Back in 2016, I voted for Hillary Clinton. I was living in Columbus, Kansas at the time, and media being the way it is, I didn’t hear much, if any about Bernie Sanders. The most I did hear was from my brother-in-law, who, despite being someone I respect as being highly intelligent, couldn’t get through to me. Being caught up in the “winner takes all” mindset of American politics at the time, I dismissed anyone who wasn’t the big two. I knew Trump would be the nominee almost from the start of his campaign simply by listening to the people in this area react to his candidacy- they loved him (and most of them still do). But, I never had a clue about Bernie’s platform or his campaign that garnered 43% of the popular vote in 2016.
I feel very guilty for not personally taking the time to educate myself about ALL of the candidates. At the same time, for the most part in the supposed “left-wing media”, there was hardly talk of Bernie- it was all Hillary, all the time. I assumed she’d won the primary handily, which with super-delegates and an infuriating amount of control over the DNC she did, however it was anything but a blowout. However, from consuming cable news/media, it would seem as if she were running unopposed.
I didn’t recognize the shameful media bias that was taking place, nor was I aware of the shady behind-the-scenes Clinton-takeover of the DNC. I’m afraid that for the majority of American voters – not American people, but voters – this “manufactured consent” is just something most are unaware of.
So, fast forward to 2019, it’s the beginning of the primary season, Biden launched his campaign, and as the standard American-passerby-voter, I immediately assume, this is my guy. Then, before you know it, we have something close to 20 candidates to choose from. So, this time, I vowed, that I would do my homework on the candidates, I would look into each of their policies and to the best of my ability, how their records compared to their rhetoric. It wasn’t very long into this process that I discovered Bernie Sanders. And compared to the rest of the pack (and all of the politicians I’d ever known) –this guy- was like a diamond in the rough. I didn’t have my heart settled on Bernie quite yet, but of all the candidates, I liked him the most. I also liked Elizabeth Warren a lot, and Cory Booker, even though I knew he wouldn’t make it very far.
It didn’t take long though, after having looked into the candidates, that I started to see a pattern on the commentary from MSNBC and CNN, which are the typical venues for mainstream “liberal” news. There was 1 candidate among the 20 that they almost seemed afraid to mention, or when mentioned, they’d bring it up in a sarcastic way or in a mean/hateful tone. At this point, we should know who I’m talking about. Bernie Sanders! Now, I’ve never been anti-media, or anti-news… but, this completely transparent operation of smearing Bernie Sanders and/or acting as if he and his campaign, and the millions of people following him don’t exist (unless of course one of the “Bernie bros” said something unruly or otherwise against social norms on twitter)-it only made me look at his candidacy more carefully, and more decidedly.
Before I knew it, “Crazy Bernie” wasn’t so crazy… he wasn’t so “radical”… Medicare-For-All wasn’t just a fringe idea, in fact, it was really damn good! Essentially, I rediscovered the politics of my youth, before I’d been hammered down by the pressures of jobs, wages, family, had come into my life. This, was a politics of caring for other people, in that- we are all in this together. Next thing I know, I donated to his campaign. Then again, and again, and again. I started getting stickers, TONS of email, invitations to slack groups, and finally, I decided to go knock on doors for my candidate, and I was admittedly proud to do so. For the first time, I had a political candidate that I didn’t have to compromise my values in supporting.
It was fun, I met a ton of great people, and knocking on doors in the community was a really great way to confront some social anxiety/public speaking issues I deal with. Still, the easiest voter to persuade (and one of the more funny stories of door-knocking) was a lady who will remain unnamed- I knock on the door, as she’s talking to me about how she feels like she’s going to vote for Biden in the primary “because he can beat Trump”, I smell marijuana wafting out of her window that happened to be open right next to where I was standing. When she was done speaking, I asked if she knew about Bernie’s legislation to make marijuana federally legal on day 1 of his presidency, to which she replied, “Really??” … “Ok I’m on board for Bernie!!!”
Then, of course, Super Tuesday happened… or rather the 24-36 hours of frenzied centrist activity leading up to Super Tuesday happened…, and Bernie got the shaft, again. Facing an insurmountable delegate deficiency against Biden, and the growing need for COVID-19 legislation and advocacy, Sen. Sanders had to make the tough decision to suspend his campaign. I think, to most people within the campaign, this was the expected outcome from the beginning. However, after commanding wins in Nevada and New Hampshire leading up to Super Tuesday, it was quite the roller-coaster of emotions for many of us.
I’ll definitely miss the Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign. It’s truthfully, the first campaign I’ve witnessed that literally inspired me to get out and work towards getting someone elected, and did the same for thousands across the country. But, the loss of the Bernie 2020 campaign isn’t the end for us progressives – looking by the results of Kentucky and New York’s primary on Tuesday the 23rd, we’re not done by a long shot. Like the man always says- it’s not me. It’s us.