When I was in third grade, I remember my teacher telling us she was a Republican because her son was in the military and Republicans cared about soldiers. When I got home, I asked my mother what we were, to which she responded, “We’re Democrats, because Democrats represent issues that are important to you and me.”
I grew up believing in progressive politics. I wanted to learn how to play saxophone because Bill Clinton and Lisa Simpson did. Other times I would stay up late watching “Politically Incorrect.” I bled blue. And when the time came at 18 to finally vote, I voted for a Democrat that I did not believe in, but anything would be better than the Terminator as our governor in California. I was the person that would bug my friends to vote, and would explain to them the importance of taking it seriously, and that although they might have thought that it was cool to see the Total Recall star in politics, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s love of Milton Friedman made his campaign no joke. I remember thinking to myself that the Democrats running with Cruz Bustamante was such a mistake; the former attorney general did nothing to energize voters policy-wise, and he lacked the charisma to compete with a Hollywood celeb. They practically handed over the state capitol to the Republicans.
The second time I voted was for John Kerry. I didn’t care for him too much, but, you know, anyone but Bush. I saw a video of the young antiwar John Kerry and was wondering during his debates against George W. Bush why he didn’t go harder, where was that antiwar veteran that we had seen before? Why wasn’t he taking a stand against Bush’s “anti-terrorism” policies?
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When it was time for me to vote for the next president, the primaries left me with little excitement. I was for the more favorable Dennis Kucinich, but knew no one would take him seriously as a candidate. I had just learned about what the Clintons and their foundation were doing to the developing world, and the long-term effects of Bill Clinton’s presidential policies, so voting for another Clinton in office was definitely not something I considered. As for Barack Obama, I was distrusting at first; I felt that it was too soon into his political career. As I continued to watch the debates, listen to his speeches, I too, bought the hope. When he won, I remember my professor saying to me, “He’s going to be like the rest; he’s going to let you down,” as I was wearing my “Barack Obama for yo mama” T-shirt. I thought my professor was just a jaded old radical — What did he know? This time could be different.
As Obama began to announce his presidential cabinet, then began the diminishing of all that I had hoped. By the end of his term, I was over the Democratic Party. They were weak and lacked the courage to stand up to the Republicans and the establishment. At least, that’s the convenient narrative of the Democrats. As my beliefs in US democracy began to unravel, I clearly began to see what was really happening. We had two parties who were in need of each other. The Republicans, whose role is to scare and fear monger, advocated honestly for what the government and the oligarchs want and will do, while throwing in some social issues. Issues that they themselves don’t really practice, but that will keep their poor, racist, white, god-fearing, gun-holding base happy. And then you have the Democrats, whose role is to deceive, to plead for the rights of the needy, defend what little freedom we do have against the world, keep us from war and be the white voice for people of color, while they pretend to fight against the big bad Republican Party. And it works out perfectly, and we continue to believe that the Democratic Party is one of moral character. But victims of a system that is rigged against them, they are not. They are a part of the system and their role in it is quite important — they uphold the myth that social change and justice can still be found within the means of the electoral process.
Take, for instance, the Bernie Sanders campaign. His campaign was run as the outsider of the party, challenging the establishment and offering a candidate who was not a member of the 1%. His bid to run wasn’t a campaign, but a “political revolution.” In doing so, he energize white millennials to be involved and interested in a campaign that they most likely would have sat out of. I attended one of his rallies in Los Angeles, and when the rally was over, there was a large group of supporters who couldn’t get in who were cheering, “I believe that we will win.” The energy of the rally reminded me of a protest action — there were so many people, so much hope. What would happen to this energy if Sanders were to lose? I wondered.
By the time of the California primary, it seemed possible that Bernie might win, that was at least until Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and media decided to undermine the elections by announcing a Clinton win of the nomination. Clearly, this was undemocratic; this should have offered more fuel to the fire to ignite a third-party candidate out of Sanders, but instead, after his loss in the California primary (which, in fact, we still don’t know the full results of), Bernie Sanders fell in line rather quickly within the Democratic Party and the establishment. Even after emails were leaked about the DNC and its cooperation with Clinton and the media to ensure a Clinton nomination.
In my opinion, Sanders is a fool for not running as an independent, especially as Donald Trump’s campaign continues to unravel. But, as I’ve learned over the years, Democrats are not fools, they are highly skilled manipulators. They are so good at that, that even though they continue to vote for policies that actually hurt communities of color and the poor, they have a strong hold on votes in those constituencies.
They have mastered marketing so well that when we hear that they’re doing a sit-in for a horrible bill on gun control, their base gets excited and rallies behind them in hopes that this act of staged theater is a promise of new days ahead. It was a beautifully staged event: civil rights veteran John Lewis sitting in the middle, surrounded by other Democrats, singing “We Shall Overcome” — it was quite a spectacle. It almost made you forget about those pesky email leaks. Hashtags like #NoBillNoBreak trended on Twitter. For once, the Democratic Party had mustered the courage to stand up and fight against the Republican National Committee. But behind the readings of “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” was a bill that betrayed the people that the Democrats are supposed to protect. A bill that would increase police presence in our communities, grow their already too large arsenal and create a terrorist watch list and ban all of those people who just happen to fall under that list from purchasing firearms.
Right at the tail of the 24-hour sit-in, Bernie Sanders headed to New York and gave one of his “revolutionary” speeches, in which he said to supporters that, “We might as well change the whole Democratic Party.” He also wrote an op-ed for The New York Times, titled, “Democrats Need to Wake Up.” In it, he reinstates his campaign policies regarding income inequality, the environment, war and immigration. He begins the piece with empathizing with Brexit supporters, and ends with a warning to Democrats that they, too, could lose the white working-class completely to Trump. In what felt like a subtweet, he closed the essay with a call for the next Democratic president — and the Democratic Party as a whole — to work towards more progressive issues. Not too shortly after the piece was published, the title of his op-ed was a trendy hashtag on Twitter. Tweets of support for the op-ed with hope that this could be fire that the Democratic Party so desperately needed to be put under them.
And that’s what they’d like you think — that this is the beginning of a new DNC. But this is the Democratic Party’s attempt to co-opt whatever leftist energy existed within Bernie Sanders’ campaign. This is Sanders funneling his supporters towards Hillary Clinton with hopes that he can push her to the left of the political spectrum. As if a masterful political manipulator like Hillary Clinton cares what Sanders or his supporters think. The only thing she cares about is that they show up and vote for her on Election Day. Which she knows they will, because hey, anything but Trump.
And while we fear what a Trump presidency could mean for this country, we are mistaken to think that a Hillary presidency would be any safer.
As Hillary Clinton represents the same party as Trump, the oligarchs, the military, the capitalists, imperialists, colonizers, white supremacists, patriarchs and fascists. She promotes Islamophobia and fear of “the other” — just look at her 2008 campaign election and her treatment towards then-Sen. Barack Obama. Whether it was circulating rumors that he was Muslim in an effort to play into the country’s anti-muslim sentiment, or having her campaign floating around an image of Obama in traditional Muslim garb when he visited Somalia in an overseas trip. Furthermore, Clinton is the preferred candidate of Wall Street and the global financial elite. She is the Democrat that will guarantee that the Palestinian genocide will continue with the help of the United States. And with the leaked emails from her time in the US State Department, we can thank her for her help in destabilizing Syria and empowering ISIS. Clinton represents more war, more imperialism, more deregulation, more of the status-quo. Like the Clinton before her, she hides her conservatism while implementing neoliberalist policies.
Just look at all the different donors for the Clinton foundation. Millions of dollars donated from corporations, oil companies, telecommunication networks, hedge funds and Monsanto. International Business Times reported: “Under Clinton’s leadership, the State Department approved $165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to 20 nations whose governments have given money to the Clinton Foundation.”
The Democrats and Republicans are a singular party of career politicians who want to keep their jobs and access to power. The Democrats are not your friends; they are “frenemies” at best. They are as complacent in the acts of violence committed by the US government as the Republicans. They exploit social movements and language of resistance to maintain dominance over the tactics of change.
The Democratic Party is going to attempt to hijack the energy of dissent, coerce the left back into the party line through fear of a rising fascist right. But this is not the time to let fear continue to dictate our politics. If we are always voting for who we believe is the “lesser evil,” then we are always submitting to evil. Now is the time to acknowledge that our political system is a failure and that we must destructure the state and relearn what democracy really means.
People power is more than just rhetoric; it is the most radical form of democracy.
Politicians are always saying change comes from the bottom up, not the top down. Maybe it’s time we start taking them by their word.