THE BLOG
02/12/2016 02:29 pm ET Updated Feb 12, 2017

Tweedledum

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The best, most effective way to discourage young people from voting is to tell them that there is no difference between the two sides, that Republicans and Democrats are all the same, that all politicians are corrupt and cannot be trusted. Works every time.

I fear that the new voters who see Bernie Sanders as their savior are coming to view the rest of the Democratic party and those of us who have long worked to achieve it's goals as the enemy. When Bernie Sanders ran for governor as an Independent in Vermont against Madeleine May Kunin, a Democrat, his statement regarding Democrats and Republicans was: "It is absolutely fair to say you are dealing with Tweedledum and Tweedledee." Direct quote. Sure he has since said things like "On our worst day we are better than the Republicans," but it speaks to my larger concern about the tone of this campaign and the rhetoric of absolutism. If you are not endorsing him you are the "establishment" ... you are the "bogeyman." This is dangerous. I am thrilled that these young voters are engaged. I welcome the passion and fervor Mr. Sanders evokes, but I also want to temper this with a simple fact.

We Democrats are on the same side and it is not the one occupied by the likes of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. We may support different candidates at this point, but in the long run we must stay together and work together to promote a Democratic agenda no matter who is leading that charge. Young people it is your future on the line and I care about that. So does Hillary Clinton and the rest of the Democrats who are supporting her. Whoever wins, you will need our help to shape that future. We are not your enemy.

Today's headlines have been screaming that we are going to South Carolina and "it is going to get ugly" I hope not. I truly think it has gotten ugly enough. It is very painful to be told that despite much evidence to the contrary I am not a progressive. Turns out I am just an establishment hack who worships big business and lacks any real conviction. I support Hillary Clinton for president and therefore I must realize that I am a part of the problem. It is more than a little disheartening to learn that all of those years I spent working on behalf of People with AIDS, Good Shepherd Home for Battered Women and Children, The Progressive Majority, Voices for Progress, Power Pac and "establishment" organizations like Planned Parenthood and the HRC I was under the thumb of "the man." All of time that my friends and I spent working to support folks like Howard Dean, Russ Feingold, Sherrod Brown, Claire McCaskill and Barack Obama, I was just a misguided fool in the pockets of the big banks. (Someone should have explained this to my accountant who had to call me into his office and explain that, if I kept giving so much of my money to so called "progressive" politicians and causes I thought were worthy, I was headed for a future of wheeling a shopping cart down Hollywood Boulevard.) My Facebook page is full of people screaming that I am being fooled by the media and that the political process is rigged. The "Berners" are hurling Karl Rove's talking points at me as proof of this.

So let me explain as calmly as I can that while I may disagree with your tactics and support a different candidate than you, I am absolutely on your side. I implore you to understand that there is a big huge gaping maw of a difference between Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

I have issues with some of the proposals in Bernie's platform, but I certainly do not think that he is the equivalent of a Donald Trump. Barack Obama has worked his heart out to achieve what were pre-Bernie known to be "progressive" goals. The fact that he has not been able to convince a Republican congress to collaborate on many of the left's shared ideals does not mean that he is the same as George W. Bush. Bill Clinton recovered our economy from a serious recession and helped usher America into the most prosperous era of my lifetime. He was not perfect on every social issue, but he cared and he tried and he was an entirely different leader in terms of his temperament and values than his predecessor Ronald Reagan.

The response of the Bernie camp to any critique of his platform is to accuse the questioner of being a shill for the establishment. This is also dangerous. When Claire McCaskill dares to suggest that a socialist candidate for president is going to be a tough sell in Missouri, let's consider that she may speaking from experience. She might believe this because she had to spend millions of dollars and campaign very hard to defeat an opponent who suggested that women seeking family planning assistance should "hold an aspirin between their knees." I am going to go out on a limb here and say that perhaps she knows her constituents and would like to see a Democrat in the White House. Maybe she cares about stuff like that. Maybe it matters to her that we have a chance at winning her state. You know, so that pesky Supreme Court does not become entirely dominated by right-wing nutters like Anton Scalia. Or maybe she wants women to be able keep the reproductive freedoms that many have worked so hard to achieve. She is a tough, savvy and loyal Democrat. Her opinion matters and she is entitled to it.

Let's just for a moment dare to discuss the topic of "feminism." Susan Sarandon recently gave a ringing endorsement of Sanders saying, "Bernie is the only candidate who's actually saying specific things about the way things are." Boldly flying in the face of the criticism that his plan is sorely lacking in specifics, she went on to declare, "I do not vote with my vagina." Well I am glad to hear it. Me either. My vagina can do some lovely things, but, I have yet to train it to hold a pen. No one is saying that it is "feminist" to vote for Hillary, but it is indeed consequential that she is the first truly viable female candidate to aspire to the presidency. When Gloria Steinem recently made an offhand comment on a talk show, her six decades of service toward the betterment of women's lives all the world over was immediately invalidated by the fact that she said of Bernie's young female fans "well ... sometimes girls like to be where the boys are." Not a well thought out statement to be sure, but she is not the enemy of those girls. She has fought for them all of her life and that should count for something. Susan Sarandon is better than me at a lot of things. She is a movie star. I spent the better part of a decade talking to a mechanical cat on television. She has bigger boobs and younger boyfriends. She is a wonderful talent and a dedicated activist, but her argument that it is more feminist to NOT support the female candidate is lost on me. I simply cannot grasp this.

I am going to walk out onto the new third rail in our political realm and offer some thoughts on the whole concept of Democratic Socialism. While you are sharpening your pitchforks, I am going to propose that while we extoll the virtues of Denmark, Sweden and Norway, nations who make this seem like an achievable utopia, we must also take a hard look at just how much tax those folks pay. Rates that will be a hard if not impossible sell to your fellow Americans in this capitalist society. Certainly this kind of tax rate cannot be instilled by a president alone, which means you are going to need one hell of a majority of those dreaded establishment Democrats to even give it a go. You are going to have to care about getting them elected and keeping them in office. You will need to vote in the mid-terms, raise money for them and rally to their side.

I want health care for all, but I am worried that raising taxes on families who earn as little as 30,000 per year might have a deleterious effect. Mr. Sanders keeps saying that it is OK to raise their taxes because the government is going to take care of their health and their education, but we had better be prepared to offer them food banks as well, because many of them are going hungry as it is. As for a tax rate on the wealthy that could reach as high as 90 percent under Mr. Sanders's plan, I am unconvinced that this can be enforced. We live in a global economy. Already our wealthiest individuals and corporations are relocating themselves to avoid the existing tax rate and there is very little we can do to stop them. When the Dodd-Frank passed, enforcing some much needed discipline on our banking system, many American banks sent their traders to live and work in Switzerland to avoid dealing with the new regulations that "establishment tool! Clinton shill!" Barney Frank dedicated many years of his life trying to enact.

So yes, I have my doubts about Bernie Sanders's approach, but let me make this perfectly clear to those of you who believe in his brand of Democratic Socialism: I do not have my doubts about you. I do not question the goodness of your intentions and I ask you to trust in the goodness of mine. I admire your ideals, I just prefer a more pragmatic approach. I am not the enemy of progress or of Bernie Sanders and his followers. I am glad that you care. I am glad that you are participating. I am glad that there is a fight going on for the soul of the party and the goals we want to achieve. I am thrilled that there are two dynamic candidates on the left providing a much needed antidote to the poisonous gas-bagging on the right. I appreciate your passion, but I ask you again to remember that there is a huge difference between Republicans and Democrats.

In 2008 our economy was in shambles. George W Bush's tenure proved to be disastrous, but we are climbing out of the abyss. America's unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in decades. Our debt is easing and wages are rising. The situation is not perfect, many people are still struggling and we have a long way to go, but under Barack Obama things have gotten better. We are really just having a discussion of how to further improve them. We must win the presidency in order to have any say in the matter at all.

Should Hillary Clinton prevail she will do as she has always done: fight to make the world a better safer fairer place for you. She might not lead a "revolution," but she will do her best to lead this nation in the right direction. I believe no less of Mr. Sanders and should he win I will be by your side trying to get him elected. So let's fight it out and then let's fight together toward this end. We cannot allow the progress we have made to be undone by the Republicans. Whoever wins the nomination we must work hard to get them elected. Let's hold our fire and unleash it on whichever lunatic ends up leading the charge on the other side. The only way we truly lose is if we turn on each other.