A Note To Angry/Sad Bernieites

A Note To Angry/Sad Bernieites

I Feel You. These photos, of heartbroken Bernie fans, take me back to the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. There’s a bunch more such photos in this album on Slate. (Disregard the snarky captions.)

Bernieites-sad-1No, I wasn’t physically in Chicago that year. But I felt like it; glued to a portable radio, listening to live reports of chaos inside the hall, and a violent police riot outside, a police attack this once aimed at mainly white kids like me.

Chicago-1
Chicago: a “police riot” attacks protesters outside the DNC in 1968.
McCarthy-poster
My favorite Eugene McCarthy poster. And he was all but alone when he stood to challenge Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam War. McCarthy was not really a radical. But in 1968 he was a genuine hero.

I was there in spirit and commitment and  devotion to a good man, Senator Eugene McCarthy, who was no radical but felt he had to stand up against the Vietnam War, a quagmire into which a once-great Democratic president, Lyndon Johnson, had sunk his presidency, and the country, with no clear way out.

RFK
RFK: one of many tragic Kennedy family figures. Maybe the best of them.

Bobby Kennedy had later jumped into the race, discovering opposition to the war as well. Between the two of them they had so much momentum that Johnson had “cut and run,” declining to seek renomination.
Instead, LBJ backed Hubert Humphrey, his once progressive, but now, especially to me and my generation, timeworn, compromised and lackluster Vice President.
Through the spring of 1968, it seemed as if our insurgency had a chance. But instead, history and the machine intervened: history in the form of an assassin’s bullets which killed Bobby Kennedy in California, just after he’d won the state’s Democratic primary and was poised to overtake McCarthy and snatch the Democratic nomination.

Chicago-Daley
At left: Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago. He didn’t like protesters and hippies.

The machine was that mostly faceless gaggle of party regulars and bosses like Mayor Richard J. Daley of Chicago, who seemed to revel in the head-busting that his cops were giving the punks like me outside.
By the time it was all over, Eugene McCarthy had faded, Humphrey had the nomination, and I was sick in my heart and soul.
I was, I vowed, not going to vote for Humphrey, who had not yet found the cojones to speak out about ending the Vietnam War — even if that meant turning over the White House to the likes of Richard Nixon. (I didn’t really hate Nixon then, mostly just disdained him; but he soon enough earned as much hate as I could manage, notwithstanding he, like me, was a Quaker.)

Andrew-Young
Andrew Young, who brought us a mantra we didn’t want to hear.

I remember one night that fall, when Andrew Young, one of Dr. King’s closest aides (and later Atlanta mayor, Congressman, and UN Representative), made a stop at the campus where I was in grad school, and made the plea for Humphrey. We threw rhetorical rotten fruit at this, demanding something for our votes, some gleam of light about the war and the debacle in Chicago.
Young to his credit, didn’t give us any BS. Instead, he repeated a mantra that had but three words: “The Supreme Court. The Supreme Court.”

Nixon-no-QuakerI saw his point, but it didn’t move me enough, and I didn’t vote for anybody that fall. I’m not saying my abstention made much difference (I was in a heavily Democratic state anyway).
But there were many others like me, across the country. And so Nixon got in, just barely, and he appointed William Rehnquist to the Supreme Court. And Rehnquist, almost 30 years later, led the court in a cynically, shamefully political decision to hand the White House over to George W. Bush, a blow from which the Republic (and I) are still reeling.
Today, I’m recalling all this, and I’m imagining that Bernie Sanders, who is a year older, has been remembering it also. (After all, he went to college in Daley’s Chicago.)

Bernieites-sad-3And Bernie, who ran a helluva race against HRC, has now endorsed her and called on all his fans (of which I remain one) to do the same. And while the fate of the Supreme Court is one sizable issue in this calculation, there are lots of others, not least a dark force whose name rhymes with Dump.
This time, this year, I am following this advice.

Bernieites-sad-2But I am also recalling the despair and refusal I felt in the late summer of 1968. And it leads me to set aside the “grow up and listen to us older-but-wiser heads” diatribes.

Humphrey-1968
Hubert Humphrey. He didn’t get to cause the change he dreamed of.

 

To those in the Bernie photos I say: vote your conscience. What else can you do?
Yet I can’t close without quoting Bernie’s words from earlier yesterday: “”Brothers and sisters, this is the real world that we live in.”
Your world, and your conscience, are real. So is his. And so is mine. And time passes. Yes, time passes.

 

6 thoughts on “A Note To Angry/Sad Bernieites”

  1. After his loss, Humphrey went on to a teaching post @ Macalester College, my St Paul MN alma mater, from which I graduated the year that Dr. King & Bobby were murdered. I came away a liberal activist, who would have preferred to vote for my age mate Bernie. This election is about all three branches so U will suck up the DNC’s choice for the Executive branch & work like crazy to elect legislators who will restore the balance of power.

  2. I was part of the “get clean with Gene” generation who watched a convention on TV for the first time in 1968. I was disappointed. I had marched on Washington a couple of times and then was angry with the democrats. But more angry with what I saw happening inside and outside the convention hall with the police acting like bullies. I did vote, reluctantly, but I did vote for Humphrey.

  3. The convention in 1968 was very much on my mind also and the feelings of having lost something vital to our country.

  4. I don’t see this attitude as part of your article, Chuck. But I must say that I reject the notion that it’s an ethical choice to not cast a viable vote against a racist demagogue such as we’re facing this year.

    It’s the blatant exercise of white privilege whilst sitting upon a high horse. Some of us don’t have that choice and feel very real and significant danger ahead. I’ve watched enough wound licking. There are degrees of evil that must be addressed. Time indeed does pass, but some needs are pressing.

  5. Most Quakers are aware of the crimes against humanity committed by both the Republicans and Democrats. In my day it was the American war against Vietnam, Cambodia & Laos. More recently, low intensity warfare (special ops, contract warfare, regime change) in Central and South America; and then we have Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Yemen, and other African countries; and there’s more: targeted drone killings against foreign men, women and children, without due process, and all against international law and human rights (not to mention our surrogate in the middle east killing untold numbers of Palestinian men, women and children). And of course our dear, fearless leader Obama has done a ”pivot to Asia” to show China who the real boss is, — ditto surrounding Russia with NATO.

    Yes, it’s all about profits and empire and power — and empires do what empires do.

    Then of course, somewhere in our history of documents, there is something called the ”Quaker Peace Testimony.”

    To my knowledge, there is not a ”Choose the Lesser of the Two Evils” testimony.

    So yes, I will vote my conscience, based on guidance from the Light of Christ inwardly, and on my Quaker Peace Testimony. I have nothing to fear, because the Spirit of Truth is more omnipotent than any politician.

    And if not voting for HRC brings DT to the Whitehouse, and that megalomaniac brings the empire to its knees — so be it.

    A third party candidate will not prevail in our corrupt corporatocracy, but voting third party is one way to speak truth to power.

    And of course, there is the moral imperative: I do what I want everyone else to do, — so just think, if every voter voted third party on election day, it would be game over for the neo-cons and neo-liberals.

    Of course voters have been programmed to only vote for one of the two major parties — so the odds are 99% against the voters waking up, but as Jill Stein has said, ”Voting for the lesser evil eventually takes you to the greater evil.”

  6. Feel called as a Friend and descendant of abolitionist, pacifist Friends who were jailed during the Civil War who refused to fight during the war, to agree with John E. who rightly points out the centrality of Quaker Peace Testimony, and say “Amen” to his words.

    “So yes, I will vote my conscience, based on guidance from the Light of Christ inwardly, and on my Quaker Peace Testimony. I have nothing to fear, because the Spirit of Truth is more omnipotent than any politician.”

    I have realized that the moral challenges regarding war and state violence faced by earlier Quakers have become amplified in our time of permanent war, violence against indigenous peoples worldwide — for control over resources for profit. Do we testify against these wars and such violence, and stand with innocent victims and refugees, or do we choose to become complicit with war and aggression by our silence and/or consent?

    Adding the words of George Fox, in 1661:

    “A Declaration from the harmless and innocent people of God, called Quakers, against all plotters and fighters in the world, for the removing the ground of jealousy and suspicion from both magistrates and people in the kingdom, concerning wars and fightings…

    “Our principle is, and our Practice have always been, to seek peace and ensue it and to follow after righteousness and the knowledge of God, seeking the good and welfare and doing that which tends to the peace of all. We know that wars and fightings proceed from the lusts of men (as Jas. iv. 1-3), out of which lusts the Lord hath redeemed us, and so out of the occasion of war. The occasion of which war, and war itself (wherein envious men, who are lovers of themselves more than lovers of God, lust, kill, and desire to have men’s lives or estates) ariseth from the lust.

    “All bloody principles and practices, we, as to our own particulars, do utterly deny, with all outward wars and strife and fightings with outward weapons, for any end or under any pretence whatsoever. And this is our testimony to the whole world.”

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