Russell Rowland

An Open Letter to Bernie Fans

August 01, 2016

First and foremost, I applaud you for bringing passion back to politics. Especially to the more liberal aspects of politics. I have been wondering for years what it would take to get young people angry enough to take a stand on some of the issues that seem important in today’s America. And Bernie has addressed many of these issues with a direct and logical and enthusiastic approach that is fabulous. So thank you for making many of these issues relevant again.

This may surprise you, but a lot of us get it. Bernie is right about many things. Because it’s common sense, right? Making sure the wealthy are held accountable. Making sure the poor have every opportunity possible. Making sure people are treated with the respect they deserve. How could we not want that?

I was very much in Bernie’s camp at the beginning of his campaign. Because he brought back memories of some of the politicians that first inspired me in my younger days—people like George McGovernGeorge McGovern Eugene McCarthyEugene McCarthy Shirley ChisholmShirley Chisholm and Bella AbzugBella Abzug These people stepped outside of the ‘status quo’ and offered radical solutions. Solutions that made sense. And in the end, they influenced the direction our country took around many of these issues.

The sixties, when I was a young kid and a teenager, were a time when this kind of passion was encouraged and effective. It was a time when you felt as if your voice was important. People rallied together and made change happen. The Civil Rights Act. Women’s Rights. Title IX. It was a time when it seemed as if no matter what you felt strongly about, there was a group that was working hard to fight that issue.

So we have seen the results of this kind of movement. The kind of revolution you’re talking about with Bernie. And of course Bernie was there too. And that’s why he gets the idea that sometimes you have to choose your battles. If you focus on achieving your goals from only one angle…if you insist that your way is the only way to get there, you run the risk of accomplishing nothing at all. We saw that happen time and again in the 60s. We had to learn the hard way that just because a cause made complete sense to us, and just because thousands of people agreed with us, and just because there was often widespread support across the country, it didn’t mean that things would change overnight.

The Suffragette movement was in existence for fifty years before they accomplished their goal. This is unacceptable, of course. But that’s how long it took to break down the thick invisible walls that prevented the patriarchical society of that time to recognize that these women were not going away. And more importantly, that what they were asking for probably wasn’t going to ruin our country.

Both McGovern and McCarthy lost in their bid for president, but they served their country honorably in the Senate, and they did act as forces for change. McGovern’s work in the private sector is well known here in the West. The McGovern Center for Leadership and Public Service still provides great resources for the causes he championed. Bella Abzug and Shirley Chisholm also moved the bar upward, with Chisholm being the first woman and the first African American to declare for the presidency. She survived several assassination attempts during her campaign, and talked openly about how the men in the House of Representatives, where she served for 14 years, completely ignored her. Without Chisholm, Barack Obama would never have happened. These three fell short of their goal of the presidency, but they didn’t let that deter them from their work.
Abzug served three terms in the House, and was an outspoken proponent for women’s rights. Hillary Clinton would not be possible without her and others who were passionate about that cause.

But there’s another important issue that comes into play in this whole discussion, and perhaps the best example of what it looks like is the man who is considered by most to be the best president we ever had. Franklin D. Roosevelt. Roosevelt was able to incorporate more policies directed toward helping the needy, the disenfranchised, and the elderly, and he did it in a way that actually stimulated the economy. He and his administration proved that if you build an infrastructure that provides some of the causes that so many people today consider to be a drain on the economy, they can actually be fiscally beneficial. That has been a hard sell ever since, even with the solid evidence of his administration behind us. Because people don’t tend to study our history closely enough to understand these things.

Bernie has proven to be a fabulous source of ideas, but as has been pointed out time and again, he doesn’t seem to have much of a plan for incorporating them other than trying to balance out the distribution of wealth. I believe his influence will have a tremendous impact on our society, even without him in the race. But what we really need right now is someone who can make things happen. And according to a friend of mine who served in Congress with him for many years, Bernie is not that guy. His ability to get along with other people, and to convince people on the inside to work with him, is sketchy at best. I trust this man’s judgement, and it was that conversation that swayed me to go in a different direction.

Many of you insist that change won’t happen unless we embrace this guy’s beliefs and push for them, and maybe you’re right. Which means you should absolutely do that. Push for them to happen. But it’s also important to accept the reality of the situation. We live in a world where the balance of power is out of our hands. There are way more people out there who disagree with us than we ever want to believe is possible. I mean, how could they not see the logic of what we’re saying? It baffles me all the time. But it’s the way it is. And some of these ignorant bastards even happen to be in positions of power. Again, I don’t get that. How could they be so stupid and somehow find themselves in these hallowed halls?

But they are. And because the gap between what they believe and what we believe is so wide, change is slow. And sometimes we have to make compromises to get there. That doesn’t always mean we’re selling out. Sometimes it means that we are simply compromising. To get to a better place.

I’m not going to try and convince you to vote for a specific candidate. I’m not even going to try and convince you vote against another one, although you can probably guess where I stand. But to me, the important thing is that you get out and vote. This idea of not voting because Bernie may or may not have gotten screwed is self-defeating. For one thing, there are many Supreme Court seats at stake over the next four years. This alone could affect the direction our country takes more than any other aspect of this year’s election. So vote. Vote for Bernie if you really feel that strongly about his message. Vote for Jill Stein. Vote for your sociology professor. Get your name out there. Because that, my friends, is how change happens.