I’m not a joiner. More of a misanthrope. I like people who are a little off-trail, a little different. People who don’t fit in. People with unique points of view. They inspire me.
It follows, then, that I’d support Bernie Sanders for president. Sanders is different. His views weren’t unique among politicians in, say, 1967. But they are now. I’ve got to like a guy who goes against the flow of modern “liberal” operators. You know, the ones who support gay marriage and save a forest or two while giving the big money practically anything it wants.
And when I went to my first Bernie Sanders meet — a live address by Sanders via streaming video — the crowd was full of the “different” people. Teenagers trying to figure out the world. Arty ladies in tattered dresses and tarnished African jewelry. Tall old men in big hats, with weathered skin and whispery voices. One of them had a pocket full of chocolate bars. He broke them up and passed them to the crowd.
And there were “normal” people, of all shapes and sizes. People you’d see at the supermarket, buying the weekly staples and looking a little tired.
Everyone was white; it’s a college town, and an expensive one. We have Latinos, a lot of them; but they’re invisible in civic affairs. That’s changing; but not today.
Still, I felt comfortable. They all had interesting things to say, or they were seeking. They listened to each other.
Now, in the BernieVerse, anyone can organize an event and invite locals who registered in the big database of Bernie supporters. And at first, a variety of people in these parts put on events independently. But after a while, as people will, most of the local Sanders activists coalesced around one ubergroup. It called a meeting to rally volunteers to work for the campaign.
So Rhumba and I showed up for the meet and walked into a room full of elderly, well-kept, retired academics and college-town political nerds. I call them The Usual Suspects. They dominate cultural and political life around here because they’re educated, politically aware, and have plenty of spare time (and money).
They look like people from the same village. They all wear the same organic-cotton casual clothing. They all have the same well-kept white hair. The same educated accents. And often, the same tidy retirement income and paid-off three-bedroom house near the coast bought cheap in 1982.
A wiry MC faced the crowd and said, “Let’s all start out by each standing up and saying ONE WORD that expresses our feelings about Bernie!” “Inspiring!” cried a lean, wrinkled woman with perfect teeth. “Integrity!” rumbled a bulky old man with a professor’s beard. “FINALLY!” shouted an elderly athlete with silver hair.
And on it went. Then we were all instructed to “tell our neighbor” what brought us to be here today.
Rhumba and I looked at one another. I used activities like this when I student-taught second grade.
By the time the MC started talking about our pre-programmed tasks, the two of us were out of there.
I’m not putting anybody down. Well, yes, I am. But I’m a misanthrope, and a creative one. So is Rhumba. I know how political campaigns work; that’s why I stay away from them. Rhumba and I like to think about things deeply and kick around ideas. There was nothing here for us here in this true-believer seniors citizens’ pep rally.
Moreover, I’m suspicious of people who support reform yet are heartily successful with things as they are. What can I say? I hung out with wealthy Episcopalians for too many years. I’ve met too many well-educated, sheltered, privileged people who know just how to create justice and equality for a world full of people who aren’t like them at all. I’ve seen such folks become confused or even actively hostile when the poor and underprivileged refuse to behave in an orderly manner.
So Rhumba and I went our own way, and the local Bernie organization carried on without us. And they are doing some valuable work. The national organization is using them now to phone-bank to voters in some of the early-primary states.
I reluctantly suspect that I should get involved; but e-mail notices for events like “Wine and Cheese and Phone-Banking for Bernie!” make me want to stick the proverbial finger down my throat. Especially when it’s assumed that you’ll bring your own cell and tablet (or laptop). Of course you have one.
But at least these people have good taste in candidates. Don’t think that their unthinking elitism puts me off Sanders, at all.
I’ve done the reading. As a politician, Sanders is seriously pragmatic — more than willing to engage with anybody and everybody on their own terms, and to piss off “supporters” and ally with “enemies” if it gets the job done. He’s much more strategically flexible than most politicians today — just less morally flexible.
I suspect that if Sanders does make the presidency — knock on wood — the wine-and-cheese revolutionaries will find reason to be disappointed. He’ll love guns too much, or not spend enough time on gay rights or the environment. Or he’ll compromise.
He may even cause damage to their stock portfolios. Heh.
But I’ll say one thing: they actually found a job for me that I’m willing to do. Several times a month I get scans, by email, of hand-written sign-up sheets that would-be volunteers fill out at various Bernie campaign events. It’s my job to transcribe the information — name, email, phone, etc. — in a spreadsheet and send it back to the organization.
It’d be simple — if most people didn’t have terrible handwriting. Deciphering the names and contact info takes a combination of graphic manipulation, Internet detective work, and inductive reasoning that would probably get me a job at the NSA. I actually enjoy it. And I don’t have to shout slogans or wave flags.
It’s a perfect gig — for a misanthrope.