I'm supposed to be a Bernie Sanders supporter.
I mean, I fit the demographic to a T. I'm a White, male millennial with a middle class suburban upbringing. I attended a prestigious college, worked for a bit, and then went back to school for an advanced degree. Through my education and professional life, I've become aware of socioeconomic inequalities and how these inequalities have created an uneven playing field. I saw firsthand the way that financial greed and recklessness led to the Great Recession and the impact that it had on my parents' generation. I've been out of work for extended periods of time, living without healthcare, and have seen just how nerve-racking it can be knowing that you're only one accident away from potential financial ruin. I've seen my closest friends struggle to pay off their student loans while simultaneously working and raising their first child. And so when Bernie Sanders first came along last April and spoke about these issues, it was like he was speaking directly to me. I couldn't help but listen and the more I heard the more intrigued I became.
But then, something funny happened. I began not simply listening to Bernie Sanders, but actually hearing what he had to say. His ideas were great; a true progressive wish list of meaningful policy and legislation. But these ideas simply ignored the political climate in our country. Things like universal healthcare, free college, improved infrastructure, and a raised minimum wage, these were all things that President Obama had not only proposed but had enacted to the best of his ability, even though he faced a divided Congress for six of his eight years in office. Sanders was either completely ignorant of the current gridlock in Washington or he was pandering to his audiences, hoping that they were unaware of the current situation. Either of these possible explanations did not sit well with me, especially as a staunch supporter of President Obama. The only way Bernie Sanders was going to make inroads into the Democratic Party was to claim that President Obama simply had not done enough for those in need. Once Sanders claimed that President Obama was "not progressive enough" or that he'd be better than President Obama on race relations, I knew that Bernie Sanders had lost my support for the foreseeable future.
So I began exploring alternatives and my criteria in this regard was simple: I wanted to find the best candidate to carry on President Obama's remarkable legacy. As the first Democratic debate approached, I was anxious to see if Vice-President Joe Biden would announce his intentions to run for President. When he opted not to run, my attention shifted to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. As someone who was just getting into politics around 2008, I can honestly say I don't remember many specifics of that particular campaign. I never disliked her, but like many of my generation, I felt that Barack Obama was inspiring and I unequivocally cast my second career presidential ballot for him that year. As I began to follow politics more closely during President Obama's first term, I saw how Clinton did a commendable job in helping to restore America's reputation abroad and how she was able to open up new opportunities and partnerships throughout the globe. Knowing that she left office with extremely high approval ratings gave me hope that she could be the true inheritor of President Barack Obama's legacy.
Yet the one event that put me squarely in Clinton's corner was her handling of the political kabuki theater known as the Benghazi Committee in October of 2015. During her 11-hour testimony, Clinton remained cool, calm, and collected and demonstrated the kind of temperament needed to be commander-in-chief. The hearings were seen as a political disaster for Republicans and even committee chairman Trey Gowdy was forced to admit that the hearing provided no new information. Seeing Republicans willing to politicize the death of four brave Americans to attempt to smear both President Obama and Secretary Clinton enraged me and I saw the Benghazi Committee for what it truly was: an attempt to discredit Secretary Clinton in the eyes of the American public. Hearing Republican Kevin McCarthy admit this fact on national television simply confirmed my belief.
So there I was, a millennial firmly entrenched on Team Hillary. As my Facebook feed became more and more clogged with pro-Sanders and anti-Clinton articles, I began to wonder why I was seemingly alone in my allegiance, despite the fact that many of my peers were both intelligent and politically-aware individuals. As Clinton firmly established herself as the candidate most able and willing to carry on President Obama's legacy, I failed to understand why none of my peers saw this as being essential to maintain the progress that we, as a nation, had made under President Obama. A prevented second Great Depression, the salvation of the American auto industry, the implementation of The Affordable Care Act providing 20 million Americans with improved health insurance, the elimination of Osama Bin Laden, the refusal to defend DOMA helping lead to marriage equality, the historic Iran Deal helping to stabilize the Middle East, the Paris climate agreement, and the opening of Cuba were all significant achievements that were only made possible by the dedicated and determined man who occupied the Oval Office. While Clinton seemed intent on keeping these policies intact, Sanders voted against some of these achievements while he felt others simply weren't progressive enough.
And it was that mindset, that disdain, that Sanders had for President Obama that put me over the edge. He wasn't simply running a campaign to offer a progressive platform to push Hillary Clinton to the left, but he was actively running to undermine President Obama's achievements and his legacy. Combine that with the fact that I personally witnessed a Donald Trump rally and saw the kind of fervor his supporters were capable of, and I knew that Hillary Clinton was the only candidate who could both carry on Barack Obama's legacy and defeat Donald Trump in a general election. From the start of 2016 on forward, I vowed to put all my efforts into ensuring that Clinton would become the Democratic nominee for president and the best way I felt I could do this was through my writing. I began by composing a widely-read essay at the end of January that explained my rationale for being a millennial Hillary Clinton supporter. For the heinous crime of stating my political opinion, I was attacked by a swarm of Bernie Sanders supporters who seemed to take umbrage with the fact that I was unwilling to participate in their collective groupthink. I followed up my first piece with a second one, calling out the #BernieBros and their misogynistic behavior. Needless to say, this essay did not enable me to win the hearts and minds of any Sanders supporters.
Yet I sauntered on, mainly due to the fact that our mainstream media was giddy at the possibility of having a competitive Democratic race when one should never have existed. As Sanders appeared to be initially competitive, I saw how our media refused to engage him beyond simple questions they knew would be in his wheelhouse. They simply would not vet him for fear of making him look bad. The so-called Professional Left as well as other progressive websites willingly gave him a free pass. So I felt compelled to raise questions I thought our media should be asking. In various pieces I raised concern about Sanders' close ties to the NRA, his vote against the Amber Alert system, his support for the military-industrial complex, his refusal to raise money for down-ballot Democratic candidates, and I even raised concern regarding certain select examples of his hypocrisy when it came to his voting and his actions. I came to see how Sanders had an extremely narrow world view that was based on a type of political purity that was both unattainable and unrealistic. As time went on, it became clear that Sanders' revolution would never actually arrive, that he never actually thought through his policy proposals, that he refused to admit to certain truths regarding the actual situation his campaign was in, and that he was actually running a deceitful and deceptive campaign that took advantage of young people and ultimately created the kind of supporters who simply didn't care for progressive politics and were willing to throw it all away unless their candidate was nominated.
In previous generations, a person with that kind of background would have never gotten past the first couple of debates, especially against a candidate with Hillary's Clinton's background and experience. Yet, as I saw the media attempt to raise up Bernie Sanders, I saw him simultaneously attempt to bring down Hillary Clinton. So like Clinton herself, my battle became on two fronts: Bernie Sanders and the mainstream media. To combat the media, it was simply a matter of refuting their campaign of deliberate misinformation to try and smear Clinton's reputation. To do that, I wrote about how Clinton's actual involvement with the 1994 Crime Bill was not what the media led us to believe, how the accusation that she is bought and sold by Wall Street is simply untrue, how she is actually the most truthful candidate running for president, and even how she was running the campaign Bernie Sanders promised to run and creating her very own political revolution in the process. I combated a hit-piece by Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone Magazine, I addressed concern trolling by MSNBC's Chris Matthews who falsely characterized Hillary Clinton as having a penchant for war, and I even attempted to explain to millennials why political pragmatism was a good thing. I did all these things because our media felt that they would much rather paint Hillary Clinton as a deeply flawed candidate rather than one of the most qualified candidates in a generation simply to help boost their own ratings.
These past five months have not been easy. I've found that having an opinion contrary to your peers can make you a literal target for those who disagree with you. I've ended up on a "hit-list" of Hillary Clinton supporters courtesy of an anonymous Bernie Sanders supporter. I've ended up having my professional information shared thanks to Markos Moulitsis' inability to control the rabid Bernie Sanders supporters who have infested his Daily Kos website. I've found multiple new friends on Twitter who feel that I'm either a paid Hillary shill, a paid David Brock shill, a Hillary troll, a Hillary bot, a piece of feces engaged in coitus, or something in between. I've learned to ignore phone calls and text messages from numbers I don't recognize. I've seen my progressive peers harassed at their places of employment. I've seen progressive heroes like John Lewis, Dolores Huerta, Planned Parenthood, The Human Rights Campaign, Barbara Boxer, Barney Frank, and Elizabeth Warren attacked for their views. I often fall asleep at night contemplating if these things are even worth fighting for and I've only been at this for five months.
Hillary Clinton has had to endure all this for twenty-five years.
That, that, right there is why I will continue to fight for this woman. Because for twenty-five years she's endured these kind of attacks on herself, her family, her friends, and her own progressive heroes. Republicans and Bernie Sanders aren't saying anything that hasn't said before. It literally took Donald Trump ten seconds to come up with the "Crooked Hillary" moniker. That's the idea that Republicans began planting in 1992 and our media and Bernie Sanders and his supporters have bought it hook, line, and sinker. Today, Clinton has to fight a three-front war: her Democratic opponent, her Republican opponent, and the mainstream media. Yet despite all that, here she is, just over a week away from officially becoming the first female presidential nominee of a major political party in our nation's history. To quote Joe Biden, "That's a big f'ing deal!"
I come from privilege. I can handle a few names and hit-lists here and there. But I know I've never faced the kind of criticism that Hillary Clinton has been forced to endure over the past quarter-century. Seeing her consistently rise above the fray is inspiring. For those that actually take the time to see this woman for who she truly is, you'll find her to be a lifetime public servant who has consistently fought for those without a voice. School integration. Children's access to education. Children's access to health care. Recovery funds for New York after 9/11. Women's rights. LGBT rights. The DREAM Act. She goes to bat for these groups because it is who she is and what she does. She has not been handed the Democratic nomination on a silver platter, she has gone out there and earned it. This is a culmination of her life's work. It is not something she feels entitled to or something that has been given to her. She has gone out and fought, like no woman before her, and has overcome every single obstacle in her path to history. At the end of the day, each and every person in this country has a chance to reward this woman's tenaciousness and tenacity by simply voting for her for president on November 8th.
After all she's been through, it's the least you can do.
I'm supposed to be a Bernie Sanders supporter.