I'd love to see a woman become the president of these United States. I supported Shirley Chisholm for the office in 1972. Believe me, if Elizabeth Warren or Barbara Lee were in the running, I'd be writing a very different essay.
I'm a feminist. A mom. A grandmother. I've been married to the same man for decades. I'm a small business owner. A home owner. A college graduate. I am a natural-born citizen of the United States of America. I'm lots of things that I'm sure can be plotted on a graph someplace to tell interested parties what I'm likely to buy or if I'll vote a particular way.
I'm also a lifelong left-of-center voter and a lifelong Democrat. This hasn't always been an easy combination. There hasn't been a President of the United States that was left enough for me since Franklin D. Roosevelt, not that I was around to experience his administration first hand. I'm not that old. All of us have benefited from the radical programs started while FDR was in office: minimum wage and other labor laws, the social security program, the enormous public works projects that not only built schools, dams, and public works of art, but employed a nation buffeted by the worst economic disaster we've ever had.
At the moment, we're pulling ourselves out of the second worst economic disaster we've ever had. Some of us are doing better. We managed to hang on to our houses, we weathered the tough times, maybe by leaning on our credit. President Obama's stimulus program made a positive difference for some of us, with COBRA subsidies and extended unemployment benefits. Thankfully, there's been a recovery, but over 30% of that recovery has gone to the people with the top 1% of incomes. The rest went to the other 99%, many of whom are still suffering.
We haven't seen this kind of income inequality in the USA since right before the Great Depression. We also had a serious environmental crisis back then. You don't have to dig very deep to find that income inequality was a contributing factor to both the Dust Bowl and the Depression. There was also a looming fascist movement in various places in the world at the time. Just sayin'. The parallels between then and now are stark.
Cartoon by Tom Toro, visit tomtoro.com
If we think we're not headed for another terrible economic crisis if we stay on this path, we're fooling ourselves. It's still the economy, stupid, to paraphrase the first Clinton (Bill) campaign's focus point.
I've tried to find what Ms. Clinton has to say about income inequality. Searches suggest that she prefers the term “income opportunity”. To me, this indicates that she does not fully appreciate the seriousness of a problem that is at the root of so many of our other problems. It's not surprising, given the circles she moves in. I'd like to think that she knows that opportunity alone will not cure what ails us, but it's hard to tell.
I have a pretty clear picture of the type of society I want to live in, and could be most proud of. It's not some impossible dream. A lot of it we've had here in the not-so-distant past, like affordable public education, and public investment in infrastructure. Other things, like wages high enough to live on, universal access to health care, and time enough off from work to deal with emergencies like, say, having a child, are standard in practically all developed (aka “Western”) countries. Countries with economies much smaller than ours.
I'm not a fan of the “every-'man'-for-themselves”, pay as you go society. Part of the reason for that is that I am one of the Baby Boom generation (very tail end, thanks) and most of us benefited from a tax structure that insured that schools were good, roads, bridges, and airports were shiny and new, and public libraries were all over the place. I was able to pay my University of California tuition from my minimum wage job, without any help from my parents. For reference, minimum wage was less than $2 an hour back then. Such a thing is impossible today. My generation had it pretty good in a lot of ways*. I'm angry when I see people my age telling the millennials that they should just have a little grit, that they are too pampered, that they expect to have things handed to them. It's just the newest version of the “kids these days” refrain, only not as funny. What it really comes down to is “I got mine, you're on your own.” It's despicable.
For me, the primary is rarely about choosing the party presidential candidate, because the primary happens so late in California. That little detail has usually been decided for us by states that vote earlier. It's nice that this year the largest state in the union might have some impact on that decision. It's exciting to see things still this close this late in the race. I am delighted that a candidate that aligns with my politics is still in a national race, for the first time ever in my voting career!
So, yeah, I'm voting for Bernie Sanders, the candidate that shares my vision of the best path for our society. He isn't telling me what I want to hear. He's been saying the same things for decades. He's been consistent and unwavering on the issues that I think are most important.
But wait, there's more!
The primary isn't the general election. The primary is when we tell our party what we want from them. The general election is when we rally behind our nominee. I'd love to see Bernie become the POTUS, but that's not the only reason to vote for him. When the Democratic National Convention meets to choose our party's presidential candidate next month, it will also decide what the party stands for. The priorities of the party are spelled out in the party platform. The delegates vote to approve what will become the tenets of the party for the next four years.
I want the Democratic party to stand for more than “Hey, we're not as bad as Trump”. That's a laudable goal and everything, but it sets the bar way too low.
I want the party to pledge itself to build access to quality education, improve our infrastructure, and combat economic injustice. These are the things I think we need to strengthen our country. I'd rather the party be beholden to the interests of our citizens as a whole than to corporate interests and the extremely wealthy. Is that controversial? If it is, then we have a real problem.
IMO, the best way to get the platform that reflects the best hope for our nation is to send as many votes to Bernie as we possibly can. Like any other institution, the party will only move in the direction its members demand.
Let's tell it what we want, what we really, really want!
*I'm not saying everything was better then. It clearly wasn't. Some things — a lot of things — are better in this country now than they've ever been. There have been a lot of beneficial cultural shifts and there's less litter, for instance. Also, we have internet now!
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