The Long Road

Bernie lost New York State tonight. Or was it stolen? We’ll never know which. Either way, what now? Do Bernie Sanders supporters concede what appears to be the inevitable and get behind Hillary? Do we fight on while we hope for a Clinton Foundation scandal or an FBI indictment? Or maybe we simply work harder and push forward against the odds and pray the Far West takes us home?

Now that we’ve aired those options, let’s get pragmatic. Bernie Sanders does not have a clear path to the nomination. From the pledged delegate numbers to the loyalty of the superdelegates to the Clintons, Bernie’s highway isn’t realistic. And I don’t say that easily. I’ve been in his corner since I learned what he stood for. But as bitter as the taste of those words, I’m going to be honest with you cowboys and cowgirls. I’m not sure his nomination is key to the longterm health of the liberal movement. In fact, his loss might just be the jet fuel liberals need to take back the Democratic Party. Let me explain.

  1. Since World War 2, no political party has held the White House for more than eight years. (There are two exceptions to this rule. The first was George Bush the Senior, who followed the mythic presidency of Ronald Reagan. The second was Al Gore, who followed the mythic presidency of Bill Clinton — Gore won the popular vote.) So if history assures us of anything, it’s that the Democrats will lose the White House to the Republicans in 2020 if they win this November. That brings us to my second point.
  2. If Bernie loses the White House in 2020 (or the general this year), the conservative Democratic power base will blame that loss on his progressive policies, and that will lock liberals out of power for at least another half generation. It’s a lose-lose for us with only a brief four-year shot at some minor gains. Those are terrible odds. And then there’s the third reason a Bernie loss this year could become a positive thing.
  3. In 2010, the GOP ran the table in the midterms and took control of state houses across the nation. That allowed them to redraw district lines with unrighteous precision, which resulted in the current situation wherein the Democrats have to earn 54% of the national vote just to break even in the House of Representatives. (And that doesn’t address the massive damage Republicans have done at the state level, where everything from voting rights to a woman’s right to choose has been decimated.) The next redistricting takes place in 2020. And Jesus himself could not generate the kind of second term excitement that would create a wave election four years into a presidency. That’s not what second term elections are about. And Democrats need a wave election if we’re going to take back the states and redraw those lines.

In 2008, I began the primary a Joe Biden supporter. I loved the guy. I still do. But when he fell out and Obama ascended, I easily migrated to the senator from Illinois. Losing and shifting allegiance is part of politics, as all of us who love this blood sport know. But this year is different for me in that I won’t be shifting my allegiance to Hillary if Bernie fails to get the nomination. (You can read my reasoning here.) I will instead, as far as it depends on me, allow the GOP to win the White House four years sooner than it otherwise would and will then rely on the Democratic Senate to hold the line against a Republican president much like the Republicans have held the line against Obama. (Such an effort may be easier than it sounds if the president is Ted Cruz or Donald Trump, both of whom are despised by their party.)

Allowing the Republicans to win the White House in 2016 serves two purposes. It prevents the Clintons from returning their peculiar form of unprincipled politics to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue — and it is better to lose to the GOP than to have Bill and Hillary and their drama burden our nation for another four years as they actively delay economic justice and other necessary liberal legislation by eight to twelve years. The other reason to allow the Republicans to take it in ’16? A reinvigorated liberal movement will need time to grow.

It’s always better to build a movement than to rush into power. That truth has held true across generations and nations and political parties. America’s own GOP is a prime example of this. Conservatives forfeited their chance to control the Republican Party when Goldwater lost in 1964. But instead of giving up, they dug in and slowly gathered the reigns of power while they waited for the right candidate to arrive. In 1976, that candidate rose through the ranks. His name was Ronald Reagan, and four years later he was elected to the White House. (His bat shit crazy wing of the GOP controls their party still today.)

We now find ourselves in the same position as those Goldwater supporters (of which Hillary was one) in 1964. We are insurgents. We want our party back. And we have a lot of work to do if we are going to wrest control from the power brokers who have come to own our party.

But whether we get a win for Sanders or we lose to Clinton, to retake the Democratic Party those of us who subscribe to the same philosophy as Bernie have to begin formulating and answering those questions necessary to build the foundation of a longterm movement: 1) What are our core beliefs? 2) How do we get ourselves into positions of power within our precincts, our states and on the national level of the DNC? 3) Who are our strongest and most ethical prospects for state and national office? 4) How do we build a clean fundraising outreach? 5) How do we keep Bernie voters engaged over the long haul? Those are only a few of our concerns. There are plenty more, most of which are deep in the weeds. (Movements take work.) And all of them have to be answered.

The interventionist and pro-business Democratic Leadership Council was formed in the 1980s as a response to the political success of Ronald Reagan. Conservative, it was a group designed for its time. And as it gained power, it pushed our party far to the right of its liberal moorings. It was from the DLC that Bill Clinton arose in 1992. His popularity further cemented the group’s conservative ideals into the new orthodoxy of the Democratic Party.

It has been twenty-three years since Bill Clinton was sworn into office as the forty-second President of the United States. Twenty-three years is a long time. Too long. And during that interval conservative Democrats have in partnership with the GOP caused irreparable economic damage to the poor and middle class of this country as they ruthlessly transferred our wealth to the top. They have pushed us to our limits.

So it’s now time to form a new council, one focused on people and their needs that will take us back to the ethical, socially just, and effective principles from which Franklin Roosevelt energized the Democratic Party with his own form of democratic socialism. We have four years to grow this Revolution from the seedling it is today. Let’s get to work!

#NeverHillary

Now read more:

The Zephyr Teachout Congressional campaign. She is taking Bernie’s message to Congress:  http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/04/zephyr-teachout-bernie-sanders-new-york

The Delicate Flower?

Clinton Spin: Sunday’s Democratic debate, the last before the Michigan primary, was about “tone.” Was about “disrespect.” Was about “sexism.”

But it wasn’t.

For those of you who’ve watched political debates through the years, you know how the game is played. And you know that whenever a candidate or their campaign complains about “tone” or “disrespect” or “sexism,” you can rest assured that the issue at hand is none of those things. Instead it’s about strategic advantage. It’s about setting the narrative.

And this is the story behind Clinton’s current narrative:

Hillary Clinton needs the female vote. The problem for her is that Bernie Sanders has been getting it in far larger numbers than she anticipated. And so to lock up this nomination, she needs to get her numbers up. She needs a game changer. Enter “sexism.”

Sexism is something every woman in the business world — hell, some in their own home — has to deal with. It’s being treated like you don’t have a brain. Or like your opinion doesn’t matter. Or like you’re not an equal. “Sexism” is a powerful issue that almost all women can connect on.

But what exactly is non-sexist behavior during a presidential campaign? Is it politeness? Is it deference? It is listening calmly while the other person speaks?

Politics is the opposite of everything your parents taught you was right: “Put others first,” “Don’t brag on yourself,” “Be respectful.” Politics turns all that on its head.

During the 1980 Republican primary, when his mic was about to be cut, Ronald Reagan barked, “I paid for this microphone!” In 1988, vice presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen said to Dan Quayle when he invoked JFK, “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.” These things get ugly. And because she has played on the presidential field before, Hillary Clinton knows that it’s going to get ugly for her, too. (To that point, Bernie interrupting her during the debate was not ugly. It was an opponent vying for leverage. True ugly won’t come until November if she makes it that far. So she might want to keep her hyperbole pocketed until the real battle ahead.)

Hillary Clinton is not a waifish wallflower. She is a former Senator and Secretary of State who testified for eleven hours during a mockery of a Congressional hearing. So while one can reasonably question her pro-free trade policies (that will further decimate blue collar workers), and while it’s fair to ask her what concessions high-powered CEOs expect for their tens of millions of dollars in contributions, it is ludicrous for her to act like she doesn’t grasp what presidential level politics entail. It is likewise ludicrous for her to imply that Bernie Sanders with his 20+ years in the tank for women’s rights is sexist.

No, the person most cynical and condescending to women tonight was not Bernie Sanders but Hillary Clinton, who mocked a woman’s desire for fair treatment in the work place by equating it with hardball politics. Now the question: Are you going to fall for that?

Aiming Low

Hillary Clinton is coming on strong. Behind her are the political winds. (The establishment: Democrats in the Senate, Congress, state houses, even the White House — if rumors are to be believed.) These are folks who loved the 1990s so much that they want to return. And why not? What wasn’t to love about the first Clinton presidency with its soaring economy and that smart vibrant twosome in the White House? And its pretty blue dress.

Life was great when I was a kid. I spent summers in the lake and on my Schwinn Stingray. But I got sick when I was nine. Soon I couldn’t balance my bike beneath me. I was in a wheelchair by the time I was ten.

The illness I had was rare. Wasn’t under control. Multiple times, I almost died. I spent the next four years in and out of hospitals.

By the time middle school rolled around, my hospital stays were done, but I was unable to attend school (pre-ADA). So I stayed home. Days were long, boring, spent with an aged couple who “babysat” me while Mother and Daddy were at work. There was lots of TV.

At the age of sixteen, my parents bought a van with a lift. I could go places without them and started attending a youth group. Soon I was in college, had friends, enjoyed parties. I got to live. I had a life.

It’s been twenty-five years since college. And when I look back, I realize what a good life I’ve had. Swimming, biking, parents who loved me. Then came a world class university, incredible friends, experiences in the bigger world. Because of that, I rarely think about those long years I sat home alone. Or the four years in hospitals that preceded them. I recall very little of that. Like it never even happened.

It’s easy to remember the good to the exclusion of the bad. I think that’s how we survive, our species, because life is hard, often painful. And so I doubt we could make it without selective retention — nature’s benzodiazepine. But selective retention is a double-edged sword. Take, for example, the Clinton years.

It began with rumors of infidelity. Then came Ginnifer Flowers. Yet more rumors. Then Monica. “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” Bill said. Kenneth Starr. A blue dress with the president’s semen on it.  What the meaning of “is” is. And then impeachment.

In the end, William Jefferson Clinton won. His favorables remained high for years after. They’re still high.  But we — you and I — we paid a price for that.

For those of you not old enough to appreciate the battles of the 1990s, I can tell you that they possessed every ounce of vitriol you’ve witnessed between the GOP Congress and President Obama. The fire was just as hot. But unlike Obama, Bill Clinton brought those battles on himself. His recklessness, his insatiable desire for pussy, his hubris, his manipulation of the facts and his threading of the needle of legality fueled division that costs us all. Yet he showed zero regret. The definition of narcissism.

Hillary was the facilitator of Bill’s conceit. From the start. On 60 Minutes, two days before the New Hampshire primary, she stared into the camera and lied for him. He hadn’t cheated, she said.

Someone once said that anyone who has the arrogance to think they can run the world will believe they can get away with anything. That stayed with me. Because it’s true. Bill Clinton was the poster child for that arrogance.

Most of us who witnessed Hillary handle her husband’s cheating with Monica respected her skill and her grace. Some women condemned her for not brushing him aside, for not standing up for young women by showing them they had more value than to be cheated on by a man, repeatedly, in public, with no remorse. But Hillary implied through secondary channels (if she didn’t out right say it) that her faith got her through. And while she had said before Bill’s election that she wasn’t a “stand by her man” woman, mocking an old country song that was well-worth mocking, that was exactly who she was. For better or worse. From devotion or ambition.

Hillary ran for Senate in 2000. It was suspected at the time that the Clintons bought their house in New York for the sole purpose of her running, that their move was arranged to coincide with the Senate seat being vacated by Daniel Moynihan. Few disputed that, even among her supporters, as Hillary was young and had goals of her own. Some even speculated that her devotion to Bill had been political expediency directed toward those goals. That it wasn’t love at all. Or not only love. With her run for the Senate came talk of her return to the White House. As president. And we all wondered if she would take philandering Bill with her or leave him in a ditch along the way. Heated speculation: Would his above par political skills make up for his subpar character?

Hillary was described during her time in the Senate as a team player. Her Republican colleagues liked her. Respected her. Worked beside her. Yet she accomplished little: Renamed a US Post Office and renamed a highway. No legislation otherwise bears her name. But she did place one high profile vote. For the Iraq War.

To this day, no one knows if Hillary’s Iraq War vote reflected her true sentiment, or if it was merely to frame her with the necessary toughness a woman would need if she ran for president. Either way, the Iraq War was in part hers. She gave Bush that permission. And she was wise enough to have known that he would use it to invade; if we knew, and we did, then it by no means got past her. So that war is on her shoulders. It was her move.

Hillary Clinton is now running for the nation’s top job. Odds are, she will get the Democratic nomination. She stands a decent shot of becoming the next President of the United States.

From the start, I have been leery of Hillary. I’m male, and have been told online — where I tweet often — that I’m a misogynist, afraid of powerful women, don’t see the need for a woman to break through the glass ceiling. Untrue. I was raised by a strong woman, an independent woman, a woman who believes women can do anything a man can do. It’s a belief she passed on to me. (And if Hillary’s disapproval was based merely on misogyny, then college-aged women would have risen up first for Hillary not Bernie Sanders.) Still, like I said, I’m leery of Hillary. I was in 2008, as well. So this go round I’ve been for Bernie.

I differentiate Hillary and Bernie this way: Listen to Bernie, you hear conviction; listen to Hillary, you hear ambition. Ambition concerns me. It has always concerned me. Ambition is about “me” while conviction is about things greater than “me.” That’s why I enthusiastically support Bernie Sanders. And that’s why I will continue to support him despite what appears to be an inevitable loss.

As my candidate struggles against his opponent’s powerful political machine, I will conclude with this:

What we remember of the 1990s is not what happened in the 1990s. It is a memory. Nothing more. And memory, for our very survival, glosses over some very bad things. In this case, for many who support Hillary, it has whitewashed scandals that ate at us for almost eight years and the laws that were slipped by us with Bill Clinton’s calm cool reassurance (the same smooth demeanor he used on Ginnifer, Monica and the others before and since, no doubt) when he told us that what we were doing was right and good, while it was neither. Those laws instead:

  1. Incarcerated hundreds of thousands of non-violent men;
  2. Threw the poor, the weakest of the weak, onto the streets;
  3. Redirected the Democratic Party’s focus from working men and women toward Wall Street and major financial contributors, the same powers that bankroll the GOP;
  4. Through NAFTA closed tens of thousands of American factories and left millions of hard working blue collar men and women unemployed;
  5. Gave bankers the power they needed to consolidate despite warnings from history and much wiser people that it could bring down the economy, which it did in 2008.

Hillary Clinton comes from a dark spot in American history, one she helped create. No matter how much she denies the bad from that time, or embraces the good, from that forgotten place has returned a deeply flawed couple whom together — “you get two for the price of one,” Bill told us — enacted laws that destroyed the lives of millions of Americans in order to advance one family’s legacy.

Do we really want to go back there?

Half White All Black

Humans acclimate quickly, come to take things for granted. And so it feels normal now. After slavery, after Jim Crow, after the lynchings and the beatings and the murders of innumerable black men by bad men and bad cops, we have for seven years had a black president. Do you remember when that seemed impossible?

This black president was given birth by a white mother and raised within a white family in a white culture. Strange how rarely we think of that, how we think of him only as our black president, how we still see things through old eyes. The one drop rule.

But that we’ve viewed this president as black has revealed an amazing thing about us. For even though we saw him as black — and only black, not white — we ignored all the negative connotations that we’ve been conditioned to believe about brown skin, and we voted for this man. Twice.

And he garnered our vote both times despite the wedges his opposition used to frame him as an other: Dismissed as an African not born here, accused of “palling around with terrorists,” denied of his Christian faith with innuendo that he was the same religion as the 9-11 attackers, accused of “hating white people,” charged with wanting to destroy America, damned as unpatriotic because he dared to tell us that we could do better.

Still we voted him in.

But among Republicans, his elections have never been finalized. He has never been their president. It’s as if they believe his election was a lie, a dream of the far left that the GOP is waiting for us to wake from. In their delusion they have denied him victories and even respect. They have treated him, as they used to say of men subjugated to white will, “like their nigger.”

And that behavior by a recalcitrant Republican congress wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction to his election nor in principled opposition to his policies. It was a methodical plan laid out by the Republican leadership on the day Barack Obama was sworn-in, and its set goal was to block every piece of legislation the president proposed, to obstruct him at every turn. It was an action that was nothing short of treason if treason is setting aside one’s sworn service to the American people in exchange for personal ambition.

It’s now been seven years since the Republicans set their plan into motion, and their agenda has remained the same, as witnessed after the death of Antonin Scalia, when the Senate leader stated that no Supreme Court appointment would be permitted until the American people were given a chance to speak in the 2016 election. In other words, the people’s voice in 2012 was an inaccurate measure of the public will. And it must have been. As for the second time they elected a black man to the White House, and surely that kind of irony was a mistake.

Ironic, too, has been the hard-to-comprehend reality that the same people who voted for our first black president voted for this congress. And while we may never know why they split their vote, their will can be seen through the fog of their contradiction: The president’s personal and job approval numbers are through the roof while those of Congress have plummeted to the floor. The people are stating their will, if to an obstinate legislature.

Yet stomp their feet all they might, this GOP will soon have no choice but to listen, as they are a diminishing minority — their numbers shrinking for a reason: Their beliefs are rooted in old fears, old science, old beliefs, old everything. And the old withers away.

Then comes the new.

Barack Hussein Obama is a stark reminder that the homogeneous white nation that was once an island of prosperity in a much smaller world is no more. It has died — has been dying for decades. And it won’t come back, no matter how tightly Republicans hold onto their guns or narrow-minded religions. That old America has breathed its last and the new has been born, sealed with the election of our first black president.

It was a violent birth.

The past eight years have opened up scars long thought closed as the president’s skin — not his policies, demeanor, actions — blinded a majority of far right voters to the absurdity of what they were being told. It was painful to watch up close: Old friends, good friends, fine people behaving like those respectable white men and well-groomed white women on the newsreels from Selma. These good people who work hard and love their families and their country have believed the most despicable lies of their day. And their gullibility is easy to judge, to mock, to look down upon, until you realize we are no different: Black and white, liberal and conservative, young and old, residents of Little Rock and citizens of Berlin. The sin of my friends reveals all our sin. That poison courses through all of us, we are all filled with hate. Those of us not acting out are merely waiting for the messenger.

And this president could have acted in kind. He could have called out our generation’s racism. He had that right, he was its target. But he didn’t. He instead took it like a man and taught us by his good grace and example how we overcome our sin. And because of his dignity, the president’s tormentors grew small while he grew large, and he will only grow larger as history judges him as the steady captain who singlehandedly guided our ship out of the Great Recession while the unruly crew was mutinous.

Be proud, America. We elected this man — the right man — into the White House, and we did that twice. So even if we make the same mistakes in the future that we have in the past, Obama is our proof that we are maturing, that we’re slowly getting it right.

Commies and Fascists

Middle East: We’re in battle with a twenty-first century Vietcong. Middle Class: Our jobs have left for overseas. Middle Ground: There is none.

Middle is a problem.

America’s foundation is crumbling. That means infrastructure, yes. But our problem is deeper than concrete. It’s us. We’re pulling apart.

Read social media. Listen to the radio. Watch cable news. Remember “mutual respect?” No, I don’t either. It’s been a long time.

Republican friends, the vehement type, the ones who are hard right, believe government is out to get us, believe it’s killing our jobs, believe Democrats hate America just like their president hates America. In that respect, they’re fools, and yet my buddies. They think the same of me.

We’ve known each other forever, my buddies and me, shared laughs over beers, checked out women in short skirts at the bars, amped up each other’s courage when we were too afraid to go talk to the cute one, “Quit being a pussy and ask her!” But that was college. Been years. Now we’re older. Wives, kids, house payments. Life is more complicated. Blame easier to hurl.

Yet we’ve got to fix this, get the country under control before it’s too late. But we can’t, because we’re fighting over the wheel. “Let go of that goddamned steering wheel!” we scream. At each other. As we careen toward the ditch. But no one lets go. “Those fools,” we all yell, “are gonna kill us!” And about that the odds are stacking. It’s not looking good.

People don’t suffer fools. And the other ones are fools. So we’re fracturing. As a nation. As friends. For some, even as family. And we have been for a while.

  • Obama? His election exacerbated our division, exploded us into factions not seen since the civil war — or at least since the Edmund Pettus Bridge — even before his oath of office.
  • Bush 43?  His Supreme Court coronation and the wars that followed surely widened the rift between us. But they weren’t what opened the fissure.
  • Clinton? Disliked by Republicans and some Dems, relentlessly investigated, wrongly impeached, certainly immoral and self-serving. But this didn’t start with him, either.
  • Bush 41? Too banal to have caused anything.
  • Reagan? Worshipped and demonized, without question responsible for the deaths of both the middle class and the USSR. But our anger was birthed before him.

Our split was a long time coming. Before Fox News. Before Rush Limbaugh. Before William F. Buckley. Before Nixon. Before Goldwater. Before the John Birch Society. Before the hippies and the yippies and the beatniks and the Vietnam War. Truth be told, I think it has always been here. I think this is who we are. Divided, right brain-left brain, both, the cautious and the aspirational. The “yes we cans” and the “but maybe we should nots.” The dogmatic and the free thinkers. The lovers of science and the prayers to God. This is who we were and who we will always be.

But together?

It feels like we’re at our end. The red lights are flashing. The crossing guard has dropped down in front of the tracks. A train. But no one’s at the wheel while everyone’s at the wheel. And no one’s hitting the brakes. I write about this incessantly because it feels imminent. Like at any moment we’re going to crash and burn. And maybe it’s always been that way. Maybe we’ve always felt like we’re on the verge of our demise because maybe we are. Maybe that’s how democracy works.

Yet as different as we’ve been, we have somehow survived — because we’ve met in the middle, at that center yellow line, sometimes in the left lane, sometimes the right, but always on the road.

But things seem different now. It’s harder to steer, the middle harder to find. And so we’ve angled toward the ditch.

And still we’re accelerating.

Mr. Smith Screams at Washington

The death rattle of the American dream. That’s what we’re witnessing.

Do you know anyone who thinks their vote matters? Anyone who believes Washington hears their voice? Do you know one person whom you respect who believes the nation is headed in the right direction? Who believes the next generation will be better off than this one? Than the generation before?

Of course, you don’t.

The contraction of a democracy brings with it the kind of men who come before an end, the John the Baptists and the AntiChrists, the ones that warn you of your demise and offer the promise of resurrection. (Which of those fates you experience, of course, depends on you. It always depends on you.)

When the voices first rose in late 2008, what would become the Tea Party wasn’t conservative. It wasn’t liberal. It was men and women from across the spectrum enraged at Washington for giving our money (yours, mine) to Wall Street bankers — and then hanging us out to dry. It was grassroots. It wanted justice. It demanded that our government act on our behalf. Then it was coopted by the far right.

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are surging because we the people want to be heard. No more platitudes. No more hedging. We want candidates standing where we stand. And no matter which side you’re on, one of these two men echo back your cries: Put us at the front of the line — before Wall Street, before non-Americans, before those who are buying our politicians and robbing us of our voice.

Hear us!

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are our clarion call to Washington that we’re fed up with its narcissism, a message to the powers that be that the people who rose up seven years ago with the Tea Party, the real Tea Party that breathed fire before the Kochs and Fox News harnessed it, are alive and well and still raging at the injustice that’s been leveled at our feet.

But we are not satiated by our anger.

We want good paying jobs. We want to own our own homes again. We want to know what it’s like to have a savings account and what forty-hour work weeks and two week vacations feel like. We want to see our kids walk across the stage after their college education and know they aren’t shackled to student debt but about to embark on a fantastic new adventure. And we want to know our elderly parents won’t die in poverty.

To put it simply: We want our country back.

And through our votes for these two disparate men we are asserting that we expect those whom we’ve elected to turn from the bribery they’re engaging in to the service of three hundred twenty million American futures — and not merely their own.

We are living in a Mr. Smith Goes to Washington moment. We, right and left, have created that moment. And if Washington listens, the Republican and Democratic parties and America itself might just be revived. But if Washington does not listen…

Slaves’s Revolt

2016. We’re in full swing. I’m a Bernie supporter, will not vote for Hillary in the primary, will not support her if she’s the nominee. I’m catching flack for that. “The Republicans will win,” I’m told. And truth is, if enough people feel like I do, that prediction may be right. But Hillary Clinton is a large cog in a larger machine that has systematically robbed every one but the wealthiest of us of our voice in our government. And as a Democrat, a member of the political party that once stood for persons not corporations, I feel compelled to take a stand before its destruction is complete. Even now, it is no more liberal than the Republican Party in 1972. (I know this. I was there to see the world then.)

The Democratic Party used to belong to working men and women, minorities, the poor, unions. It was us against them, oppressed against oppressor, working class against monied class, Democrat against Republican. It was a frustrating balancing act, a constant tension. And yet it worked. It always seemed to work. Then Bill Clinton stepped into the White House.

Bill was smooth. Ask any woman he shagged. He got into their heads. He knew what they wanted. He had his way. He got into our heads.

Democrats had suffered through eight years of Reagan, four of Bush, and all we wanted was to win.  Bill showed us we could win, and we could win big, could win the hearts and minds of the public like Reagan had. We just had to trust him. He would take care of everything.  Now, Shhh, he said, the lion to the lamb.

And then he brought in some friends.

For over twenty years, since 1992, those of us in the middle and the poor have willingly given the fruits of our labor to the Democratic Party’s new benefactors (AKA Bill’s friends). What once belonged to us — the envy of the world, the great middle class — has been transferred into the swelling bank accounts of the wealthy. Working class families who could send their kids to college, could buy a boat, some even buy a weekend cabin, now struggle to get by. Their jobs, once plenty, reside today in Mexico, in China, in India. The result of Clinton’s push for free trade, we are told those jobs can never come back. We’re told they’re beneath us. We’re told we have to educate ourselves to become those workers’ masters. But, of course, college is unaffordable. Nor is everybody cut out for it. And so hard working men and women, people who built things, now work for minimum wage or maybe, if they’re lucky, twenty bucks an hour. Republicans didn’t do this to us. They alone didn’t have that power. No, our party did this to us — the Democratic Party — and we let it.

Then eight years ago we were offered change. We were told this new guy could bring us back. He would fix things, they said. And we believed like we believed before. Our candidate’s name was Barack Obama. He won the White House because of us.

I heard an old black man say about Obama before the 2008 election that he had seen men like him in the neighborhood before: Handsome suit, creased pants, shiny shoes, a smooth talker who assured people he would take care of them. The man said you should never trust a man like that. But I didn’t believe him. And to be honest, even now, I like Obama. I think — no, I know — he wants to do the right thing. For us. But a slave can only do what he’s allowed to do. (Yeah, I know, that’s an improper analogy, all things considered. But is it wrong? Is Obama not a slave to the system? You know he is, his race irrelevant.)

The severity of our situation is clear. In the months that followed the crash of 2008, when our popular new president could have prosecuted and likely convicted Wall Street for its crimes against us, when he could have shifted some of those trillions used to bail out the banks to Main Street, he did not. What he did instead was first serve our predators. And today their companies are bigger than they’ve ever been, their CEO’s are earning more than they’ve ever earned, while millions of us have lost our homes and may never own one again. Sound like a fair trade?

So will a Republican win the White House if I and Democrats like me refuse to vote for another Wall Street sycophant? Yeah, that’s possible, maybe even likely. But it’s time we take a stand against our party for our party. It’s time we go on strike until the Democratic Party, the one that once belonged to us, represents us again, and turns its back on the slave traders to whom Bill Clinton sold us.