Commentary: Progressives won’t go back into the basement

The 2016 election results. If Democrats want to win, they need to make some changes.

Have a seat, and a cup of tea or another anodyne of choice, please. This is an important conversation.

Full disclosure, so you can get your name-calling out of the way: I voted for Jill Stein. I didn’t do it with complete enthusiasm. She did some things that were not presidential, said some things I disagreed with, has some beliefs I don’t share. But she was as close to representing me as I could find, in the field that did not include Bernie. Of course this makes me a Bernie Bro — or it would, if Bernie Bros were real. They were invented by the eminently clever Rebecca Traister over at She minted the disparaging phrase to describe “Imaginary Sexist Men who Won’t Vote for the Female Candidate Because Sexism.” This reduces any and all arguments with a single quick scornful phrase.


Since I voted for Jill Stein, I didn’t vote for Hillary, who will be in Rhinebeck tonight plugging her new book. The other night, a friend said to me, again, “So you have to agree with 100 percent of what someone does, in order to vote for them?” That’s a trick the Stolid Dems have learned; make caricatures of all who disagree, whether they are on the other side or your own. I felt Jill Stein’s actions at Standing Rock were not appropriate. She is too far left even for me, in a lot of ways. But her desires for what she would like to see are more aligned with my own desires as to what I would like to see for this country.  So clearly, no, I don’t have to agree 100 percent to vote for someone.

Why am I talking about this now? Because we are all still talking about it, round and round. Because I have friends who still think I owed the Democrats my vote. Friends who couldn’t care less about the DNC admitting to having conspired against Bernie. Friends who don’t care that New York City Board of Elections admitted to illegally removing hundreds of thousands of voters from the roles days before the 2016 primary: 200,000 in Brooklyn alone.

No Hillary voter cares about these things. Or anything else I am about to say. But if they want to win next year (and beyond), they need to start talking about this, making their plans, fielding candidates to endorse whom they might not otherwise consider. I want to convey to the Stolid Dems that they need to include us if they want to win. I very much want them to win. I don’t want any more Republicans gaining ground.

So I offer a very clear and short list of deal breakers:

  • If you tell me we aren’t sure yet if weed is OK? Then I know you are for big pharma. I won’t vote for you. People lose their homes over pot, they get arrested, they go to jail, they lose their kids. The little arrest, the little time in court, is a truly fabulous first step for the prison-industrial complex. Here in New York, a veteran who fought in a war can legally take a pill with known negative and scary side effects, but can’t legally smoke a joint to feel better. Even where it has been made legal, underage pot smoking still provides plenty of fodder for our justice system. It’s prudent to have an age requirement. The bummer is that youth of color get arrested at a dramatically higher rate than do white kids, just like with every other crime in America. Legalize it and free up tons of resources we can no longer afford to spend chasing a boogeyman.
  • I want my candidate to tell me what we are going to do about having more people in prison than any other country in the world, and when we are going to demilitarize the police. We only militarized them so weapons-makers can make more weapons. What bright young man’s idea was this, anyway? Just joking — I’m sure it was an old man, in a room full of rich old men. Men without conscience, whose actions affect entire families and entire neighborhoods for decades. Let’s come up with a way to lower the number of people shrouded in the Prison-Industrial Complex.
  • I also won’t vote for someone who is going to continue War All the Time.  You know Obama bombed seven countries simultaneously? Dubya only bombed four, over time. Did you know today’s soldiers are doing five and six tours of duty, far more than veterans of wars past?  Today, soldiers’ families’ needs aren’t thought about much. The children whose parents are deployed for so long, they will be affected for life, too, won’t they? War used to “bring prosperity.” Well, I don’t see a lot of Americans prospering, leastwise not locally. Do you own stocks? Do you know what stocks you own? You have any money in Halliburton or any other sightless slimy bottom-feeder? You sure?
  • How about a minimum wage of $15 an hour? Note: First person that writes to tell me it’s supposed to be a starting wage for kids will get an entire article about themselves in an upcoming issue. All you have to do to know that is no longer the case is look at the people who are working minimum-wage jobs. I’m nearly middle-aged and most I see are my age. Plenty are older. What kind of inhumane person continues to ignore what they see in front of their faces, and instead talks about what the jobs “are supposed to be”? Any employers that can’t afford it can shut down. Wages are a cost of business and if you require your full-time employee to be on food stamps, then you can’t afford to be in business.

I can disagree with your candidate on every single thing but these dealbreakers and I will still vote for them. That will be our first step towards moving towards the center again. People call Hillary “center left.” Please. Even Bernie himself was no more left than Ronald Reagan on issues of tax loopholes, Social Security and gun control.

Stolid Dems, listen to me closely. If you don’t let the progressives in, you will lose again. This is not a threat, it’s a fact. If the you could accept this simple premise — “the numbers say we need the progressives; how do we manage to include them?” it would make things a lot easier for all of us. Though I try to not loathe people, I loathe our current president. Still, I will not vote for any Dem whose entire argument is, “I’m better than him.”

But I fear there will be no Stolid Dems who want to have this conversation. Instead they will not hear a word I have said. They will say I am threatening to take my bucket, they will say I am unrealistic, that I don’t understand the world, I don’t get the game, I’m a sexist, etc., etc., etc. And we will lose again.

I offer this wisdom from a friend. I bemoaned that we progressives have made it clear we will no longer vote for a non-progressive candidate.

He replied that I should recognize that the Stolid Dems have shown they will not back down. They have made it clear they would rather a Republican win than a progressive.

Let’s not have that happen, shall we? Let’s put the name-calling and the caricatures away, and think about what we want our world to look like. Then let’s work together to make it so.

There are 3 comments

  1. gerald berke

    Here’s you can tell a serious sounding writer is silly:

    “Even Bernie himself was no more left than Ronald Reagan on issues of tax loopholes, Social Security and gun control.”

  2. jacques non

    Your pre-preemptive disclaimer aside, this is “taking the bucket.” If you want to work to make the world as you would like it to look you should do so. But not by sitting back and listing your dealbreakers for candidates produced by the Democratic Party, the only viable outlet for left-of-center views. Folks like you would be much more comfortable in a Parliamentary system, where you could vote for a candidate who meets all your specifications, and that candidate may be part of a coalition government that could wield real power.

    In America we have two parties that are in reality a coalition of many diverse views. That’s the only way they can win. When right of center voters didn’t like the Republican party, they didn’t sit back and condemn that party and vote for third-party candidates. They took over the party. It was THEIR party, not these so-called Republicans. Left of center voters need to do the same thing. Instead of writing of the Democrats as some lame, compromised suitor that needs to woo them with the right positions, they should be claiming the Democratic label as their own. WE are Democrats, not these other folks.

    Of course that’s just for the primary. Once that’s over, you fall in with your party. That’s the way to win. Creating litmus tests is not. If you don’t make common cause with those who you disagree with on some important issues but MOSTLY agree with, you will lose.

    For f**k’s sake we have a completely unqualified, unstable, corrupt, Russia-loving, delusional, vain, inept, illiberal, man baby in the white house aided and abetted by a party that has been completely captured by big donors, such that it has repeatedly attempted and finally succeeded in passing extremely unpopular legislation benefiting only the richest among us and you want to disqualify candidates because they’re not cool with pot (state crime), not opposed enough to mass incarceration (also mostly a state thing, and something Dems always talk about), war (we’re actually not at war at the moment though Trump, through sheer idiocy, may blunder into a nuclear war that will kill 20 million), and minimum wage (another state thing and something all Dems talked about last year)?????

    Get some perspective!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. S. Singleton

    Nothing warms the cockles of my heart during this holiday season, more, than the eager formation of a “circular firing squad” by Democrats and Progressives, alike, arguing publicly, which idiotic policy pronuncement is “better” for “we the people”.

    I ask myself, though – “What else could they possibly offer-up as “free” to the voters?” and “Which imaginary “right” can they synthesize out of “thin air” that still, requires the heavy-hand of government to tax, enforce or regulate?”.

    I’ve got my popcorn and fuzzy slippers. Please, bring it on!!

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