Ever have one of those conversations where you know, KNOW, you are right, only to think about it a few days later and realize you were being an asshole? I wonder if that is how the leaders of the Democratic party are feeling right now.
For the past couple of weeks, a friend of mine has been struggling with a bought of depression. I believe I listened to her concerns and have tried to be a good friend in a tough time, the way she is there for me when I need it. But I also offered some somewhat unsolicited advice.
“What about looking for a part time job? Or trying a new hobby? I really feel like you need something new in your life.”
Was the advice helpful? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe something new would give her excitement to pull out of her spiral. Or maybe it felt like another suggestion that is out of reach. Maybe it felt like instead of listening I was trying to fix her.
I was reminded of this conversation with my friend today, in the midst of another conversation about politics. Many of us keep scratching our heads after this election, wondering what went wrong. Perhaps our Democratic party leaders were trying to fix before listening.
I have always voted Democrat. I am a party member. I voted in the primary.
During the primary, I voted for Bernie Sanders. Like many people who ended up voting for Trump, I am tired of political insiders. Many thought Bernie’s ideas were too radical, too liberal. For me, they were music to my ears. Someone willing to take tough, unpopular stances because they were the right thing to do? Yes!
When it came to light that the Democratic Party maintained no neutrality in choosing it’s candidate, I felt duped. It was as if the party was saying “We’re going to pretend to listen to you. We’re going to maintain the illusion that your voice is heard. But in the end, WE know what you need better than you do.” Aren’t elected representatives supposed to do the will of the people they represent? I understand those waters can be murky, but it would seem pretty easy to simply let people vote for who they want to represent them, and then let that person be the choice. (This could also apply to the whole electoral college thing, but I digress). I have no idea if Bernie would have won the nomination. I have no idea if he could have beaten Trump. I have no idea if he could have made good on the ideas he talked about. But I can say, I would have liked to find out. I would have liked for my party to listen to me. I would have liked a fair fight.
As we know now, these decisions came back to bite the party on the ass. The greatest message that came out of this election is that people are frustrated with politics as usual. Many are willing to bet on a mad man rather than deal with the momentum of the political machine.
It took me a long time to come around to voting for Hillary for just these reasons. I felt betrayed by my party. I, too, was sick of politics as usual. But I came around for two reasons. I sincerely believe that Trump is a dangerous choice. And I wanted to send a message by shattering that ultimate glass ceiling. I wanted to get past that obstacle so that perhaps we could start considering candidates who might not have been given a second thought in the past. I wanted my kids to grow up in a world where they could believe that everyone truly does have that same opportunities. I am crushed not because Hillary did not get elected, but because that greater ideal was not realized.
My hope is that this election, with its bitter disappointment and heartbreak, will be the catalyst we need to get back to the idea that elected officials serve the will of the people. I want our voices to matter. I NEED my vote to count.
Listen before fix. Let’s take that to heart.