Tuesday, July 26, 2016
The first night of the Democratic National Convention was a bit mind blowing. While some things were not surprising (Elizabeth Warren, Corey Booker and Michelle Obama all gave well received, fiery speeches), the protests and booing of Hillary Clinton, coming just a week after similar protests against Donald Trump at the Republican party convention, reveals a fracturing of the two party system. So what happened? Aren't the Democrats the party of grown ups? Well, the shaky truce between Bernie Sanders supporters and Clinton supporters was thrown in disarray when thousands of hacked emails revealed a clear bias at the top of the Democratic party for Clinton over Sanders. Although Democratic chairman Debbie Wasserman Shultz stepped down over the controversy, the damage was done, and Bernie supporters were outraged, going so far as to boo Sanders himself when he endorsed Clinton.
Some pundits have compared these conventions to the infamously violent 1968 Democratic convention, but it should be pointed out that that anger was over the Viet Nam war; this anger is more generalized, more about the national mood.
There is a definite feeling on both sides that the poor and middle class have been shafted and unheard by both parties, making populist risings like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders possible. We shouldn't forget that the economic crisis of 2008 was literally the worst since the great depression of 1929, and that while economic recovery has occurred, in terms of job growth, wages have mostly stagnated. The interesting thing is that both sides are angry and lashing out, but at different targets. This is mostly because of the generational divide between Trump's people and Sanders's; Trump's are older white people who remember the days when a high school education could lead to a middle class factory job, and they blame companies sending jobs overseas and (sadly) undocumented immigrants. Sanders's are young people who graduated from college after the crash and entered a terrible starting job market with heavy student loans; they blame wall street and the big banks for the crash, and deride Clinton as a sell out for taking money from wall street and giving paid speeches at big banking firm Goldman Sachs.
While the anger on both sides is understandable, it sadly shows people reaching for candidates with easy sounding solutions that will be almost impossible to actually implement: sorry Trump fans, building a 1200 mile wall with Mexico and getting them to pay, along with deporting 11 million people, will not be as easy as your leader says it will. And while my sympathies lie more with Sanders people, let's face it, he would have faced the same brick wall resistance from Republicans in congress that Barack Obama did. Yes I want America to have universal health care like every other first world nation, but I also know that it won't happen overnight.
So to the Sanders supporters I would say this: I get your anger, but not voting for Hillary Clinton (or even turning to -gulp!- Trump) is not going to help the country. The next president will have at least one supreme court pick, and letting Trump make that choice should be a truly terrifying prospect to any right thinking progressive. Instead I would encourage them to channel that anger into opposing Trump and making sure that Clinton remains the progressive that she is currently claiming to be once she's elected. And of course the biggest problem with modern progressives is our failure to turn out in the mid term elections; remember that we have a definite separation of power in our country, and a president with a hostile congress can wind up in the same quagmire, as, well, Obama has since 2010. Support progressive congress people too!