You see, idealism detached from action is just a dream. But idealism allied with pragmatism, with rolling up your sleeves and making the world bend a bit, is very exciting. It’s very real. It’s very strong.
It’s not exactly a surprise.
He’s been hinting at it for a while.
So, earlier this week when Bernie Sanders announced that he’s running for president in 2020, well, I wasn’t exactly caught unawares.
Huzzah! shouted Sander’s supporters! Bernie or bust!
Motherfucker! swore everybody else. Not this asshole again!
And the fight was joined.
I was lucky. Sort of. I take Tuesdays off to spend with my wife and so I was mostly away from social media for Announcement Day and thus didn’t have to watch the inevitable screaming shitfest that began the moment Sanders declared his intention.
I came home to find my inbox overflowing like a ripe Port-O-Pottie.
That trend has continued. This morning I quit reading at a hundred emails asking what I thought.
What are you gonna to do, Jim? What are you going to do?
Will you vote for Bernie? Will you vote against him? What are you going to do?
What am I going to do?
Same as I always do. Watch. Listen. Question. Acquire information. Analyze.
And then act when the times comes.
But this isn’t the time, not yet.
Will I vote for Bernie?
Will I vote against Bernie?
We’re getting far, far ahead of ourselves here.
I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t like Bernie Sanders.
I don’t like him. I don’t like how he looks. He’s like some old hippy refugee from the 60s, probably reeks of Werther’s Originals and burning rope. I don’t like his stupid hair. I don’t like his snotty New England accent. I don’t like…
Those aren’t valid dislikes? Those are just personal attacks on his appearance? Those are strawmen I just made up? My complaints have nothing to do with his actual positions or platform? I’m not being rational?
Well, yes. You’re absolutely correct.
Why should Bernie get any special treatment? It was okay to hate “Shillary” for her shrill Hillary voice, for her appearance, for her pantsuits, for her age, for the person she presumably was back in the 60’s, wasn’t it?
I mean, wasn’t it?
No. Huh. Well, okay, fine. Then I hate him because I don’t think he’s authentic enough. Yes, that’s right. He’s not authentically an old white Jewish socialist. He doesn’t really believe in free medicine for all, his promise of free college is eyewash, it’s just a con to get my vo…
Yes, that’s what I said. Authenticity. Bernie ain’t got no authenticity, man. I mean, we can determine Kamala Harris’s authenticity as a woman of color from her awkward use of hot sauce, right? That’s fair, isn’t it? Why should Bernie get a pass? I wanna see this guy eat some potato salad.
What do you mean that’s silly?
Okay, geez. Fine. Fine.
Fine. I hate Bernie because he’s too …
For the love of … what now?
How much longer am I going to do this?
Well, that depends on how much more of this silliness it takes for me to make my point. I mean we’ve got Biden, Booker, Beto, Buttigeg, and maybe Bloomberg – and that’s just the b’s. I haven’t even gotten to all the reasons why my social media feed hates Castro, Delany, Gabbard Gillibrand, Klobuchar, and, of course, Warren.
And if you really want to have fun, there’s Oprah’s spiritual advisor Marianne Williamson.
I mean, I could probably do this all day.
But, sure, I’ll stop.
Folks, we’re year and half out. Take a breath.
Sincerely? I admit that I’m not a huge fan of Sanders.
So what? I don’t particularly hate him, but there are all kinds of things about him that bug me. I’m not going to go into detail on that because, at the moment – because at the moment – it’s irrelevant. Sanders has declared his intention to run, that’s it. He’s putting together his campaign. He’s raising money. But he’s just another politician in a field of similar hopefuls. All those candidates who’ve declared their intention to run, from Kamala Harris to Elizabeth Warren to Joe Biden to, hell, Howard Schultz, all of them have things I don’t like -- some have things I really don’t like and it’s got nothing to do with appearance or their facility with condiments. And some things I might like, depending.
I’m not excited, or enraged, over any of them.
What I am, is glad to see a huge crop of possible candidates in opposition to the current nightmare.
I’m happy to see a wide selection, something for everybody, lots of ideas, and I’d like to see more.
If one of them happens to be Bernie Sanders, that’s fine with me.
No candidate for office is perfect. Not one.
I don’t support any of them at the moment.
I don’t prefer any of them. I am glad they’re here. Even Howard Schultz.
But we are a long ways out from me endorsing any of them.
I want to know more.
I want to know a lot more.
Some of these people have run before. So what? That means nothing.
No. Stop. I’m not even vaguely interested in refighting The Bernie Hillary Battle of 2016.
Try to relight that fight and I’ll either ignore you or toss you out the airlock depending on how I’m feeling.
Every candidate reinvents themselves every new time that they run. I don’t care (mostly) who they were back in the day, or what they campaigned on previously. I want to know who they are now. Who they expect to be in the future. I want to see how the campaign shapes them, how they respond to criticism, how they respond to Trump. Where I do think the past matters is if they’ll admit their past mistakes, up front, without excuse, and tell us how they’ve changed and what they’ve learned. I want to see how ideas – yes, even Bernie’s socialism, for example – from other candidates change and modify their own positions. I want to know where their money comes from – they have to have money, that’s how America works at the moment. So I want to know where it comes from and what those who provide it expect in return. I want to know where they stand on the issues. I want to know who they’ll pick for their cabinet, their Supreme Court Justices, their advisors, their confidants. I want to know what their priorities are. I want to know if they’ll fight for the things I believe in, even if it means their ruin.
I want to see how they treat each other.
And I especially want to see how they treat us. You and me, Citizen.
My loyalty is to the Republic, not to any politician or political ideology.
I don’t know enough yet.
And I wager you don’t either.
Watch. Listen. Acquire information. Analyze. Act at the appropriate moment, armed with as much knowledge and verifiable fact and reasoned consideration as is possible in that moment, for the Republic, for the good of the nation, as best we are able.
Here’s what it comes down to: I don’t yet know who any of these people really are this time.
I don’t. Not yet.
But I for goddamned sure know who Donald Trump is.
Would I vote for Bernie Sanders?
If he’s the only viable alternative to Trump? You bet I would.
If the next year shakes out, water flows under the bridge and Bernie is not only the survivor but he’s the number one candidate in opposition to Trump, then I will support and vote for him without reservation.
Just as I did Hillary Clinton – someone else I didn’t particularly like.
Oh just stop. Like is irrelevant. I don’t have to like somebody to vote for them. I spent most of my military career working for leaders who I didn’t much like. They were competent (most of them anyway), experienced, and out front. They got the job done. But I wouldn’t care to have a beer with most of them. We weren’t friends and that’s perfectly fine.
I’m not looking for a friend or somebody to have a drink with. I’ve got plenty of friends.
What I’m looking for is a leader to take this country into the future.
Those are in short supply.
Citizen, your duty to the Republic has nothing to do with who you like.
It’s a long way to the primaries.
Democracy is messy, loud, and fractious. That’s how it supposed to work, it was designed that way on purpose. Your job as a citizen right now is to look, listen, question, acquire information, analyze.
If you’ve already made a decision, picked a candidate and don’t intend to budge no matter what, you’re a dogmatic fool and you risk all of our futures.
It’s a long way to the election. Between now and then I’ll opine, I’ll cajole, I’ll shout, I’ll fight, I’ll curse, I’ll demand answers, and I’ll likely do my damnedest to convince you of whoever my favorite is whenever he or she emerges. Because that’s what primaries are for.
But, in the end, when that primary election is over, then I will support whoever stands in opposition to Donald Trump.
If that’s Bernie Sanders, if Bernie Sanders is the Democratic Party Candidate, then it’s Bernie Sanders and I’ll be there. I will.
But, if it’s Kamala Harris, then that’s where I’ll be. All the way.
If it’s Joe Biden, then I’ll be there.
If it is Oprah’s goddamned Fortune Teller, well, then I’ll be there.
I expect the same of you in return.
No more. No less.
Idealism loses to pragmatism when it comes to winning elections.
-- Danny Strong, actor, writer, director.