This Plea to Vote for Bernie Sanders is Unlikely to Change Your Mind

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders listens to the first question at an African American Community Conversa
Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders listens to the first question at an African American Community Conversation town hall event in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania April 6, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Kauzlarich TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

It is roughly 100 percent certain that my opinion will not influence the outcome of the Democratic primary. I don't know where I came up with that number but it sounds very accurate. I write with a healthy sense of utter futility, resigned to the extreme likelihood that my chosen candidate, Bernie Sanders, will not be the Democratic candidate for president in the general election.

So why do I bother? Why fight the inevitable? Is it because I have a compelling counterargument to make that predicts a great political upset? Certainly not. I'm not saying such an argument can't be made, but I'm not the one to make it nor do I require it to guide my vote. I'm for Bernie Sanders because I believe his campaign is on the right side of history. I support this challenge to the oligarchy by an Independent running within the Democratic party because I believe we need revolutionary change before it's too late. While polling wizard Nate Silver has explained repeatedly that my conscience has an infinitesimally low probability of swaying anyone else's, I still think speaking out about this disastrous state of affairs is a moral imperative.

Am I suggesting that people should stand by their convictions even when those convictions do not coincide with statistical probabilities? I know, I know. How quaint, how naive, how out of step with how we "get things done" in a complex, modern world in which highly qualified power brokers make deals and take care not to offend each other's delicate sensibilities with epithets containing the term "establishment." This is how the big boys and girls lead the country, by putting away childish things like political revolution and justice and a sustainable future for the human species on planet earth.

The smart (not to mention big) money is on Hillary Clinton getting the nomination, and we all know she has political experience at the highest echelons of power. Being "with her" is a bit like walking into the fancy restaurant that has been booked months in advance and getting a table with a view just because you're on the arm of a VIP. The climate is a disaster, the system is rigged, but not to worry, she's got this! If I bet on the right horse and I hang with the right crowd, I don't have to worry about doing the right thing. That's pretty much the tacit logic of polling. Those who don't act, predict. And in the face of a frighteningly uncertain future, making predictions is a comforting substitute for taking action.

Capitalizing on this soothing oracular mindset that relieves us of our own political agency, the mainstream press is eager to put us in a poll numbers trance; even when they are not directly repeating and analyzing polling data, the newsmakers have managed to make their election coverage a thinly-veiled summation of the latest primary polls. Whether the topic is electability or pragmatism or who is qualified to get "things" (always of an ambiguous nature) done, it all comes back to what is popular and what sells, not to what is moral and just.

Journalists these days prefer a prophetic role more than an informative one, even though knowing more about the issues could help voters actually make the choices they are told are foregone conclusions. Maybe that's because corporations own the media, but then I can just hear the retort that Jeff Bezos has no more influence on the Washington Post than Goldman Sachs has on Hillary Clinton. I can't prove anything, but hasn't the observer effect been well-substantiated in the social sciences? By focusing on what will happen to the exclusion of what should happen in the election, the media is not just detachedly observing the likely result but simultaneously assuring the likelihood of it. It's a crying shame.

But cry as I might, I still haven't answered the question of why one insignificant individual, or countless individuals acting according to their beliefs in a statistically insignificant way, should nonetheless forge ahead in the face of certain defeat. For an answer to that question, I turn to the writer Harper Lee who gave Atticus Finch the following lines in To Kill a Mockingbird:

I wanted you to see what real courage is...It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.

Forgetting how to do what we believe is right without compulsively calculating the odds of short-term success may explain why we are on the brink of environmental catastrophe and why the richest one percent of the world's population now has the combined wealth of everyone else. Far from a sign of sanity and realism, the insistence on probable results as a precursor for moral choices is an immature evasion of responsibility that over time may lead to an erosion of collective values and norms.

Center-Right Democrats and their champions and apologists should ask themselves what culpability they bear for the neofascist appeal of a Donald Trump. Our current political culture is not "just the way things are," but rather the way we've made them, one incremental excuse at a time, one lesser evil after another. It's reckless to play it safe when you don't accept how grave the danger is that you face in the first place. If your car is headed off a cliff, you don't make an appointment to bring in it for minor repairs. Even the most qualified and highly recommended car repair shop in all the world won't help you in that kind of emergency.

It's past time we faced up to the fact that we need a revolution to save us from the worst effects of climate change, and a revolution is about people rising up, not stultifying debates about the relative merits of two potential power brokers. Bernie Sanders isn't going to realize the radical change we so desperately need without us, it's true, but Hillary Clinton doesn't even realize how desperately we need radical change; or if she does, she hasn't let on. It's a fantasy to think she'll get us that table with a view by dint of her impressive qualifications, unless the view we're talking about is of a deadly tidal wave headed our way.

Sometimes our most cherished beliefs don't conveniently fit the parameters set by the status quo, but that's no reason to blend in better with our fates; it's our opportunity to exercise free will. We can't singlehandedly control the deterministic forces that oppress us, or decide outcomes that are out of our hands, but we do get to define ourselves and our values through the choices we make. Free will isn't about knowing you'll get what you want as much as being who you want to be in the course of trying. Vote for Bernie Sanders even if you don't think he can win. The results could surprise us all.