As the primary season kicks into full swing this next week, it’s time for a little reflection.
When I think back over the past almost 30 years of my political life, I can’t remember such a crazy primary season. It’s also become a season where I feel our party has lost its way.
On the surface the Bernie supporters verses Hillary supporters is no shocker. We saw something similar in 2008, and with the rise of social media we can expect this to not change. People are able to air their opinions more freely and to a wider audience now, more than any other point in human history.
On the other side of that, there is something deeper going on which I feel is also much more troubling. It’s something I have been feeling, and news this week really made it much more prevelant.
Yesterday Senator Jeanne Shaheen appeared on MSNBC as a Clinton surrogate. Watch this video and see if you can pick up on what I am.
The part I’m speaking of occurs towards the end, when Sen. Shaheen was asked about Clinton’s speaking fees, to which she responds “Look, it doesn’t matter whether you support that or not. The fact is, that’s in the past, just as Bernie’s socialism, he claims, is in the past.”
On the surface that could seem like a typical response. Maybe a little dig against the Democratic-Socialist, but nothing atypical of a contentious primary season. But when I start putting it into perspective over what I’ve seen this cycle, then it becomes less cynical and more troubling.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before; “You know, I agree with Bernie Sanders much more than Hillary Clinton, but I’m supporting Hillary because she can win the primary and general.” Yes, that is a very common rational I hear from many on team Hillary. Honestly, I can also support that line of thinking, but I also think people believing this need to ask themselves if they truly align more with Bernie or not. I ask that not to start a Hillary/Bernie war, but more as a moment of self-reflection, which is something I’ve always thought Democrats excelled at over our Republican friends. Now I’m not so sure.
When I go back and think more about Sen. Shaheen’s response, as well as comments made attacking Bernie “the socialist”, I can’t help but feel that these surrogates are also attacking me and my beliefs. Let’s put this into practice.
Do you believe in a single payer system, like every other modern country enjoys?
Do you believe in tuition free college like so many other nation’s have?
If you answered yes to one or both of those questions, regardless of the candidate you support, you are a socialist and right now there is one campaign attacking YOU for those beliefs.
But the troubles don’t end there. Again, stop me if you heard this before. “Senator Sanders is doing the Republicans opposition research by attacking her on her Iraq war vote, flip-flopping on TPP, etc.” I can’t even tell you the countless times I’ve heard that, and when I do I think “wow, first time following politics?” Stuff like this has happened in every election since the beginning of time. Elections are dirty, and we can’t change that. It’s just the nature of the business and of us as a being.
However, let’s think about that in broader terms. Attacks, like the one I mention above, aren’t on a single policy, vote, speech or anything. They are much broader. They are on the very ideals that make many of us Democrats. If Bernie pointing out a flip-flop on Hillary is opposition research for the eventual Republican candidate, attacking the very ideal shared by many Democrats is opposition research for Republicans in any race for years to come, regardless of candidate.
The word socialism has had a long history of animosity associated to it in out nation over the past century, but that is starting to change. People are starting to realize that socialism really isn’t that bad. And if you’re a Democrat, even if you hate the word “socialism”, something made you a Democrat and most likely that something are ideals that are based in socialism. So is it best for not only our party, but our own souls to have the likely Democratic nominee for President attacking the basis of those beliefs through proxy? Will that help us build a bigger, stronger, more reliable Democratic base in the future, or will it end up eroding our core beliefs, by giving fuel to the other party? Sadly, I think the answer to that lies in the latter.