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.