Take a good look at this shot from last night's Bernie Sanders rally in Madison, Wisconsin. Then take another moment to absorb that these 10,000 fired up people showed up to hear an hour-long speech delivered by a democratic socialist from Vermont. And he didn't need Bruce Springsteen to open for him, either.
This means something. This is important.
To me, the image above is as powerful as the photos of the Occupy Wall Street protests at their peak, and Bernie's campaign in many ways picks up right where that movement left off. Those angry feelings of economic injustice never went away (and why should they?), but the focal point has shifted. Occupy changed the conversation and ultimately made a difference, and the same is and will be true for the Sanders candidacy.
The appeal of Bernie is pretty easy to understand: Much like Network's Howard Beale, he's an obviously authentic truth-teller who's uncompromisingly himself...and that extends all the way to his often amazing hair. What's not to like?
I have no doubt that Bernie's in it to win it for 2016. But the movement that we see manifested in the dramatic picture above is bigger than just one presidential election. This is about a political realignment led by young people that will eventually change this country and the world in profound ways. And make no mistake, these changes have to occur...because the fate of our very planet hangs in the balance. The successes of the Obama administration have largely been corrective actions that saved us from immediate disaster while calmly setting our course towards something better. The potential in the coming years to build upon this to create a sturdier, fairer and more hopeful future is tremendous, and the current enthusiasm for Bernie is just one indication that we're going to get there.
And as a progressive liberal who supports Hillary Clinton, I honestly could not be happier.
Throughout his entire terrific speech last night, Bernie said not one single negative word about Hillary...and Hillary always returns the favor for her friend Bernie in her speeches. And why shouldn't they play nice? When they served together in the Senate, they voted the same way 93% of the time and Hillary was the 11th most liberal Senator throughout her tenure. Beyond that, anyone who's listened to the recent stump speeches of both candidates will find little daylight between their talking points. Check out Hillary's kickoff speech on Roosevelt Island if you'd like to compare.
So unless you're a one-issue voter, it really doesn't feel like we're in the middle of an epic struggle for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party right now. The debates will make it even more clear that the progressive wing has already won that battle. Sure, Hillary will have to defend her record on trade while Bernie will have to defend his record on gun control, but these are just some of the important discussions that we should all welcome as we choose our next standard-bearer. With so much left that's agreed upon, the topic of "Who can beat the Republicans?" will rise to greater and greater prominence as the season carries on.
The debates should also make crystal clear that if Bernie loses the nomination, he will support the winner 100% in the fight against the Republican nominee and strongly push all of his dedicated supporters to follow suit. Conversely, should David actually take down Goliath (hey, it's happened before), no one should have any doubt that Hillary would also do everything in her power to make the Sanders presidency a reality...just as she did for Obama in 2008.
All this being said, my support for Hillary Clinton is as firm as it's ever been...and not simply because I feel that she's the best and most qualified candidate in the running, but also for the more immediate pragmatic reason of winning the presidency in 2016.
A Gallup survey from last week found that the American people at large still aren't quite ready to vote for a socialist president, and despite a great deal of buzz in the past couple of months, Bernie continues to lag behind the wretched Scott Walker in several recent state polls by PPP. It may not seem right or fair, but that's what the polls keep telling us.
However, poll after poll after poll shows that our country is more than ready to elect the first female president, and that all by itself would have massive social ramifications that even a socialist presidency might not be able to touch. That this historic candidate has also been a Democrat for the past forty-plus years and is now running an unapologetically progressive campaign should make lefties everywhere jump for joy.
And though they're wonkier and less overtly jaw dropping than the image above, these four pie charts showing the results from yesterday's national CNN/ORC poll should be every bit as amazing a sight for Democrats.
|Charts via 270toWin.com|