Almost none of the things that aren’t religion-based about the Republican platform are designed to improve the lives of base Republicans. Lower taxes is a smokescreen. A total lack of gun control is becoming less and less tenable. War shouldn’t be used as a business decision, and no big business should have a better tax rate than a plumber trying to feed a family of four. Immigration shouldn’t be used to scare people away from actual unemployment statistics, and nobody should be able to buy their way into political office. These are all Republican outcomes of Republican decisions and the only Republicans they benefit are rich Republicans who don’t have to contend with non-profit outcomes, and they all come at the expense of non-rich Republicans, not their benefit.
So I have a proposal for all of my non-rich Republican friends and friends yet-to-be: vote for Bernie Sanders.
Of the things that you disagree with Sanders on that are morality based (read, religion), you already lost those fights because America isn’t a Christian nation anymore. Theoretically it wasn’t ever supposed to be but we’ve been playing along since the Christians were the ones with all the guns and money. But Americans have had a lot of time to look at things like the Constitution and human rights and European newspapers, so as a society we’re steadily moving in the direction of actual independence and liberty. Contrary to the amount of time we spend blasting each other on Twitter, we’re smarter, richer and more diverse as a society than ever.
And you can’t vote Christianity back in as a platform and win. You’re finally living in the Schoolhouse Rock commercial about the melting pot. And now? The pot has finally turned the cultural and political heat up enough to actually melt something. And the stew is Independents.
We’re approaching the point where a Republican could conceivably not make it into the Oval Office, assuming a serious deficit in Democratic opposition. Seeing as how the country is trending Independent more and more as the years pass (which is admittedly a stripping of Democratic weight but weight not going toward Republicans either), that’s not likely to happen. Potential voters are steering clear of the party system and it’s not hurting Democrats more than it’s hurting Republicans so far.
But back to you and your life. The real world, where you work and have kids in school and need to pay bills and live approximately paycheck to paycheck.
You have more in common with Bernie Sanders than you do with the rich Republicans running for president or running your party. Most of the things they don’t want you to vote for are things that philosophically align with what you believe, but are realistically only supported with more of your suffering. On the big stuff you care about, you’ve either already lost (pro-life, marriage equality) or Sanders is unlikely to change under the system as it stands anyway (guns, climate change, taxes). You control Congress, and since that’s largely determined at the state level, it’s possible that could stay that way for a really long time. And look: America still largely runs on the principles you find important (religious piety, the blurring of church and state, money as God, war as a foreign policy, liberty and freedom of expression). Those things are unlikely to change no matter who the president is because people are people, and as a species we’re pretty selfish.
More on that in a minute.
Of the things that Bernie Sanders wants to do, how much of it is really bad for you? Let’s look at a short list – just six big ticket items – he’s running on (in the most general sense possible) and find out:
1) Campaign reform
Everyone thinks this should happen. Only he actually cares about it enough to run on it. Kind of telling, really: the guy with the least amount of money thinks we should fix how important money influences politics. If you like voting on moral grounds instead of whoever has enough money to Top 40 their name into your brain, you should like this one too.
2) Raise taxes on the rich, cut them for the middle class
That’s a cut for you, okay? You likely don’t even know any rich Republicans that this might affect, assuming he could get it passed. And some of the other things that are on the fence in terms of possibility depend on the money these taxes would generate. Do you really have a problem with Donald Trump and his ilk being taxed more so you and your children can have two free years of college?
Many of you don’t think America should be the world’s policeman. Neither does he.
He wants people to become citizens. He doesn’t want to kick them out of the country first to make that happen. And despite what you think, you don’t want that either: if you kick out the immigrant population of this country, all kinds of industry would shut down tomorrow. And if you believe that means more jobs for Americans, I direct your attention to the single digit unemployment rate you’ve been enjoying for a while now.
5) Gun control
He’s not coming for your guns. He’s got some state rights leanings on this issue that are more in your wheelhouse than not. He does want to keep assault weapons out of your hands, but most of you don’t have assault weapons, and none of you need them. Like, none of you. Ever.
6) Big banks
He wants the Federal Reserve out of the big business game, and he wants to bust up some Too Big To Fail banks. I’ll wait to hear if, after the last ten years we’ve had economically, any of you think either of those is a bad idea.
Your party’s leaders are scaring the pants off of you trying to make you think these are bad ideas. They’re not bad ideas; they’re bad ideas for rich Republicans. And if you’re not a rich Republican – if you’re reading this you probably aren’t – you should really think about what it is you’re really protecting.
By now you’re probably wondering why I’m not suggesting you vote for a Democratic candidate who preaches some of the same values as Sanders and would actually win an election without playing around in fantasy football forums like this, all of which is another way of saying, “I bet you wonder why this article isn’t called ‘Poor Republicans Should Vote for Hillary.’” Here’s why: Hillary Clinton only wants the job. She’s not actually going to do much of anything once she gets it, and most Democrats are actually not excited about that prospect. She’s just happens to not be a Republican, so Democrats are compelled to vote for her on that fact alone. She’s status quo, and a lot of low and middle income Democrats and Republicans are sick of that. (By the way: know who just said that on NPR today? Bernie Sanders.) So why am I not at least telling you to go with the candidate that isn’t a Republican who will likely win it all anyway?
Because I’m still infected with hope.
I get tired of being told to choose between two candidates or parties that, in action, will be more alike than dissimilar, and make me hate my freedom with their dissonance. I don’t want to believe that the Civil Rights Movement won me the right to vote just so I could hold my nose while pressing the buttons in my local voting booth. I have to imagine more was intended for me fifty years later than a more comfortable status quo.
President Obama ran on a change platform, which was really a hope platform. I don’t know too many people up on their political game who thought he might actually get most of the things he wanted to do passed into functional laws, and they weren’t disappointed. He scored a couple of major hits (universal health care, marriage equality, the end of wars that were wringing our country dry), but most of his time was spent trying to right the economy (THAT’S when you’re supposed to break out a “Mission Accomplished” sign, George) and fighting rich Republicans. And really, non-rich Republican friends: of the things that passed on his watch that you didn’t like, how much effect did they actually have on your lives? Has your life – your day to day, non-internet life – really been affected by marriage equality? I mean, any more than it was when the number one show on television was Queer Eye for the Straight Guy for about a year? Probably not. Any Republicans mad that we pulled out of Iraq? How about that single digit unemployment rate? The only thing we’re fighting about on that count is who should get credit for it. Universal health care has been a mixed bag, but just getting it to the table took decades, and if it worked the way it should you’d be complaining about Democrats from a paid-for emergency room chair.
So now, I ask that you consider your life, and selfishly so. You’re doing it anyway. On some level we all are – that’s what voting is: self-interest. On that level we’re the same, save that your party has doubled-down on the importance of self as a systematic value, and practically weaponized personal liberty. You vote for rich Republicans even when it means voting for people looking to cut your bootstraps. I’m not asking you to change your morals per se. I’m saying be honest about the things that comprise your life and how much effect the existing government has on it. Be selfish in a new way, a way that’s honest and not just dogmatic. A way that, if it doesn’t care about people at large as a value, at least cares about self-preservation. Your party is dying, and we have a unique opportunity here where the Democratic party has messed around and let hope bloom in its ranks again, and it’s not the leader they intended. Trust me: the DNC would rather Sanders stop running so they can install Clinton as originally planned. They don’t want another Obama surprise. Considering the things that come out of his mouth, you have to wonder why that is.
In a better world – not perfect, just better than this one – Bernie Sanders would be leading the field for his party. In a better world, he wouldn’t have to run as a Democrat at all just to be taken seriously. He’d run as what he is: an Independent with middle class values. That’s almost what you are, non-rich Republicans, when you’re not breaching the very nature of church and state at every turn and voting rich men into yet more inaccessible levels of power. Be pragmatic here. Make a change that affects your life for once, your real life, and doesn’t further embolden the values of people who, given every chance, leave you with the notion of values while continuing to strip your actual quality of life away.