Battered Voter Syndrome
Whew. This has been a grueling election season for many of us, and it feels very much like being beaten repeatedly no matter which direction I turn. My organization, Progressive Democrats of America, was the organization that under the leadership of the late, great Tim Carpenter launched a petition in late 2013 to urge Bernie Sanders to run for the presidency as a Democrat. Bernie has long held the same stand on issues that PDA does, so encouraging him to run was a no-brainer. Many other groups also added their voices and energy to the effort to recruit Bernie, and some came to the effort once they realized Sen. Elizabeth Warren was not going to run. That seems so long ago now, but it was the beginning of what has become a nearly constant onslaught of attacks on millions of voters like me.
First the attacks came from mostly other Democrats and women who could not believe all Democratic women were not favoring Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary process. Some of those attacks were pretty nasty. At my own primary caucus in Colorado, the Clinton supporters were downright cruel. Even though Bernie was heavily favored in Colorado and did win the state by a large margin, those of us who supported Bernie most forcefully were shunned by state party leaders and many elected Dems. It was hard to understand sometimes, but it was not hard to recognize.
We could surely use our experiences at the DNC gathering in Philadelphia in late July to recount how poorly Bernie’s supporters were treated or to reference the bias shown towards Hillary by national Party leaders. PDA and its large, proud delegation of 226 Bernie delegates proudly fought the good fight on behalf of our candidate after months and months of working for Bernie as we had been labeled socialists and worse by not only the expected conservative, Republican voices but also by other Democrats and certainly by those who decided both of the major parties were too flawed. We were attacked from the right, from the center, and from the third party supporters.
Once Bernie was out of the race, Bernie supporters remained committed to the issues Bernie articulated so well during his campaign. But we were expected to pivot quickly to either line up behind Hillary or Jill Stein or Gary Johnson. Some even insisted a vote for Trump would be better than a vote for Hillary—which is a ridiculous notion. No matter which position Bernie supporters took, someone was standing at the ready to criticize and attack. I have never been through an election cycle like this one during which so many active, engaged voters were so viciously maligned. Rest assured that any reference Donald Trump now makes to Bernie or his supporters is done to play into his game. There is nothing – not one tiny molecule in my body – that thinks the Donald is the right person to lead this country.
So, criticized, yelled at, attacked online, and mocked by women for not supporting Hillary over Bernie, by third party supporters for not choosing their route, by conservatives for first supporting Bernie and for not pivoting to Trump post-July DNC, it seemed to me the right move to turn my attention to the Congressional races where I could find solid, energetic and progressive candidates. Many voters forget that who sits in the White House is just one part of the picture – important, of course, but not the only critical race that matters by a long shot. It matters greatly who is in Congress if we are ever to accomplish some of the things we must do soon. The climate emergency will not hold for the American political system to settle out.
So, some of the bruising of the primary season was beginning to fade a tad as I threw my energy into Congressional races like that of Col. Doug Applegate in California’s 49th Congressional District where a win over Darrell Issa would be magnificent. We also have high hopes working on ColoradoCare, Amendment 69, on the ballot here in Colorado – the amendment would create a universal, Medicare for all like model for healthcare for all residents of my home state. Good stuff here. Bernie launches “Our Revolution,” and we seem to be able to work on some positive outcomes after a difficult and expensive primary season.
But the battering of voters continues. Over the past few weeks the tit-for-tat (sorry for that reference) of the Trump and HRC camps fueled by the “Breaking News” hyperactivity of the news media continues to drown out the positive messaging that many decent, courageous and solid candidates are putting out. Voters trying to stay engaged are being battered by all the vitriol and the “gotcha” moments being elevated by both Presidential campaigns and by the media. If any one of the rest of us had behaved as Donald Trump has in our workplaces, we would have opened our employers up to almost certain legal liability for discrimination and harassment. As a 61-year-old, overweight, white woman with physical disabilities, I have no doubt Trump and those Republicans and others who support him find me disgusting. The attacks have been ugly and ongoing. How am I supposed to feel?
Then this weekend as we all had to hear the garbage around the Access Hollywood tapes of Trump and his vulgar chatter about women combined with his stated grabbing plan. In my family and I am sure in other families, this generated some pretty rough conversations. If the taped comments themselves were not enough to reinforce the voter abuse, the non-stop repetition of them followed by the Sunday evening debate during which Trump hovered ominously behind HRC was more proof that if we try to limit the ugliness or expose it and a powerful person does not want that, we put ourselves at risk of more battering.
Ah, and the media. Yes, the media. From the early primary period when they virtually ignored Bernie and the growing energy behind his campaign to their horrible, intense and non-stop Trump coverage and phony surprise about his rise in popularity, let’s get real. The mainstream media is no longer serving its vital role in our democracy.
What is the message of this election season to many millions of voters like me? Well, it sure isn’t a message that we are valued any more. If we pay attention to only the Presidential race, we now see a battle between a maniacal, selfish, sexist, racist, very rich, older, white guy and a much classier, wiser, seasoned, very rich, older white woman. Sometimes I feel like we are being forced to witness a non-stop feud between two ruling class families. This isn’t scorched earth politics, it’s battered voter syndrome as evidenced by how many Americans still wonder, “Where’s Bernie?” You cannot fake what Bernie brought to us – the respect for our voices, our effort and our lives. And that sort of respect for us as fellow Americans deserving of the very best has dissolved.