Presidential Politics: A Reminder
Check it before you wreck it
By the time you read this, the presidential primary season in the United States will be over. The final installment of the Democratic Primary elections, held on Tuesday, June 14, in the District of Columbia will be history. The results will have been published as soon as possible and sometimes even before then, as has been the case since I voted in my first presidential primary in 1984.
In that long ago primary season, a liberal senator from Colorado named Gary Hart captured the attention of the nation's youthful voters but could not overcome the organization and big money commanded by the other leading candidate, Walter Mondale. Hart won several important primaries. His supporters were more than enthusiastic, they were smitten.
After realizing that Mondale had the delegates needed to win nomination at that year's convention, Hart began appealing to superdelegates, hoping they could buoy belief in his “New Ideas” and that further, they would be bound to see that his opponent was “old-fashioned” and part of a political class that symbolized the “failed policies” of past democratic administrations. The superdelegates were unmoved by the affection with which the youth of this nation embraced him; Mondale had won the most votes and hence the most pledged delegates
Of course none of Hart's idealistic dreams were to see fruition. Mondale was nominated, though unity in the democratic party remained elusive. No one was really exited to have a super-moderate, milquetoast president named Walter win the election. And besides, Reagan was so damn exciting to listen to while Hart was so hard to get over.
That autumn, Ronald Reagan, a former movie actor, was sworn into his second term as president. Not only did Reagan defeat Mondale by a landslide (Mondale won only one state—his home state of Minnesota) but his overwhelming command of the electoral college at the end of the election allowed the neo-conservative movement to grow and flourish in the United States. As for Gary Hart, his followers and momentum returned briefly in the 1988 election, but were put aside once and for all when it was revealed that Hart had been part of some sort of sexual shenanigans.
Essentially this type of character assassination is misogynistic. They are ideas created by a class of politicians and provocateurs that are steadfastly set against allowing women the political agency necessary to run a nation; though there have been advances women are still underrepresented and marginalized in American politics.
It would be eight years before progressive ideas returned to the White House, thanks to a dude who also appealed to youth, who blew a mean saxophone and had progressive ideas. This president had a wife who was visibly more intelligent, wellspoken and more organized than he ever could be. His name was Bill Clinton. Her name is Hillary.
And now here we are again. In the year 2016, we are poised at the precipice. Except this time it's no actor with an affinity for chimpanzees, a war on drugs and trickle-down economics that we are on guard against. Donald Trump is an honest-to-goodness fascist. He will deport undocumented Hispanic workers, use torture to extract confessions and will ban those of the Islamic faith from entering and living in this country. Further, he incites violence and invokes racism at his rallies, is followed loyally by a coterie of supporters who believe that our black president is a threat to the nation, is no president at all.
The thing is: Hillary Clinton is no Walter Mondale and Bernie Sanders is no Gary Hart. Where Mondale was perceived as overly reactive and all too open to damaging compromise, Clinton has been noted for her tenaciousness, in life and in politics. Hart was a relatively young man when he began the electoral process; Sanders is in his sunset years.
So, it's never fair to say that “history repeats itself.” Human society is much more complex than such proclamations allow. While it is abundantly clear that Clinton has won this iteration of the Democratic Presidential Sweepstakes, it's not clear yet that Democrats will rally behind her. She had been portrayed by the right-wing, for over 20 years, as a cruel harpy with notoriously bad judgement and questionable allegiances.
These ridiculously defamatory ideas, birthed on talk radio and grown by social media were at some point absorbed by and then spat back out venomously by some of Sanders' supporters. Essentially this type of character assassination is misogynistic. They are ideas created by a class of politicians and provocateurs that are steadfastly set against allowing women the political agency necessary to run a nation; though there have been advances women are still underrepresented and marginalized in American politics.
Clinton's record of accomplishments includes strong leadership experience in the fields of foreign and domestic affairs, as well as a history of working with local communities, people of color and the disenfranchised. She continues to be a proponent of crucial environmental reforms that will curtail or halt global warming.
Unlike Mondale she is not a representative of the status quo; as a woman in American politics that is just not possible. What Clinton does represent is a change so fundamental and revolutionary that it is easy to forget how much of a sea-change her potential presidency represents.
This is no plea to vote for Clinton. I’m pretty sure she can do it without my admonitions. So, go out there and make up your own mind. But kindly, with all due seriousness and gravitas, take this—a reminder of what was—into account as you hopefully move forward with the rest of us to what will most certainly be.