016 election; to be honest, I didn’t particularly love anything about her, but my thought process was this: she seemed to be, at the time of the 2016 elections, the only viable alternative to Trump.
Thinking back as to why I was motivated enough to vote for her: She was Hillary Clinton. We knew her. She was (and still is) married to Bill Clinton. She was a former Senator for New York. Meanwhile, I hadn’t even heard of Bernie Sanders before he started campaigning.
She also held a lot of socially liberal values that I happen to agree with, especially in terms of women’s reproductive rights; she was pro-immigration, pro-choice, wanted to expand background checks for gun sales, wanted to raise minimum wage, and she seemed at least fairly knowledgeable in the realm of foreign policy, which was a comforting thought, given that we have the extreme opposite in office right now.
Lastly, she was a woman. Not just any woman, but a smart, capable, qualified woman. I felt comfortable having her represent my gender as potentially the first female presidential candidate from a major party. That may sound stupid but then again, so is the patriarchy in many respects.
I still don’t know all of the details of Hillary’s platform. I don’t know the details of anyone’s platforms, including those of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, even Barack Obama, to be honest. I don’t keep up enough with politics to know that. I know, morally speaking, what I believe in, and I vote for whomever I think adheres to those values the most.
In 2016, my impressions of Bernie Sanders were: Who is this guy with a raspy voice? is he a member of the Green Party? why is he so liberal? Could he actually win? It’s cool that he’s focusing so much on income and wealth inequality…Wait, is he a socialist? Is he a Marxist?!
I didn’t, and still don’t really know how to process his stance on repealing tax deductions that benefit hedge funds and corporations, and raising taxes on capital gains and the top 1%. In theory, on the one hand, that sounds good, because wealth shouldn’t be so concentrated at the top percentile of society, but on the other hand, maybe from an economic standpoint this wouldn’t be helpful to the economy. Maybe it wouldn’t benefit society as a whole? I don’t know enough about macroeconomics to be able to come to a definitive conclusion on that.
All of that aside, a certain person began sending me articles and poking holes in my arguments about why Hillary Clinton was a better choice than Bernie Sanders. In retrospect it is easier to say that Bernie Sanders would have been able to beat Trump, but no one, at least in my socio-economic “bubble,” really thought that was going to happen. And I was too busy reeling over Trump’s win and mourning Obama’s exit, to really think about why I had rejected Bernie Sanders so quickly.
I realized my hesitancy in supporting Bernie was exactly that — hesitancy, and honestly, maybe fear. Hillary seemed like the safer bet. Clearly, she wasn’t safe at all. Clearly that hesitancy was resting on a slightly shaky naive illusion of the state of politics in this country (e.g. who would have anticipated mass hysteria at the idea of Hillary having a private email server, or Russians hacking and trolling). I started reading more about Middle America, the extreme poverty among both black people and white people, opioid addiction and other afflictions in the low and (disappearing) middle classes.
I then realized I had not been optimistic about the future, at all. Voting for Bernie might have meant I was more optimistic about the future, albeit more realistic about the present state of politics, while voting for Hillary basically equated to voting for what was familiar, known, safe…What’s wrong with being idealistic? What’s wrong with pushing expectations? Why not believe in a society that is more equal, as Bernie Sanders proposed? I was never against him, or his principles — I just didn’t see them getting very far. But maybe with Congress after the midterm elections, it’s possible. Maybe I should validate my own ability to have an opinion and an optimistic outlook. Perhaps I have to let go, and just let myself embrace what I actually, deep down, do believe, but never thought was possible. Maybe I just have to “keep calm and love the left.”