I made a mistake.
For over three years, I have considered, and thought, and reflected on how I got to where I am now, personally, professionally, politically. The journey has been a long one – as is true for most people my age – and fraught with failures, miscalculations, and yes, mistakes.
My mistake happened in November, 2016… and I am recalled to a short exchange from an episode of the short-lived television show Firefly:
Harken: Seems odd you'd name your ship after a battle you were on the wrong side of.
Mal: May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.
Mal: May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.
See, I supported Bernie Sanders in 2016, all the way up to the Democratic Convention. I believe he was railroaded by the established DNC powers-that-be, who peddled influence through Super-Delegates and kept him from being the candidate, even though he had proven to be more popular than Hillary Clinton.
But perhaps I should go back further, where it all begins for me.
I grew up in a predominantly conservative family, town, school, and political climate. My father was friends with a local state representative, and even worked for his reelection campaign a few times. In 1984, I came of age for my first election cycle, and believed the hype about Reaganomics and how the conservatives of the GOP were looking out for “We the People” and protecting us from the evil regimes – especially that of the Soviet Union and its bloc of allies. At the time, I proudly voted for Reagan – and would probably do so again, considering the political climate of the time, and what I know now, nearly 40 years later.
I remained registered as a Republican for many years, through my military service and after my medical discharge, the Clinton Years, and even the “hanging chad” of the 2000 cycle. Looking back on this, perhaps Bill Clinton was a slightly better candidate – and President – than I gave him credit for then; but to this day I still believe Hillary actually ran things; she wore the pants in that relationship because he couldn’t keep his on…
I did have some reservations about George W. Bush, considering how divided the country became after Al Gore lost due to questionable balloting, and the results being determined in the Supreme Court. I’m not convinced Gore was the better candidate, but I could sense then there was a growing divisiveness in our country. By the time September 11th happened and the ensuing combat operations in the Middle East and Asia since then – not to mention the question of “Weapons of Mass Destruction” coming into play – I was seriously concerned with the direction which the country and the Republican Party were heading.
In 2008, I switched parties. The GOP no longer seemed to represent what I felt, and the representation which had started to form with the “Contract for America” and the Tea Party was falling far short of where I felt the country should be heading now that we were fully ensconced in the 21st century.
Of course, there was Hillary, too, which in hindsight was a little petty of me, but as I mentioned above, I felt she already had her eight years while her husband ran around with his pants at his ankles. Barack Obama was a true breath of fresh air, with progressive but not radical ideas to improve our country. He spoke to everyone, with open ideas that did not reflect a division of race, creed, or religion, but instead an attempt at unification across all differences.
I had thought I might switch back in 2012, but in the first four years of President Obama’s tenure, I realized just how different my underlying beliefs were as compared to the Republicans in power – and those who were showing support for that side of the aisle. This also got me thinking back to my high school days, where I took a class called “Comparative Ideologies” which discussed the many forms of government and economic systems from history through the current era. From despots and monarchs, through dictatorships, variations of democracy, fascism, socialism and communism, everything was touched upon. This included the difference of a political system and an economic one (democracy vs. socialism/communism).
The light shone on that 17-year old boy, but it would take thirty years for it to cultivate.
Socialism. This is the buzzword which sends conservatives – and even many moderates – into apoplectic fits. It was used during the Cold War – along with Communism – as a label for our enemies. Russia was called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (see? It even had Socialist in its name, it MUST be bad…). And China turned to Communism under Mao Tse-Tung. What we learned of these two countries, the history of their violent revolutions to become the “terrible enemy of the free world” – was almost all one-sided propaganda to galvanize Western support against these countries and their allies.
I won’t go into the history of it all now, but suffice it to say some forms of communism and socialism have failed – and failed hard. But others have done well, balancing the democratic rule of The People with the economic designs of social responsibility. Capitalism runs rampant, with the rich getting richer at the expense of the poor. The American Dream is turning into a nightmare, as the disparity between the top wealth and what used to be considered the middle class grows.
The current trend for the liberal, progressive side is to promote a social responsibility of corporations and the rich. This is the socialism which is becoming the foundation of this movement. Such shared responsibility for the economic, physical, and (for lack of a better word) spiritual well-being of the country is what is intended. It isn’t an attempt to destroy the bourgeois elite and prevent progress and advancement of personal worth, but instead the understanding that we are all connected, together on this planet, and working together in a shared system is better for everyone than the greed and divisive nature that has pervaded our society as a whole, and this country specifically.
My mistake in 2016 was not realizing the depths of this realization, and how unity of “We The People “has been affected for decades by the infighting not just across party lines, but within each party as well. This led me to falling into the trap of believing all voices have a say in how our country works, and the dissenting “third party” votes might actually make a difference.
Well, actually, they did.
While Hillary did win the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, there were another 6 million which went to “Third Party” candidates. Had these votes been cast for Hillary instead, it is entirely possible they would have changed the outcome of that election. But, this dissenting vote, which did not like either candidate, is a big reason why Trump is occupying the Oval Office.
Four years ago, neither the Democratic nor Republican Party offered a viable candidate that could truly unite the country. Because of this, Trump managed to play the electoral game to his advantage – and the detriment of the country. Hillary may have been the more popular candidate, but so many of us felt uneasy about her going back to the White House it was difficult to reconcile our thoughts and feelings.
So we made the mistake, failed the country, by “throwing our vote away” to protest the unworthy candidates.
This year, the Democratic Party has many good candidates, and as the primary season begins, there are already a few surprises and more hope felt throughout the party than before. With the momentum started in 2018 when the House was flipped, and now the Impeachment process which was never properly executed in the Senate – not to mention the continued protestations from Trump – there is even more hope the nation will change, and with this change we can heal.
I apologize to Hillary Clinton, and my fellow Democrats, for not sticking by the party four years ago. This year I am weighing my options carefully before the Pennsylvania Primary near the end of April, but no matter who gets the final nod at the Convention, it is time to move forward from hate and division, and once again unite the country for progress – socially, economically, and spiritually.