Cinderella and the Pig: lessons of history

I haven’t used this blog for my political views until now. So many of my friends are excited about the Democratic convention, I have to add my thoughts.

I am writing this on July 26. Last night, Bernie Sanders spoke to the Democratic convention, and told people to elect his rival, Hillary Clinton.

Historical perspective can often inform one of the  potential consequences of political actions (or inactions). People, including some good friends of mine, are screaming or at least sniping with each other about Hillary vs. Bernie.  We should all look at the lessons of history.

To put my own bias upfront: I like Bernie. I’ve supported his campaign. He is everything I have always wanted a national leader to be: honest, sincere, devoted to making people’s lives better. He feels like a member of the family. And, HE GETS IT. He gets what’s wrong with America in the 21st century (very similar to the turn of the previous century, before the Progressive movement reforms of that era).

He also gets it about the political process. He said from the start he wants to build a movement that would start a political revolution.

But I’m running out of patience with the friends who insist that they cannot follow Bernie’s logic and leadership and support Hillary. The revolutionary spirit is incompatible with compromise. I get that, too; that was me 50 years ago. But it’s the wrong answer, and I can demonstrate why.

In 1968 we were totally fed up with the corrupt establishment. They were systematically disrupting our democratic process with informants, agents provocateurs, and assassinations. We found a champion in RFK, and they just killed him. We found a back-up champion in Gene McCarthy, but the convention was rigged for the establishment guy, Humphrey. Hubert BTW was a fundamentally honest and decent guy who became the establishment’s front almost by accident, when LBJ realized he didn’t have enough strength to carry the campaign.

So we were deprived of our righteous voice, and said fuck the Democrats, fuck the establishment parties, let’s vote for Nobody, or Pigasus Pig220px-Abolafiaposter  (photo above), or Louis Abolafia (my favorite, although I could not vote that year).

So we ended up with Nixon, who was NOT EVEN a decent guy, and 6 more horrendous years of war, a trauma that haunts us to this day. If you did not know what America was before it waged war in Vietnam you don’t see the damage, because you don’t have a baseline to compare it to, but in my experience Leave It To Beaver was not all that unrealistic. Even Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was believable, then.

And the movement that we rejected the establishment in order to build? No trace of it. It had no effect on the system. None. Do we feel morally justified to have rebelled? Sure. And learning to organize a movement outside the system was a good step that has served us in many small ways. But the practical consequences of not supporting Humphrey, flawed as he was, were all negative, nothing positive came of it.

Jump forward to 1980. Jimmy Carter is up for re-election. Many Democrats thought he was too centrist, and supported Ted Kennedy instead. The fight went all the way to the convention. You know how that ended. Eight years of Reagan and trickle-down economics.

Year 2000. Similar story. Gore is too establishment, we are fed up with business as usual, who is our champion? Ralph Nader runs on the Green party line. Gore loses. Bush takes us into the worst self-inflicted disaster the country has seen since maybe the Civil War. (If you think I am exaggerating, remember the bills have still not been paid, Iraq veterans are still committing suicide daily, and how do you like your airport security screening, Citizen?).

BTW I am not blaming Nader for helping Gore lose. Gore largely did that to himself. But I want to look at this example as a case study in risk/benefit analysis. People who voted Green—and I was one of them— intended to get the benefit (at low cost? at any cost? did we even ask?) of a stronger Green movement, and a strong message to the establishment parties that they needed to pay more attention to environmental and progressive issues. (Of course there are also people who express their displeasure by simply not voting at all, which is why we should not blame Nader or the Green Party for this).

We did not grasp how severe the risk was. But what about the benefit? Did the Green Party thereby grow to be a major political force? No. Did the establishment get the message and push their agenda leftward? Ha! Instead, we spent the next 8 years hiding in bunkers and watching the world burn while Halliburton took all our money, and our children’s and grandchildren’s money, to the bank.

The Establishment is corrupt, but it is not uniformly corrupt, and it is not a monolith. Hillary’s establishment is not Dick Cheney’s establishment. And as for Trump… well, take all the downsides we got from Nixon, Reagan, and Cheney, roll them all into a shit sandwich, and Supersize it. There are consequences. This time we cannot say we don’t understand the risk. It’s HYUUGE. Is there a corresponding benefit, beyond the momentary pleasure of sticking your thumb in the eye of a powerful person? I don’t see it.

To summarize, I’m not a fan of Hillary, no more than I was a fan of Humphrey. I want to express my outrage at the system and the limited choices we are given as much as anyone. But Election Day is not the time to express outrage and alienation—THAT’S WHAT THE OLIGARCHS WANT YOU TO DO because they have it rigged. And every time we’ve tried to un-rig it with presidential politics, we got screwed much worse than before. This time it could be so bad there will be no turning back. Read what Erdogan is doing to democracy in Turkey this month, and imagine if Trump decided that was a good example.

So you want to change the system—GOOD! First, vote.

• Vote for your local government, people you can actually talk to about the issues that affect you personally, train them on how to respond to real people’s concerns so they can bring that mindset to higher office.

• Vote for your state representatives. They draw boundaries for elections, among other things. Do you want to know why the US Congress is so unresponsive to your needs? It’s largely because in 2010, Republican strategists funneled lots of effort into state assembly races, getting highly-partisan legislatures that then could gerrymander the congressional districts. Gerrymander-protected congressmen have no motivation to respond to constituents’ actual needs.

• For gods’ sake, vote in your congressional and senate races. These are the guys who make the laws, who implement or resist the plans of the oligarchs. Even a hypothetical President Bernie would be impotent with a conservative (or worse) congress. With Hillary, who adapts to other power players, the influence of congress could be enormous.

• Hold your nose (if you have to) and vote for Hillary, because in a Trump-driven political environment we will all be too busy hiding, moving to Canada, or otherwise covering our asses to create revolution. This is history’s lesson. This is not 1776 or 1789 when popular masses had the networking power to overthrow tyranny. This is the world of 1984. Big Brother is watching and those 3-minute hates are right around the corner if we are too disdainful of moderation. I know, Hillary is too cozy with the war machine and the banking industry to approve of. Vote for her anyway.

THEN, go organize a movement. Build communities with no input from the corporate media, the guys who keep telling us that Anthony Weiner’s sexual indiscretions are more important than Donald Trump’s bankruptcies, that a cop killed in Dallas by a deranged gunman is more newsworthy than the family wiped out in the West Bank by Israeli soldiers, or that government control of who uses what bathroom is more important than who gets to use public airwaves for transmitting the news.  Build communities where people discuss, face to face, our own political best interests, and find out who is or is not protecting them.  Build communities that can nurture and support real relationships with people in public offices.

Don’t look for the next hero to ride in on a presidential election and save our society from itself, because without the communities of mutual support, no one can possibly do that.

If you want to vote for Jill Stein and you haven’t spent the time in the community mobilizing people around local issues, and cultivating political relationships, then you are living in a fucking Cinderella fairytale world. You are free to do that, but don’t expect people in the real world to respect your opinion, because it’s hypocritical, and disrespectful of people who suffer real consequences from your copout, while you vote for the pumpkin to turn into a coach-and-four.

Bernie gets it. He says, elect Hillary. Let’s at least give him the support he has earned, and follow his lead in this.

4 thoughts on “Cinderella and the Pig: lessons of history

  1. Could not possibly have said it all better, Bear. This election cycle has been a hard, and much-needed lesson in being a grownup. I’m voting for Hilary, not because she is the “lesser of two evils”, but because she is the best candidate who has a chance of winning. And, yes, I’m voting thoughtfully, right down through the ballot, because if we don’t have at least a Democratically controlled Senate, Hilary is going to be stymied, just as much as Obama has been, and I don’t know if our country can survive many more years of that.


  2. Loved this article! I did want to add a note that the “Leave It To Beaver” lifestyle was only accessible to white people, who relied on the exploited labor by people of color. (That being said, it’s obviously a quite enjoyable show for me, so I’m willing to set aside this knowledge to watch it!)

    – Sonny


    1. Very true, Sonny, that I was referring to my own experience as a privileged middle-class white person. I’m not aware, however, of any family history of relying on POC, or any other exploitative labor, for building wealth. For the really rich people, it would be a different story, but the Cleavers lived about the same as we did.


  3. Well said, Alan! Hillary plays well with others, though she is known for running with scissors. Even if congress and the military and grownup civil servants did take his ball away, T would be a disaster to our standing amongst our international peers. We must take back Congress this November or just have deck chair ballet until the imminent end.


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