Bernie Sanders For President
TODAY’S PRIMARY ELECTION is the most consequential for New Yorkers, and for the country at large, in a generation. Politics and corruption are synonymous in this state, and in this regard, they serve as a perfect foil for the civic cesspool encircled by the Washington beltway. Today we have an opportunity to reign in the long-entrenched institutions that would decide for us, instead of us, about the conduct of our country and the governance of our lives. We have the obligation to lift the American experiment up out of that cesspool, full into sunlight; to inspect her, and correct her, and nourish her back to health. It is absolutely vital that we do so.
The choice of a President is not merely a matter of assessing credentials, or intelligence, or gender, or experience. Above all, it is a matter of judgment, and temperament, and the qualities of leadership that arise from personal sacrifice. Most of us understand this instinctively, and we plumb the depths of the candidate’s personal histories, looking for hypotheses and hypocrisies to reinforce or refute our surface impressions. Politics is an ugly business, and few candidates can withstand the cold light of journalistic inquiry when the intent is to injure, rather than to illuminate.
But politicians, like all human beings, are thoroughly imperfect. Everyone makes mistakes, and this is news to absolutely no one who isn’t actively running for office. The thing that distinguishes fact from fiction, mendacity from leadership, is the willingness to acknowledge their occurrence, and to learn from their example. This is one of the most obvious and telling characteristics that distinguishes our current president from his predecessor, and it is the paramount characteristic that we must preserve in his successor. That characteristic is integrity.
The question, then, cannot be one of perfection; it must instead be one of trajectory, and consistency, and judgment, and the willingness to rise above political expediency in pursuit of the highest American ideals: equality under the law, the separation of church and state, the living constitution, the use of war only as a last resort, and respect for the genius of tricameral checks and balances. Doing the politically expedient thing is easy. Doing the right thing is hard. They are rarely the same thing.
Naked political expedience has defined the Republican Party now for a generation or more, and doing the right thing is no longer even a talking point. The most recent example—the craven refusal to even consider a SCOTUS nominee—is only the latest in a long line of scorched-Earth misbehavior that stretches back to the Reagan administration, and which has slowly hollowed out the civic legitimacy of the party. The GOP as we once knew it is dead; the GOP as we know it is dying, and what remains has fallen so far out of step with the American character, and the American people, that the Democratic party will take the next election in a walk, regardless of the candidate on offer. The Office of the President, therefore, is not what this election is about.
What this election is about is everything else. This election is about who we are as a people. It is about whether we can recover the ability to govern ourselves with high ideals, instead of high investments. It is about whether we can regain the moral high ground, instead of the military high ground. It is about whether we can chose to respect our time-honored institutions of self-governance, or destroy them utterly in the face of the free market, and the puppet pulpit, and the almighty sawbuck. This election is about recovering and rebuilding what remains of American integrity. In this political climate, doing so will be a revolutionary, transformational act. It will require courage borne of wisdom, and tenacity borne of conviction. It will require uncommon, highly-principled leadership, and a nationwide movement of highly-motivated citizens to reign in the abuses of a Congress corrupted by greed and stupidity.
Who, then, offers the best case, and the best chance for achieving this goal? We must inspect more than the platform; more than the pretty face—we must inspect the preponderance of the evidence, looking not for perfection, but for integrity. The preponderance of Hillary Clinton’s career reflects a great deal of political expediency, but very little good judgement. The preponderance of Bernie Sanders’ career reflects a great deal of good judgement, but very little political expediency. One of these is evidence of integrity, and one is not.
More important that the assessments, though, are the implications. Clinton is campaigning on incrementalism, and a convincing win will offer her a mandate for precisely that—small changes, here and there, at the edges of the cesspool; clear water for toddlers and toes, perhaps, but still dark and dirty and disgusting in the depths. Sanders’ candidacy offers a completely different possibility. A convincing win will serve as a mandate from the American people for fundamental change, and it is only with such a mandate that we can hope to dislodge the institutional intransigence that has moldered with the corpse of the GOP. This is why his candidacy is so consequential. This is why his victory is so important. Bernie Sanders offers us the possibility of real, systemic, positive change. Hillary Clinton does not.
The naysayers, the pundits, the Powers That Be—they would have you believe that this is hopelessly unrealistic and naive. Precisely the opposite is true. Bernie Sanders is the only candidate through whom real change is even remotely possible—not because of the man, but because of the movement that he represents. Integrity is the indispensable ingredient in that movement—integrity in Congress, in the White House, and at the core of the once and future American character. It is the movement that will change Washington, not the President. And there is no movement—there is no stomach—for incrementalism.
I am proud to support Bernie Sanders for President of the United States.