The Universal Notebook: Hillary vs. Bernie vs. Trump

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This presidential primary campaign season is threatening to suck the life out of America. I’m sure you’re as tired of all the hollering, hype, hokum and hatefulness as I am.

So if you’ve had a bellyful, please feel free to skip this week and come back next. I really just want to talk for minute to my fellow Democrats who are beginning to disappoint me as much as the GOP does.

I am one of the liberals Bernie Sanders lost. Don’t get me wrong, I will vote for Sanders if he is the Democratic nominee, just as I will vote for Hillary if she is. Any Democrat who can‘t make the same commitment might just as well give up completely and vote for Trump.

After I contributed to his campaign early on, Sanders lost me by going negative very quickly after promising not to do so. As a result of his revolutionary rhetoric, his supporters now include rioters and hecklers, just as Trump’s include bigots and thugs.

I also find Sanders to be a one-trick pony. After a few months his “the system is rigged” stump speech started sounding like a broken record. Tell me something I don’t know – like what your grasp of foreign policy is, what you will do with the military, how you will handle immigration reform, and why you have opposed meaningful gun control.

Sanders’ record on gun control is a big problem for me. He voted against the Brady Bill for heaven’s sake and in favor of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, the law that granted gun manufacturers and dealers blanket immunity from lawsuits if they sell guns to criminals and crazies. I get that he represents a rural state with redneck voters who must be obeyed, but I had to hold my nose to vote for Mike Michaud because of his regional opposition to gun control and I will have to do the same thing if Sanders wins the nomination.

Sanders is not a saint and Clinton is not a devil, but lately that seems to be what the most ardent Feel the Bern-istas would have us believe. Conservatives have spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to pin everything from megalomania to murder on Clinton. All they have come up with is a handful of dog dirt, but the vast right-wing conspiracy does seem to have convinced a lot of easily-led Americans that Clinton is dishonest. Frankly, I don’t know a politician who’s not.

I have come to see Sanders as a socialist voice crying “unfair” in the wilderness and Trump as a nationalist demagogue crying “America first” in the blue-collar suburbs. Clinton, even with all her baggage, strikes me as the voice of reason, the only responsible adult left in the presidential race. That’s why she appeals to pragmatic progressives.

Trump and Sanders would like us to believe they are outsiders, but Trump is Mr. Capitalist and Sanders is just as much a part of the political Establishment as Clinton is. Trump embodies the worst aspects of the American character – nationalism, isolationism, racism, sexism, elitism – just as Sanders expresses some of its best aspects – justice, equality, fairness, inclusiveness and community. But what bothers me about both men is the perception that they are uncompromising.

As President Obama said recently in his commencement speech at Howard University, “Democracy requires compromise, even when you are 100 percent right. This is hard to explain sometimes. You can be completely right and you still have to engage folks who disagree with you. If you think that the only way forward is to be as uncompromising as possible, you will feel good about yourself, you will enjoy a certain moral security, but you will not get what you want.”

When I read that Bernie Sanders’ supporters heckled former Rep. Barney Frank as a sell-out at the state Democratic convention, I began to realize they have become the Tea Party of the Left. I may believe everything Sanders says, but I do not believe he can govern without compromise or enact the revolutionary reforms he espouses.

Sanders is the American Revolution that never happens. Trump is World War III waiting to happen. That just happens to leave Clinton. I’d love to see her select Sanders as her running mate. Let them beat Trump together.

Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.

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