Last Friday, I had a flashback to election day, 4 November 2008. I was volunteering on the 'No on 8' campaign to stop the hurtful, regressive and reactionary Proposition 8 that sought to add the preposterous notion that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California" to the California Constitution.
It was a day of mixed emotions. Barry O won the presidential election but so did Prop 8. The many young volunteers that worked on 'No on 8' were devastated. It was their first taste of political defeat. They talked back and forth all day as we moved from polling station to polling station about how just our cause and how certain our win. The prejudice behind Prop 8 made no sense to them. Their enthusiasm was infectious. Their true belief in equality was inspirational. Their disappointment was heartbreaking. I left them with the wish that they work through their disillusionment and stay engaged and fight on.
And fight on they did. With the emotional and educational groundwork laid by those older, it was largely the younger generations' enlightened and almost banal attitude of acceptance and inclusion that dissolved the prejudice against marriage equality. Marriage equality became the everyday reality that even the most reactionary of Supreme Courts could not resist (I am glad Scalia was around to taste that defeat). I knew that day in November 2008 that although the young people I had worked with had lost a battle, they would win the war. They did.
I had that same feeling when I looked around the crowd at last Friday's Bernie Sanders rally at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum in San Pedro.
The organizers had expected the maximum crowd that the outdoor area could hold - 2,700. So did I. Doors were opening at 8AM. Not wanting to miss out, I got to the Maritime Museum at Harbor Blvd and 6th Street in San Pedro just after 7AM to find that I was about the 200th person in a very quiet line. I had expected more volume in all respects.
Those first waiting few were a microcosm of the crowd to come. Most under 30, some over 60, few in between.
8AM came and went as the line lengthened and the merchandise paraded past. My favorite was the tee shirt sporting the famous Che Guevara head with a superimposed Bernie face and the slogan "Viva La Revolucion".
Some of the campaign buttons were clever. "Birdie For President" touting the feathered friend that alighted on Bernie's lectern mid-speech a while back. I assume Nike and/or Michael Jordan are supporters given the presence of an 'Air Bernie' button. I was tickled by the progressive pricing model for the buttons - "2 for $5, 3 for $10" was the cry. I had to ask the young man next to me if I had heard the woman selling the buttons correctly.
Having broken the ice with the young man, I proceeded to inform him and his young female companion that I was there to write an article about the rally and asked them if they would mind answering a couple of questions. I promised I wouldn't be using their names so I didn't ask for them. Both are born in the US to Mexican parents. He is 23. She is 20.
He had voted for Obama in 2012. This is her first presidential voting opportunity. Before Bernie, they weren't interested in politics. So what is it about Bernie's platform?
- access to lower cost or free tertiary education
- an easier process for work permits for those wanting to work in the US
- a pathway to citizenship for undocumented aliens
- wages growth and increased benefits for workers
They both realize that Bernie would have trouble getting his platform through Congress but believe he would point the country in the right direction if elected.
If Sanders doesn't secure the nomination, they will both vote for Hillary against Trump. Reluctantly. They listed the same negatives about Hillary that I heard all day from others people I spoke to or heard talking around me:
- She's a liar
- She's corrupt
- She's a friend of Wall St
- She's a corporatist
- She's a warmonger
- She's broken the law by using a private email server so says the State Department
- She says anything to get votes
I asked the couple where they had gotten their information. He had formed his opinion from information off the web or TV channels like CNN. She had gotten most of her information from him.
I asked the young woman if it was important to her that a woman become President. She said yes but not Hillary. I resisted the urge to press further.
The line continued to grow as we got further past the supposed 8AM doors open. We began filing through the security check at about 9AM, and then made our way to the open area right on the harbor to the left of the Maritime Museum. The raised stage with podium and bleachers raised the anticipation of the Bernie experience among the crowding throng of the young in tees and jeans, union members in their colors, families and old lefties. There wasn't a suit or tie or corporate type among us. I felt overdressed in a blue dress shirt and Zegna lace-up leather boots.
With what I thought I were the thousands still in line being slowly security screened at Checkpoint Bernie, I knew were in for a wait (There turned out to be less than half the expected crowd so said the chap in the suit who was running the checkpoint). Once I had found my spot, I asked the guy standing next to me some of the same questions I had asked the young couple in line. Donald from Montclair gave me very similar responses. Donald isn't devoted to any party. He votes with his conscience for those that support the middle class. He supports all of Bernie's platform. With Bernie's almost done, I asked if he vote for Hillary against Trump? No, he would vote for the Green Party. Why? Because California is a safe Democratic state so he would protest against Hillary by voting Green. He listed off the congenital Bernie-supporter complaints about Hillary - corporatist, untrustworthy, not sure whose side is she on, first for something then against like fracking and free trade. Unprompted though, he agreeably informed me that he would vote for Hillary is California was a marginal state.
At around 9.30AM, the Bernie fever spread with an elongated version of the national anthem by a soul singer with a beautiful voice evidenced by the holding of many a note and with the warm up speeches by local union leaders (one in which a speaker assured us that "Bernie wants to make America great again" - I assume he would like that one back). The fever passed with no Bernie but a long lull while we listened to a slightly annoying loop of truncated songs (we were on the road again with Willie Nelson then bern baby bern-ing to "Disco Inferno" then feeling power to the people with Lennon [John, not Vladimir], et al.) as the gloom burnt off revealing wispy white clouds in a gorgeous blue sky and a sun determined to get hotter and hotter. The podium stood invitingly against the blue with three green Evergreen container crane sentinels in the background.
By 11AM, there was still no Bernie or any updates from the organizers. I had been there four hours. With no hat and sore back, I had had just about enough. Relief was stymied by a sighting at the podium. The president of the local International Longshore and Warehouse Union, the main organizers of the event, slipped into us with a rousing tirade about the rigged system and the disappearing middle class and better wages and all for one and one for all before making the announcement we had all been waiting for .... heeeeeere's Bernie!
Bernie graced us with his presence right on 11.15. Fists were raised, Bernie signs were waved, and the enthusiastic but vaguely defeated chant of "Bernie, Bernie, ..." filled the air. I had the odd thought that he looks more like Bernie live than on TV. I am still not sure what that meant.
My next thought was more coherent. It was very soon into the speech that I was convinced that Bernie is in this for the right reasons. He is sincere. He is not on an ego trip. He knows that the only way he has any chance of realizing the changes that he and his supporters believe in is to push Hillary all the way.
He is a compelling speaker. He worked his way through his platform. I won't regurgitate here. Though I would like to mention that he only called out Hillary once and that was for taking Wall St super PAC money. "How can you take on Wall St when you are taking money from Wall St?". There was a lusty round of boos for Secretary Clinton as Sanders refers to her.
Some highlights for me:
"This is the richest country in the history of the world. There is no excuse for the poverty we have in this country."
"There is no excuse for women making 75c on the dollar compared to men."
"We need to demilitarize local police departments."
He gave Trump and his supporters, and the Republican Party a right old kicking.
"We have the ludicrous situation of a billionaire like Sheldon Adelson giving hundreds of millions of dollars to another billionaire like Trump!"
He lampooned the Trump and the other Republican climate change deniers with whom he sits on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.
It was strong stuff until about 25 minutes in when Bernie started to repeat himself. I can understand his need to stretch the speech and entertain the crowd who had lined up and waited all morning. But I was done.
As I made my way through the gathered proletariat, I had mixed feelings. I believe Bernie is genuine and I agreed with everything I had heard. I appreciate that his campaign has called out the rigged US political and economic system for what it is while naming the bad actors who perpetuate and benefit from their warped creation.
I am very optimistic about the ability of the generation of change agents that Bernie has energized to carry forward and realize his agenda. I am sure this is only the beginning of a lifetime of political engagement for many of the young people at the rally. This is a very, very good thing.
But ... its time. Its time for Bernie to put the cue in the rack. Its time to let Hillary Clinton get on with annihilating Donald Trump in November.
I understand the fury among the shrinking middle class and the exploited working class for meaningful change to a system that is stacked against them. Despite her long fight for social and economic justice, many see Hillary as part of that system.
I understand that 'Clinton Fatigue' is almost natural after nearly 30 years of hearing about him, then him and her, and now her.
I understand that Hillary has at times in the past (particularly during the 2008 presidential run) tried to be all things to all people. She is the most unfairly scrutinized and criticized woman in public life that I can remember. Constant attack is bound to make anybody hyper sensitive and to say things that please. Plus she is woman operating in very hostile male territory who must tread carefully and watch what she says during this campaign. Do you really think that the white male power structure wants to give the keys to the kingdom to a woman? It is crystal clear that they have been looking to skewer Hillary since well before she announced her run. As much as they hate it, they would rather have a black man in the White House. As Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook who Inc. magazine called 'arguably the most influential woman in business', was recently quoted in an Inc. piece, "As a country and as a world, we are not comfortable with women in leadership roles ..." I'll say.
Now remember, Hillary has secured more primary votes, more delegates, and almost all the super delegates that the Democratic Party primary system allows. Bernie and his supporters complain that too many independent voters have been deprived of voting in the primaries. It is the Democratic Party primary.
Between her successful legal career, 12 years along side Bill when he was Arkansas governor, 8 years in the White House, 8 years as the senator from New York, and 4 years as a universally admired Secretary of State (outside the US where the admiration or not of the Secretary of State counts), Hillary Clinton is one of the most qualified people ever to run for the presidency.
And unlike Bernie, Hillary is stripped down and ready to go. Bernie hasn't endured anything like the scrutiny of personal belief or public record or job performance that Hillary has been subjected to for the past 25 years. There is no stone unturned in Hillary's life and work. We do not know what the Republicans jackals will find in Bernie's past or present. They have largely kept their powder dry on Bernie's democratic socialism (= communism). Bernie will end up looking like Uncle Joe Stalin but the time they are done.
For me, above all, it is time for a woman to be President of The United States.
I like the way Brendan Quinn put it on the Blue Nation Review website in an April 2015 article:
When a woman takes up the mantle of “Leader of the Free World,” our nation will cross a line, never to return. I’m not saying that Hillary Clinton becoming president will magically create nationwide gender equality, because it won’t. But when we join the ranks of countries like Germany, Denmark, and Chile (and dozens of others) by placing a woman as our Head of State, a new generation will grow up with an altered view of what a woman can do.
When women take on leadership roles, the way women are perceived and talked about changes. In just the last half-century, the way women are discussed in the media has changed dramatically. Because my generation grew up seeing women as senators and governors, (and creating laws that improve the lives of women) we perceive them in a different way than our grandparents. Unfortunately (for now), I can only imagine the discourse of a generation that grew up with a woman in the Oval Office.
Sexism is the ruling "-ism" from which all others corrupt. It is the first we learn as children. That boys and girls are different and, for millenia, boys are better, stronger and more valued that girls. I believe that the education and empowerment of women in the US and across countries and cultures is the key to solving all the problems of the world, be it, economic, social, environmental or religious.
The younger generations are more accepting and more tolerant than any generation before them. They can make the final spiritual leap to full equality and empowerment for all in the US. We have seen their effect on public debate and policy through the acceptance, codifying and ratifying of the marriage equality and marijuana legalization laws across the country. Bernie has energized them. He can now direct that energy to transform the lofty rhetoric into reality. It won't be with him as president. He knows what he must do.
If Bernie is all about solving the real problems we face and blocking the fraudulence and selfishness of Donald Trump and the deformed Republican Party then he must do his part when the time comes. When Hillary is confirmed, he must unequivocally and unconditionally support her candidacy and direct his supporters to do the same in his name. "A vote for Hillary, it is vote for all of us".
Electing Hillary Clinton as President of the United States will not only put the most qualified and experienced and capable candidate in the White House. It will send a message to everyone everywhere that anyone can do anything.