by Daniel J. Durand
Now that the Democratic and Republican nominees for president have been officially picked, and the dust has settled from the conventions, I’ve had some time to sort out my thoughts about the 2016 presidential election—or as I like to call it, “Pepsi Presents: Democracy Smackdown Royale 2016.”
TMI, Politics Edition
I feel Berned out.
My Facebook friends are probably not going to be surprised by my saying I supported Bernie Sanders during his campaign—I shared news updates pretty frequently and jumped more than a few conversations, both online and in person.
But they might be surprised to hear me say that I’m done. I’m out. I’m taking my ball and going home. I’m riding off into the sunset, the dust of the trail behind me, the wind of freedom on my cheek.
At least, for now.
See, I’ve always been pretty big into politics. I studied politics in school, and absorbed every ounce of news and information I could find. A lot of my friends come to me when they have questions about what’s going on in the world, or why things are happening, and over the years that’s made me even more diligent in finding the best information I could to share with them.
But I think it’s time to unplug for a while, and I’ll give a few reasons why.
First, take a look at this video by YouTuber Veritasium; in it, he talks about the “distraction economy,” and how the amount of information available today and how we consume it is similar to how we consume calories in a world where food is easily accessible.
Information has value, so when we have access to all the information all the time, we can’t help but to consume as much as possible. Binge-watching Netflix, surfing Facebook all day, or catching up on YouTube videos are a lot like reaching for an extra donut—you know one will taste good and satisfy a craving, but if you eat too many, you’ll get fat.
It’s pretty likely I would have experienced this feeling no matter what, but the 2016 campaign has brought it to a head. If you Google phrases like “political burnout” or “election burnout,” you get a sea of articles about people becoming so sick of the media cycle and politics during election years, that they tune out altogether—and these articles go back years, covering multiple elections and political offices.
More Like “Bernie Busted,” Not “Bernie or Bust”
But why am I Berned out, as opposed to just being burned out?
Well, the short answer is Bernie didn’t make it to the Democratic nomination, and I’m disappointed.
The long answer is, there were a lot of reasons I supported Bernie Sanders as a candidate and not Hillary Clinton or Scrooge McDuck… er, sorry, Donald Trump. Those reasons remain even after the nominees were picked, and what Bernie represented still resonates even though I can’t “Feel the Bern” anymore.
If you had asked me a year ago how I thought the 2016 campaign would go, I would have said without a doubt that it would be Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush squaring off in the general election, and that Hillary would win because of shifting voter demographics pushing America further to the left.
I found out about Bernie Sanders when he entered the race for the Democratic nomination, and I was incredibly skeptical that he would make an impact at all. A socialist from Vermont with crazy hair did not register very highly on my radar.
Then I heard him speak.
For years, I’ve been a believer in strong labor unions, a higher minimum wage, socialized medicine and education, stricter controls on banks, and Wall Street reform.
I remembered the Occupy Wall Street movement. I remembered SOPA, CISPA, ACTA, PIPA, and the fight for net neutrality. I remembered Citizen’s United.
I still remember, just like I remember driving my car to work with NPR on the radio, hearing Bernie speak for the first time. Here was a man who not only fought against the same things I wanted to fight, but had been consistently fighting them decades before I was born.
So, I did my homework. I donated to his campaign. I attended the Democratic Caucus in Boise, Idaho, which turned out to be the largest caucus in United States history—and I can tell you right now, it sure as hell wasn’t because of the Hillary Clinton supporters.
But why, now, after Bernie has officially endorsed Hillary Clinton, and she has won the nomination, can I not also throw my support behind her, and vote for her in the general election?
Why does a baseball fan love baseball?
Is it because of tangible properties, like the shape of a baseball diamond, the size of the ball, and the material the bat is made from? What about the systems the game runs on, such as the rulebook, or the scoring system, or the positions and types of players? Perhaps it’s more about the feelings the game inspires, memories of summer days, the smell of sweat or the taste of stadium hotdogs?
Hank Green of CrashCourse gave a good explanation of the concept of identity, asking how many features you can take away from Batman—his cape, his money, his martial arts prowess—before he is no longer Batman.
Green explains the concept of fungibility, that objects are interchangeable with objects of the same kind. Some objects, like twenty-dollar bills, are fungible with each other, whereas a pet corgi is not fungible with any other pet corgi.
Getting back to baseball, how many aspects of the game can be changed before baseball fans no longer love it? For that matter, how many aspects of a presidential campaign can you change before it is no longer worth my vote?
Bernie Sanders would not have gotten my vote because he is Bernie Sanders—I think he’s a sweet guy, and he seems like a genuine human being who I would love to meet one day—but because of the platform he built his campaign around, and for his credibility in standing for that platform over the course of his career.
Hillary Clinton would never have gotten my vote, because her platform has changed too often over her career. For example, I cannot believe her when she says she supports increasing the minimum wage, because she did very little to support wage increases during her six years on Walmart’s board of directors, a company that is well known for pushing its workers to welfare rather than paying them a livable wage.
When it took Bernie Sanders withholding his endorsement to get Clinton to move to a more progressive stance on many issues, and when all that is holding her to those positions is her word, I am left wanting.
To take my values, the values that Bernie just so happened to represent, and then replace Bernie with Hillary, does not convince me that my values will be represented in the White House.
To suggest that Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are fungible is a farce.
The Illusion of Choice
Years ago, George Carlin did a stand-up routine about elections, and the “illusion” of choice between candidates who really represent the same businesses, lobbyists, and moneyed interests. Carlin referred to these interests collectively as the owners of the country—I don’t know if I would personally go that far, but he made a good point.
“You and I are not in the big club,” Carlin said. And I do agree with him there.
I knew I wasn’t going to vote for Hillary Clinton the minute she announced her candidacy. Even before Bernie stepped in, I knew it was going to be a major moral dilemma figuring out how I would cast my vote, or even if I would vote at all.
In my mind, the Democratic Party more or less represented my ideals, at least better than the Republicans would ever dream of doing—and I certainly would not be voting Republican. Democrats weren’t perfect, but I figured at the worst America would just have four more years of stagnation, the President making speeches while the Supreme Court gave a few more rights away to corporations and Congress blocked any and all legislation to come its way.
But I couldn’t think of voting for Clinton, who, based on her donor ties alone, looks no different to me than any Republican except for the “D” on her party affiliation. That analysis remains unchanged.
Bernie gave me a choice, a real choice. Now that he’s officially out of the running, the best anyone can say to convince me to support Hillary Clinton is that she isn’t Uncle Pennybags… I mean, Donald Trump. Which is funny, because my friends who support Trump are mainly telling me it’s because he isn’t Hillary Clinton.
To those standing for either candidate, Trump or Clinton, I respect their right to choose and support whomever they wish—but I think Carlin says it best here, too.
If this election is really the best we can do, the problems of this country are probably a lot bigger than who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
We Now Return to Your Regularly Scheduled Deprogramming
The values I believe in have not changed.
A year ago, I decided I would vote for Mr. Potato Head. I would support his platform of delicious starchy goodness, and trust that his eyes would watch over America in a way most befitting of the Commander in Crisps—I am now more convinced than ever before that Candidate Head is the best candidate to win Pepsi Presents: Democracy Smackdown Royale 2016, and he will have my vote come November.
In the meantime, I’m going to do what Veritasium suggested, and start myself on a low-information diet. Instead of following politics so closely, I’m going to catch up on my reading, go for walks, draw more, and play more Pokémon.
I don’t really care who wins the election anymore—the secret that no one wants to tell you right now is that no matter who wins in November, no one is going to be happy. Neither Trump nor Clinton will keep all their promises if elected. Either of them would do things that are questionable, or even borderline illegal.
Even Obama, who talked of scaling back the Patriot Act and the drone program started under the Bush administration, has not only utilized those dark areas of his power, but expanded them and made them stronger than ever before.
So, I’m out. I wash my hands of this. I’m taking a vacation.
However, I do have a plan for when I’m rested and ready to come back for another bowl of media soup—a plan I think everyone, whether they supported Sanders, or Clinton, or Trump, should get on board with.
See, I wasn’t the only one with strongly-held values this election. Bernie talked about his movement nonstop during his campaign, and I’m going to follow up with that movement for as long as it exists.
When I read articles that suggest fracking companies are pleased as punch over Tim Kaine’s selection as Clinton’s VP, or that wage growth has slowed to a crawl while the rich insist they’re already paying their employees too much, it tells me that there is a lot more work to be done than just voting, whether you’re Berned out, like me, or if you’re with her, or if you want to make America great again.
Donate to worthy causes. Run for political office yourself, and campaign for good people in your local offices and at the state level. Start blogging and spreading your ideals, and engage the communities you live in. Hold those in power accountable, and be ready to remove those who stand in the way of progress.
Don’t just choose the lesser of two evils; fight for even the smallest of many goods.
Daniel Durand is a writer based in Boise, Idaho. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org