Retractions and on Presidential Narratives

I said I was done blogging for a while. Now, I am back here again.  After watching last night’s New Hampshire Primary results, I wanted to write something here because I figured out how I wanted to explain my support for my chosen Presidential candidate. I wanted to write it here so I could easily point to it.  Perhaps I will muck it up in trying to write it down, but probably less so then just having to explain it without a written version.

Yes, just like 2008, I am supporting Hillary Clinton in the primary. I think I can better articulate it this time around.  In recent days Gloria Steinem has come under criticism for her statement (taken out of context) about young women supporting Bernie Sanders because “that is where the boys are.” I could probably write a long blog post about how the media, by minimizing what she and Madeline Albright said to its most controversial points, without looking at the larger context, is seeking to create conflict and ascribe a particular point of view to Hillary Clinton that doesn’t exist.  I am not going to write about that.  Instead, Ms. Steinem’s quote made me ponder, why is it that young people are supporting Mr. Sanders in such large numbers instead of Ms. Clinton? Why don’t I see what they are seeing? Last night’s concession/victory speeches distilled down the differences to me very simply.

Bernie Sanders would appeal to the 18 year old version of myself.  He speaks in platitudes, ideals and principles. Sure, he lacks specifics, but I didn’t have a significant amount of life experience at that time in my life. Instead, I was a person who poured over books by Erich Fromm, Herbert Marcuse, and others.  I was obsessed with the theory, with idealism. I was obsessed with charting a philosophy by which I wanted to guide my life. I didn’t care about policy specifics and whether any of my ideals were actually achievable.  But even more than that, my life experience consisted of books and ideas.  I didn’t understand the complexity of the lives of other people that inevitably would challenge my ideals.

I don’t criticize Bernie Sanders for appealing to the idealistic version of myself. It is important to have principles. However, it is also important to be honest and admit that sometimes you have to sacrifice those principles for the sake of practicality or politics.  Especially when you criticize, without any evidence to support it, your opposing candidate of being “corrupt”. I think it is great that he can give speeches on becoming Denmark, or expanding Medicare to cover all, or making college tuition free for all.  He is in the position of being able to talk about ideals coming from a state with a demographic that largely looks like him and thinks like him.

The undergraduate version of myself, as obsessed with the moral order of the universe as I was, still fell short as a human being, though. I was missing the most important part of the picture that I didn’t really learn until I was older: that human beings are more important than ideals.  When I started truly interacting with people through the practice of law, I realized how messy life is in practice.  When I had own heartaches and failures, I realized how much room I had to leave for other people to make choices to find meaning in their lives.  Yes, it is important to talk about how inequality is bad for people.  But when you sit down and talk to people, you realize that for most people, although certainly a global tax on wealth would help, it  isn’t going to make that individual person’s life better.

Politics are so dangerous, because it is so easy for all of us to become entranced by the ideal, and fail to realize that governance is messy.  Without trying to understand the particulars of people’s lives, it is hard to get it right. Yes, that isn’t easy in a country as large and diverse as ours, but I really think we start by focusing on the most vulnerable among us.  We take the time and listen to their stories, and the pledge to try to find policies that are specific enough to make a difference in their lives.  That is really what I see the candidate Hillary Clinton 2016 doing.  I think she is remembering what it was like to meet people in her early legal career, focus on their needs, and find solutions.  When she talked in her concession speech last night, I really sensed that. She told personal stories of people she had met and I could tell that improving the lives of people is what matters to her, not being a slave to unattainable principles. That is what appeals to me as a voter. I want someone who can deviate from their plan of “revolution” to take time to care for the most vulnerable in our midst. I want someone who takes time to listen to those people and say, let’s find a solution together, because I don’t have all of the answers. I don’t have the experience of your life, so let me listen to you, and then based on my experience, we can try to come to a solution together.

I think it is a different way to approach politics. Are you governed by your zealotry for your principles, or devotion to making people’s lives better? I would argue that the two are not the same. It is impossible to account for all of the complications of the human experience of you are solely motivated by your principles and you offer no space for pragmatism. If you think sweeping revolution is the answer, then you are presuming that you already have the answers. Bernie Sanders has all of the right principles. I don’t disagree with them. I don’t disagree with the travesty of Citizen’s United. But you cannot be against the travesty of the Citizen’s United case and ignore the story of it – as one that affected Hillary Clinton personally. And yes, obviously campaign financing reveals something truly rotten in our democracy.  However, simply overturning Citizen’s United doesn’t solve the issues of campaign finance. It doesn’t suddenly render government accessible to people instead of corporations. There is more to it than that. And also, even if campaign finance reform happen, does that mean suddenly politicians would be forced to consider how black children in Mississippi receive a quality basic education enough to be able to attend college, much less pay for it?

Last night, I heard two different versions of how to approach change in this country. I am with Hillary Clinton, because I support her method of getting there, focusing on improving the lives of people without being a slave to ideals that not only are unworkable in the American political system, but don’t leave space for considering whether or not those ideals meet the real daily needs of the most vulnerable. I like how HRC is focused on the holistic and varied needs of people which is evidence from the ways she has taken seriously her obligation to listen and to find ways to help. I mean, how many other candidates have comprehensive plans on government support and assistance for people on the autism spectrum? I really see her as a candidate who is willing to listen, learn, and then foster policy solutions that take into account new information. Sure, the net result of that may be wonkish instead of rhetoric that is soaring and appealing, but to me, it reflects a devotion to people more than ideals.  It results in policies that are precise, thoughtful, and articulate instead of proposals that are inflated, lack attention to detail, and unworkable.

The older I get, that is exactly the way I want to be.  I want to be a person who is never comfortable with thinking that I have all the answers. I want to continually be learning, changing, and evolving to be more cognizant of other people and their needs. I don’t think I will ever be comfortable with platitudes again.

And see I can make my argument for support without even getting to the foreign policy experience and expertise, which is where I usually end up…

You don’t have to subscribe to my views of the speeches last night and the larger conclusions that I have made. Watch the videos for yourself: Hillary Clinton’s speech here, Bernie Sanders’ speech here

Also: I am hardly the only person who thought her concession speech last night was particularly good.

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