This week, I will walk into the voting booth with a handful of career politicians, one con artist, and one idealist.
Truth be told, they’re all politicians. Even the guy who’s never been one before, by placing himself into the political arena, he takes on that definition.
Although we might like individual politicians, or at least dislike some less than others, the term itself has (often deservedly) become a much-maligned word. It’s been said (not by me) that a statesman is simply a dead politician, and that all good politicians are statesmen. It’s not hard to understand why: we generally see them as con artists, working the long game; telling people what they want to hear in order to get reelected and keep bringing in all that juicy lobbyist coin. They “tack left” or “tack right” as needed; they “play to their base”; they speechify when their advisers tell them it will matter and disappear into the woodwork when they’re told to keep out of the fight. They talk to us, look us in the eye, shake our hands, nod at our concerns. And then they fly back to DC, where they sign their names to “example legislation” handed to them by special interest groups and forget all about us until the next time they need our vote.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
This is the lot of the politician. You fight to get the job, and as soon as you have it, you’re moving on to the next con, the next deal.
Hmm. Perhaps the guy who has never done this before isn’t so inexperienced after all.
If all politicians are con artists, it probably makes sense to vote for the actual con artist, because at least he’s not pretending to be anything else.
It’s the same reason folks love Las Vegas. It may take your money, but at least it’s not pretending to love you back. You don’t build a volcano or an Eiffel Tower replica or a dancing lake in the middle of the desert if the suckers aren’t leaving with less cash than they arrived with.
There’s a simple honesty in the obvious con, whether it’s a slot machine or a sending a bill for a breathtaking wall to a neighboring country that didn’t build it and doesn’t want it. Maybe we’ve been lied to so much over the years that we’ll gravitate to simple honesty in whatever form we can find it.
But I digress. I really want to talk about the other guy. Because there’s one candidate in this election who has never been accused of “tacking left” or “tacking right,” or of simply playing to his base, or saying whatever he needs to just to get elected. He’s stood up for what he believes in, even when it was unpopular. In fact, for decades he’s used the word socialist to describe himself, even during an era in which “socialist” was a code word for “scary bad guy.”
Truth is, most of us are socialists around here; it’s just a matter of degree. If you accept Medicare or Social Security: socialist. If you think OSHA should keep workplaces safe, or that laws should limit how many hours your employer can wring out of you without giving you a break: socialist. Government regulating the quality and marketing of drugs: socialist. Public water: socialist. Fire department: socialist. Trash collection: socialist.
By calling himself a socialist, Bernie Sanders is just telling it like it is.
Simple honesty. Sometimes you don’t see it when it’s right in front of you.
As a protester in the sixties, a mayor in the eighties, a representative in the nineties, and a senator in the aughts, he has a reliable and demonstrated track record of fighting for equality, fairness, and liberty.
Hey! Those are my values too!
There are some arguments against him:
He’s unelectable. That’s true of everyone, right up until they’re elected. I’m told he’s extremely popular in his home state—the people who know him best—so he must be doing something right.
His policies will cost too much. That’s pretty much true of everyone who’s ever held the office, except maybe Herbert Hoover. Show me a president who saved the government money all by himself and I’ll show you a dead guy.
He’s not a woman, and it’s time for a woman. No argument there. They boys club absolutely needs disruption. But I trust voting by genitalia about as much as I trust voting by party, which is to say not at all. All I ask is for the best candidate regardless of sex, and in 2016, that’s Sanders.
He’s not conservative. You’ve got me there. If conservative is worth more than honesty, follow your heart. Or vote for John Kasich, but unfortunately it looks like he has even less of a chance than Sanders.
The bottom line is, there’s not one person in this presidential election who has a solid track record of following his or her scruples for the recorded history of their existence. Not one person who has stood up for the little guy (or gal) every single time it’s mattered, for his entire life.
If this is a con, he must be running the really long game.
So on Tuesday, March 15, 2016, I will walk into the voting booth and cast my vote for Bernie Sanders. For the first and possibly the only time in my life, I will vote for a real person who believes what he is telling us and has the best interests of our country at heart. Someone whom I can support without reservation. An idealist. A quality dude.
I can’t tell you how much that means to me. I may have to selfie the moment, just to be sure I was there. I may never have this chance again.
Congratulations Mr. Sanders. You’ve been earning my vote since before I was born.
And on Tuesday, you’ll have it.