My undergraduate degree is in political science. I used to think about a live in politics or policy. I was an idealist, and I wanted to make the world a better place.
I don’t regret that I’ve chosen a different path, and I do think I make the world a better place. But I’m not gonna lie: over the years, I’ve become increasingly disillusioned with the political process. Living in Kansas makes it especially tough. Our governor and legislature routinely make decisions that undercut the values I hold dear and make life more difficult for average and underprivileged people to fund tax breaks to the rich. It’s disheartening, and I’ve become more cynical.
This Presidential election cycle, with Donald Trump emerging as an actual contender, has made me feel ill on multiple occasions. For months, I was very torn on who I would support on the Democratic ticket.
The feminist in me wanted to support Hillary. She’s done some great things, clearly has the spine and backbone for the job, and has always had to be twice as good as any man in the room. I read personal essays about sexism and the backlash against Hillary and articles in the The New York Times about how experiences with sexism has prompted many older women to support Hillary. I could definitely relate. I’m right in the middle of these two generations: the young, idealistic college age Millennials who love Bernie and the older, Generation X women who love Hillary.
I had many discussions with my partner, Mister BS, about it. He was already volunteering for the Bernie Sanders campaign, attending rallies and working in the office. I was fine when he made a donation to the campaign—one thing I did know I supported was Bernie’s policy to not accept superPAC money and to run a campaign financed by the people. Even though I was still undecided, I let him put the bumper stickers on our car and the sign in our window. I read their positions, and increasingly saw Hillary co-opting Bernie’s ideas.
I looked at their past voting history. Two decisions stood out: Hillary voted for the invasion of Iraq and the Patriot Act. Bernie, against.
Bernie Sanders came to speak at a rally in my hometown of Lawrence, and Mister BS signed up to canvass beforehand. Even though I had a a ton of work to do, I took the afternoon and went with him. We spent a couple hours walking through a neighborhood not far from ours where low-income, run-down apartments are just a block away from established, family friendly streets with big trees and little free libraries in the yards.
We talked to all kinds of people. No one slammed a door in our faces. One woman told us she didn’t even realize it was election season yet. Another said she supported Hillary even though she appreciated the ideas that Bernie had injected into the campaign. We talked to a woman who couldn’t vote herself because she wasn’t a citizen, but assured us her husband was a Bernie supporter. One lamented that the caucus was during the KU-Iowa State game, but said her family was still attending.
That afternoon, we got to use the VIP line to get to the front of the audience for the rally, but still stood elbow to elbow in a crowd for four hour waiting to hear Bernie’s speech. The group directly behind us happened to be four high school seniors from a town about an hour away who had skipped school to come to the rally. Since Mister BS and I both spend the majority of our time hanging out with teenagers, we ended up talking to them most of the night. They taught us Snapchat tricks and shared their plans for the future. One wanted to study Music Education, one wanted to go into politics. The others were undecided, but definitely going to KU. One worked in the inter-library loan department of her local library, so we talked about that, and she tried to convince me I really should read The Selection by Kiera Cass. These girls were bright and motivated, and definitely made me want to believe in a better future.
Then Bernie took the stage, and I was still a tad undecided. He’s not the most eloquent of speaker. His language isn’t always the most inclusive. But he’s not bullshitting you or telling you what he thinks you want to hear, and I appreciate that.
I stood and listened to him denounce the corporate campaign finance system that lets billionaires buy influence in Washington.
I heard him pledge to bail out students instead of banks and make education affordable by taxing Wall Street speculation. He affirmed the right of a woman to control her own body and to make an equal wage – and a higher minimum wage for all.
He said he’d ensure that veterans had quality care and that we didn’t go into unnecessary wars.
He promised to increase social security benefits and expand health care coverage.
He wants to invest in youth and stop throwing people in prison for possession of drugs while Wall Street bankers who ruined the lives of millions of Americans pay no consequences for their crimes.
He said he’d be reasonable and smart about our environment instead of serving the interests of the fossil fuel industry.
He vowed to respect the rights of immigrants, women, all races, and the LGBTQ community.
He said love trumps hatred.
And that’s the future I want. I decided I was with Bernie.
We went to the caucus on Saturday. It was a boisterous, disorganized affair. Because of the gerrymandering of our district, we had to drive out to a small town outside of Lawrence.
The young representative of the Sanders campaign spoke briefly about her own LGBTQ family and how Bernie supports the rights of all families.
The speaker on behalf of the Hillary campaign, a retirement age woman, said for all that she loved what Bernie had to say, we can’t vote just on our ideals. She spoke about how Hillary has done great things on the international stage and is the practical choice.
But I want to be that idealist who thought that politics and policy could make the world a better place. I don’t want to be told that just because the person who I share the most beliefs with isn’t the establishment candidate, I shouldn’t support him.
Come November, I’ll surely support the Democratic candidate, but I’m hoping it’s Bernie.