It’s romance week, coupled with our early California spring. The flowering trees are in bud, the leafy garden greens are already sprouting, and even this ol’ fancy has turned to thoughts of love. And I love Bernie Sanders.
But I won’t be voting for him, because there’s a difference between infatuation and a satisfying affiliation for the long haul -- say, for the next eight years or so.
It may seem odd to tag a grumpy, rumpled septuagenarian with sex symbol-ism. His campaign, though, is clearly an ardent appeal to the heart. It’s a call to abandon convention and elope with him on adventures in medicare-for-all, free tuition and the resurrection of middle class life. He promises to slay (or at least imprison) the fire-breathing dragons of Wall Street, and corral the calamitous stampede of campaign cash. It’s a siren song -- practically irresistible.
He invites us to “Feel the Bern” -- not to Think it.
I see romance, too, in the inter-generational squabble among women, neither side of which has done themselves much credit. I won’t make Ms. Steinem’s inexplicably unartful blunder of channeling Connie Francis, but the tizzy between young women and their mothers’ generation has all the earmarks of one telling the other that she’s dating the wrong boy.
The elders’ scolding has been reciprocated, as twenty-somethings yelp back as if they’d been grounded, in a high-backed “how dare you lecture me?!” retort. If this issue was something rational, just about choosing a college or where to have dinner, women of all ages tend to be much better at hashing it all out and considering everybody’s frame of reference and interests. In affairs of the heart, however, and especially in not repeating their mothers’ romantic mistakes – foggedabboudit.
In that regard, I’ve had the joy of kicking around ideas on the subject with my own elder daughter (albeit a thirty-something) for an article she’s developing for publication. Without stealing her thunder (nor the strength of her prose), she sees parallels in the experience of Mrs. Clinton and her own mother, both remarkably capable professional people. She’s come to understand -- and accept -- the profound personal and sometimes ethical sacrifices women of that certain age have made to rattle and crack glass ceilings, clear pathways and achieve freedoms that have made my daughter’s way smoother.
Further, she appreciates it, mightily. And she has the perspective to ‘get’ that sexism isn’t over – that it’s not an artifact of a bygone era. So she takes a clear-eyed view of promoting Hillary, not in tribute, but in recognition that there’s a ton of work yet to be done on those sexual equality issues. And she knows that Hillary, having encountered, fought and sometimes overcome that bias, and worked tirelessly for feminist interests through-out her career, knows it in her soul.
Anyone who airily contends that equality of opportunity is just another issue, or that ‘my minority doesn’t define me’ really ought to take another crack at thinking it through.
Back on the romance beat, as we can all recall, early-on EVerything seems possible in the dizzying fantasy of a crush. Most of us who’ve loved and lost,* however, recognize that sooner or later reality bites. Promises come due, plans need to be successfully implemented and bills paid. Further, Mr. or Ms. Right comes under scrutiny of our friends – and much worse, our enemies. What we don’t know, or chose to ignore, intervenes – and those are enough to dull that heady ardor.
In those regards, Mr. Sanders continues to be disconcertingly approximate about his promises, both as to their funding and their implementation. Free tuition at State U., for instance, from governors more than half of whom are Republicans, busily gutting their education budgets? Big taxes on the 1% and on stock trades, when one-or-both House of Congress are bought-and-paid-for by JPMorganChase? Howsabout campaign finance reform from a hostile Congress, Supreme Court And all those Koch-addled GOP states? How, and how much, exactly? The answers, so far, seem to be “revolution.”
All those promises, so seductive in the moist heat of the night, begin to shrivel in the harsh light of analysis. That’s not a good basis for commitment.
The other thing that struck me, watching last night’s very substantive debate, is that Hillary is also the complete package. My headhunter’s ear listened for issue mastery, breadth of experience and coolness under pressure. Hillary just hit it out of the park. She has mastered the Presidential skillsets. In fact, I’ve noticed that whenever the media and commentocracy’s breathless superficiality and negativity start to intrude, all I have to do is listen and watch her actual words to re-appreciate that she is The Only Candidate of either Party who’s really ready to lead, at home And abroad.
By contrast, Mr. Trump couldn’t find Iran if it was tattoo’d on his butt, and Bernie was reduced to platitudes about talking with our enemies, but not the more demonic Henry Kissinger. It demonstrated that he may be the finest protest candidate ever (at a time when we really need such a gadfly, because he’s right on his issues), but that’s not world leadership.
Does Hillary have flaws? Absolutely, and we know what they are, because the GOP and its networks (Fox and Koch) have been trying to discredit her since … forever. Yet, the candidate abides. Personally, I am suspicious that she will continue to go too easy on white-collar criminality, be more hawkish than I’d prefer, and I do not like the weird blind spot that can give her enemies openings on things like speech fees and email servers.
But we are not electing an icon, or a spouse, or a best friend, or even a nice person: she’s a politician. Just as my kid has come to terms with her maternal unit’s flaws and foibles (and maybe even a few of mine!), so have we both thrown-in with Hillary. The election is simply too important to be ruled from the heart.
But don’t take my word for it – just listen, really listen to her. It could be the beginning of a very satisfactory relationship.
* And who hasn’t? Let’s face it – how many of our romances have ended well? Oops.