The Tender Activist: Parties Weren’t Meant to Last

By : Scottie Campbell
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scottie campbell

Scottie Campbell

“Amazingly, more Americans are willing to walk away from God than they are the familiarity of our two-party system. Thousands of years of religion we can discuss, process, and make a decision on, but with politics we are enslaved to an immovable object.”

I love the ritual of voting. I can’t bring myself to vote absentee, I can’t get into early voting; I have to go to the poll on the day. I love checking in with a poll worker who makes sure I am who I say I am, then standing in a flimsy pop-up “booth” and filling in the ovals next to my choices. I’m meticulous in my filling-in, making sure every bit of the oval is black and making sure I’m filling in the right oval (I have a bit of irrational anxiety about filling-in the wrong one).
These days I’m haunted by the ghost of a poll worker when I walk over to insert my ballot in the voting machine. When I voted for Janet Reno to be governor of Florida in 2002, I asked the quinquagenarian attending the machine which side should face up. “It doesn’t matter,” was her reply, no doubt telling the truth about the machine, but cloaking my heart in conspiracy theories. It’s possible I now say a little prayer at this point – let’s face it, the damn thing looks like a shredder.

And, good grief, I love that “I Voted” sticker. It’s actually a bit odd how I like to wear that sticker for the rest of the day, treating it with the same delicacy I would afford a prom boutonnière.

I find the “Bernie or Bust” movement intriguing. The core of the movement is a commitment to abstain from voting for Clinton, but the alternatives voiced are many: Write-in Sanders, vote for a third party candidate, or stay away from the polls completely. The point is to act with integrity, so I’ve not encountered any in the movement saying ­– or at least admitting – that they would vote for Trump instead.

Early on I told Clinton supporting friends not to expect Bernie Sanders supporters to simply fall in line if he doesn’t get the nomination. For months now, polls have shown Clinton to be the second most hated candidate in this election cycle, falling behind aforementioned tyrant with a bad combover, but I needed no poll to tell me that was the case within Berner circles. Said friends greet this information with disbelief. After all, American politics has become black hats versus white hats: You are always on the white hat side; they are always on the black. Conventional thinking is: When your person is voted off the nomination island, you are to follow behind your party’s chosen white hat person. In 2016, I think – and I hope – we’re seeing a shift from that archaic, indeed dysfunctional, approach to politics. Down with segregated haberdashery!

On Facebook, a friend used the word “dangerous” when commenting on a Ralph Nader article I posted in which he posited that Sanders should run on a third party ticket. Dangerous? Philippe Petit stringing a wire between the Twin Towers and crossing it, now that was dangerous. But my friend used the word dangerous because we have been taught to fear the rise of a third party. What Bernie Sanders’ political revolution and, despite his methods, Donald Trump’s campaign have shown us is the two-party monster needs to be gutted and each party needs to be retooled or die. With Sanders we are witnessing authenticity, and many of us are startled by the contrast, realizing we do not have to settle for a corrupt system.

I’ve had conversations with Clinton supporters who shrug their support for her, buying the party line that she is the best bet to beat the Republicans, the one who “can get things done,” though little evidence exists of that. It is what it is, they’ll parrot. “If Bernie doesn’t get the nomination and you write him in, why that’ll be a vote for Trump,” they say. This is the same insufferable heaping spoonful of fearmongering we’ve heard all our lives. Better to vote for someone with questionable moral character – under FBI investigation no less – than to “lose it all,” whatever that means.

Amazingly, more Americans are willing to walk away from God than they are the familiarity of our two-party system. Thousands of years of religion we can discuss, process, and make a decision on, but with politics we are enslaved to an immovable object. Though “it is what it is” has become a trite phrase conveying helplessness, the concept has spiritual roots, most often associated with Buddhism. The intention of the concept is to accept things we cannot change. Our behavior and our actions are both things we have control over. Death is what it is, political parties are what we make them.

While the essence of the Bernie or Bust movement is intriguing, I don’t condone it literally. This is not just because of the beloved ritual I describe above. The bust, abstaining completely, is counterproductive and simply gives the purveyors of the two-party system what they are after. The fewer of us to manipulate, the easier it is for them to keep the status quo. Voter suppression is a reality and it exists for unscrupulous reasons. Vote for a traditionally-selected nominee, vote for a third party, or write-in your choice, but vote with a pure heart.

We’ve been given our vote and our breath; I encourage you to use both and to do so with integrity.

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