That time I told Hillary to run for President
…And how she lost my vote
A longtime ago… #
It was a brisk fall day in 1998 when I scampered up to Hillary Clinton bubbling with the brilliant certainty of a 21-year-old who has taken full advantage of a full bar.
Hillary was standing with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. HRC grabbed my hand in that warm double grip that John Travolta made famous playing her husband in Primary Colors. “I have an idea for you, Madam First Lady.” Hills beamed back that big grin with those cheekbones blazing, “Okay, I’m all ears.”
“You should run for president.”
Cue roaring laughter…from Hillary. She grabbed Secretary Albright: “Madeleine, this young man thinks I should run for president! Isn’t that hysterical?”
Clearly, Hillary had never considered this. She planned to open a small practice in Little Rock and maybe star in a reality show until that moment. So there you have it. Hillary Clinton is running for president because of me. Fact.
The Empire Strikes Back #
I desperately want to be her biggest supporter, but once again she lost my vote. I feel like I owe her an explanation since I’m the singular reason she is running in the first place. Here goes…
I feel like I can call you that given our history of once meeting at a crowded rope line. First, you are great. Somebody once told me I had a “heart of gold,” and it remains the kindest compliment I’ve ever received. I really think you have a heart of gold. Deep down, you are the real deal.
In many ways, you are more impressive than Bill and your early career was all about fighting for the little gal and standing up to power (remember how you were the youngest lawyer on the Watergate committee?) I don’t know if it was the spectacular failure of your health care reform or the very real “vast right wing conspiracy” that made you such a pragmatic centrist.
Whatever the cause, I kind of think of you like Darth Vader. I wouldn’t go as far to quote Obi Wan Kenobi, “Twisted and evil, more machine than (wo)man.” But you have been seduced by the Dark Side.
Sure, the mask could come off and you could have a Vader-like conversion. Right now that isn’t happening.
In 2008 you kind of had already lost my vote with your own vote – for the Iraq war. You, and many other Democrats, made a calculation. Saddam might not have any weapons, but woe to the future candidate who votes against the war if a 9-11 level attack did occur, originating in Iraq. We know now - and many knew then - that Saddam was actively trying to kill the one Al Qaeda linked terrorist in Iraq. The only place trying to produce chemical weapons was within the Kurdish-controlled no-fly-zone. Oops.
You did the math and voted for the Iraq war. I still might have voted for you, but when Obama came out with Hope and Change, you countered with 3 AM – fear and more of the same.
I had hoped this time would be different. You must have learned something from that 2008 campaign. Yet as Bernie rose, you dusted off the same failed playbook. You aren’t arguing that Sanders’ proposals are bad. You, like most of us (and most of the country for that matter) agree that we shouldn’t be the laughing stock of the modern world with our policies on health care, maternity leave, fair and equal pay, and affordable college. You just argued that it can’t be done.
Obama said, “Yes We Can.”
Bernie is saying, “Yes We Will.”
You say, “No, We Can’t.”
Why would I vote for that?
Return of the Jedi #
The central question is quite simple: why is there such a large gap between the country we want to see and the country as it is?
We have our disagreements on the margins, but overall Americans of all stripes want the same things.
We want our kids to go to amazing, publicly-funded schools without it ever crossing our mind they would be shot.
We want actual support of our soldiers, not ceremonial applause before the ball game. That support comes in the form of the best veteran services in the world and NOT going to war.
We want to embrace diversity in all its forms and welcome immigrants. We want people to be able to marry the person they love and start families. We want black men to have a future that isn’t prison or being murdered by the state forces that are supposed to protect and serve.
We want our laws and economy to value nearly every person and profession above hedge fund managers.
We want maternity leave, sick leave and health care that just works without endless forms and confusing premiums. You know, like every other rich country in the world - where you walk into a doctor and are cared for, not plugged into a corporation’s formula to decide which care you deserve and what it costs you. In short, we want to be the greatest country in the world. (Yes, I hate that Donald has hijacked that.)
Bernie Sanders is not the perfect candidate, but he is the only one articulating that vision. He’s the only one painting a picture of what America could be. To which we all say, “Hell, yes!”
Your rejoinder is, “Hell, no. Not possible.” Once again, you tell us that you are the adult, you know how these things work. We are passionate teenagers and you turned into our stern father-figure (mother-figure?). “You kids will understand when you get older.” We don’t want to understand. We want to fucking change the whole thing. What’s the word again? Oh, “Revolution.” (I know, just what a teenager would say!)
An election was fully stolen. Nothing happened. Nobody went to jail. In fact, racism at the polls is now legalized.
A president ignored all warnings and we suffered the worst attack since World War II. Then he fully lied about a threat to get us into a war. He won reelection.
The ponzi scheme that is Wall Street took over 30% of our economy and then wrecked the whole world’s. The taxpayers paid them for their service, and lost homes and jobs. Those same bankers are back at it, safe in the knowledge that they’ll be bailed out again.
Oh, and just to make sure the rules of the game stay the same, those banks can legally buy politicians now. Sorry, it’s called “Free Speech.”
So, no, I don’t think knowing how the system works and being a “Pragmatic Progressive” is what the moment calls for. We need to upend that whole system. It’s the only way we close the gap between the world we all want and the one we have.
That’s why I’m voting for Bernie, Hillary.
Still, I know there is good in you. Join us. Drop the mask and show the world those Jedi powers that once made you a fierce advocate for good.
May the Force be with you.