The Revolution Televised

On this day, the last important day of primaries in this important election year, a brief rumination. Skip if you dislike the prosaic, pedantic, annoying parts that are required.

Last night’s preemptive announcement that Secretary Clinton will be the Democrat’s nominee was less conspiracy or collective endorsement meant to forestall or depress turnout than it was yet another example of the media’s desire to control the news cycle to their own ends (i.e., profit). Instead of allowing the process to play itself out, the Fourth Estate succumbs again to its own self-infatuations and answers to its profit motives before country. In this age of profits before people and property before labor (nothing new), controlling information is the path to profit and the most important form of property. Whether or not these announcements are accurate or were only for self-serving purposes (undoubtedly, methinks), and result in suppressing the vote, I think the larger issues about democratic participation are at stake.

Surely not voting is too a form of protest. The problem is, it is the least effective form of protest because it not only abdicates power, it confers power to those who would use your protest to their own advantage. You sit out and others get to decide for you. You don’t get your way and out of “principled conviction” dissociate from the process, however rigged, corrupt, and manipulated it may be, and you are left with nothing more than being the victim of a system that controls you further because you quit. Quitters are giving away their power to those who will gladly take it.

Today the math will settle the matter of the nomination in the Democratic Party and one hopes that candidates can translate the arithmetic into decency and neither gloat nor disparage those who did not prevail. It’s a fine line between celebrating a hard won, historic victory and fomenting a resentment among those who must agree to a measure of failure. No one likes to lose, that’s always true. But democracy isn’t about winning only. It’s about accommodating those you defeat by majority, protecting their rights and integrity, and understanding that you too will lose, come another day. Americans hate failure, maybe more than most, but to be built upon true diversity is to adapt, acclimatize, accept, and include failure as part of nearly every collective decision.

President Obama hoped for this kind of accommodation and compromise and was met with nothing but intransigent and unrepentant obstruction. HIs opponents crafted a message to proclaim him the problem, unwilling in his imperial Presidency to create compromise. Orwell never had a better example for doublespeak and misrepresentation, but there is nothing new here. “Principle” can be just another word for wanting only your way or preventing another from having her or his choices at any cost. The line between narcissism and nihilism gets narrower in every instance of uncompromised conviction. Religion doesn’t necessarily teach such incontrovertibility but its surely one place in which political intolerance meets its worthy ally in the fight against inclusion and diversity. Fuel politics with religious or religious-like conviction and the blend is nearly always toxic. To be diverse we actually have to agree to live in disagreements and _somehow_ make room, still more room for everyone. Just when differences become intolerable should be made more exception than rule and we need to take more seriously when a difference makes a difference. Tolerance isn’t about liking or approving, it’s about what we can forebear, endure, and include despite our differences.

Today I hope too that the younger generation sees more politics as part of their civic purpose. Senator Sanders has certainly brought more young people out than any other candidate, and much to his credit. But we can ask these same young people: what is your alternative? Allowing others to determine important choices that effect us all? Young people are demographically among the least reliable voters and while clear conviction and enthusiasm for a candidate is virtue, they are also more inclined not to vote when democracy means losing too, compromise, and making do with the people you have, including your adversaries. Democracy involves being resilient, durable, and continuing to be interested when things are also boring, frustrating, tedious, and may require suffering defeat. Living with what you don’t want or endorse is being diverse. So for all of the discussion of diversity that the young particularly assume to be a positive good, learning about living with failures that do not meet your ideals and convictions is the far more important task. Come meet my neighbors, most of whom are people with whom I have almost nothing in common, with whom I share few political opinions, and could not possibly agree about values, positions, attitudes, or behaviors. But nonetheless we must learn to live together, succeed when we can, compromise because we must, and fail because sometimes we lose (and badly).

So will Senator Sanders lead a movement after the math is over tonight or will he stand on some principled conviction notion that political arson is the price for victory? Worse still, indifference or disdain? If you don’t like the process join to change it. Change is incremental because the people not like you are nearly as many as those just like you. If you don’t know any of those other folks, it’s not important that you meet them as much as it is that you acknowledge their role too in this diverse nation. You don’t have to embrace your opponents but you do have to find a way to live with them. Dislike their views? Then vote to marginalize their power over you. The opposition in this election demands a response. Just how anyone can tolerate the racist, misogynist tripe that spews from Trump, that other “principled” Republicans will tolerate to suit their own self-interests is not beyond credulity. Such views are not unbelievable. Believe them. And if that is not reason enough to vote for a candidate, then think just as hard about what must not be allowed to prevail. There is every indication that Trump’s Republicans want nothing to do with tolerating you. Sitting out is cowardice —yes, it is—because the heroic heart requires us to accept defeat and still work to defeat what is positively wrong. Vote your conscience, but think twice about indulging narrow principles infused with zealotry. Work for good bit by bit because, truth to tell, revolutions have little value for the most vulnerable.

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