Feel the Bern or give ‘em Hill, but please, chill out

February 13, 2016 Originally published on SFGate

How to put this delicately? With all due respect and while hoping to avoid kicking the political hornet’s nest, all over again?

Oh, screw it: Chill the hell out, rabid Bernie evangelists.

Believe me, I get it. Bernie is awesome. Bernie is neat. Bernie could, bewildered Fates allowing and if New Hampshire is any indication and it’s probably not but life is weird and stranger things have happened – Bernie could go all the way. And lo, it would be amazing.

But hear this now, hardcore Sanders zealots: it’s become jarringly evident that many of you are losing perspective, becoming unhinged, veering way too close, in your savage anti-Hillary screeds, pro grumpy-old-populist obsessiveness and manic refusal of historical context, toward raging fundamentalism.

You know, like an NRA fanatic. Like a Trump rage-aholic. A Mormon homophobe. A Planned Parenthood firebomber. Beware.

You are not them. Act not like them. Chill the f–k out. Widen your lens. See the larger play. Befriend your “opponent.” Unclench your zealotry, just a little. This is the only way. The other way? Pure poison.

Let me be clear: I’m thrilled that Sanders won New Hampshire. I’m thrilled that Hillary will be the (likely) nominee. I’m thrilled that the GOP continues to eat itself alive. I have no problem with all these statements being true, simultaneously, in turns, over and over again. But maybe that’s just me.

More Establishment than anyone wants, more revolutionary than many imagine

More Establishment than anyone wants, more revolutionary than many imagine

But it’s been a difficult thing to witness, this blinding hate, this savage intolerance, this strange moral panic I’ve seen lately, springing up all over my social media feeds, in articles and discussion threads and even among my activist friends, much of it – though certainly not all – coming from Bernie’s most virulent supporters (note: not ‘Bernie bros,’ just zealots) and all of it aimed not at Trump, not at the GOP, but squarely at the most yawningly obvious target of all: Hillary Clinton.

No mere dislike, this. No mere policy disagreement or bantering about who’s the real “progressive.” This is far uglier. It’s mean and it’s low and it’s shameful to see. It’s as though a bunch of devout Bernie fire-breathers have taken a page from the GOP handbook and have decided to brutalize Clinton using the most demeaning, hateful language possible, hurling forth all kinds of specious evidence to dehumanize her, all while pretending it’s in service of elevating and lionizing Bernie.

It’s a toxic strategy. It’s also sort of a lie.

Who’s the better candidate, really? More skilled? More electable? Stronger on policy? More revolutionary? Not the point. Not this column. From where I sit and I don’t care who knows it, both are terrific, hugely intelligent, enormously flawed, historically unique, fascinating candidates, for widely different reasons and some not so different at all. Their voting records in the Senate are nearly identical. Both have put forth multiple excellent, bold policy proposals. Either one will serve us well, with multiple caveats and in very different ways.

I am not decrying impassioned support, either. I’m all for political idealism and fire. And Hillary certainly has her own problems with over-zealous supporters, particularly those of the uber-feminist variety, some who’ve taken to shaming any liberal female who dares not support the female candidate, because female, end of discussion. Has Hillary overplayed the gender card? Maybe. Does she have the right to use it? Absolutely. Is there a bit of a backlash going on? Sort of.

But from what I’m seeing, even Hillary’s most impassioned supporters are coming nowhere near the vicious character assassinations and outright hate speech being slung by some of Bernie’s most enraged acolytes. Simply put: Hillary deserves serious critique. She does not deserve crass, wholesale slaughter, from within her own party. It’s divisive and cruel and serves nothing. Leave it to the GOP.

The over-reach is partly understandable; Bernie is the underdog, the longshot, the nutty socialist radical. He’s blunt and unflashy. His supporters have to be louder and more aggressive, just to be heard, to be taken seriously, particularly amidst the powerful whitewashery of Hillary’s entrenched political machinery.

Then again, Bernie also gets to enjoy a different sort of advantage, and it’s only partly that he gets to be a white male.

It’s this: No candidate, no political figure in your lifetime has been more vilified, more hated upon, more systematically demonized by the old white male Republican guard, than Hillary Clinton, largely due to her gender, her intelligence, her past, who she married. We have all, to one degree or another, been pre-coded, predisposed to mistrust her, dislike her, doubt her motives.

Of course, much of that is entirely justified; She is the Establishment. She is political cronyism and corporate entitlement. I get it. But ask yourself this, fanatical Berners: how much of your view of her is the result of decades of relentless right-wing sexism and savagery, and how much is fair critique? Can you differentiate? I usually can’t. But it’s worth trying. What’s that you say? You don’t think she even deserves fair critique, just straight-up condemnation? You’re part of the problem.

Sanders, OTOH, suffers no such prejudice. He’s a ‘revolutionary’ blank slate. He’s been operating so far in the background, and for so long, he’s never had a chance to be hated and demeaned for everything he is and everything he stands for, from his spouse to his clothes, his tone of voice to his gender. In short: He’s endured not a fraction of the systemic misogyny and bile Hillary has.

Result: Berners are free to project into him their most devout, savior-of-the-nation fantasias, with minimal critical analysis or historical perspective. Can he fulfill even a small percentage of them? Impossible to know. But it sure is fun to imagine.

Let’s not get carried away. I am no HRC apologist. I do not yet feel the Bern. They’re both brilliant. They’re both totally insane. Support whichever you like. Get passionate. Be critical. Be less furiously certain you know what you think you know – that would certainly help.

But when one gets the nom, get over your sour disappointment ASAP and support him/her with all you’ve got – not merely because either one will be strange, fascinating, transformative president, but also because the alternatives are so toxic and repugnant as to be threatening to all of human life as we know it. I mean, holy hell. Isn’t it obvious?

Read more here:: Feel the Bern or give ‘em Hill, but please, chill out

Mark Morford

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