DISCLAIMER: It’s Berning up my soul a bit having to write this at all, but I gotta do it.
Anyone who knows me knows I love Bernie Sanders. As someone who has only voted in two presidential elections, I think of myself as pretty spoiled when it comes to Presidents. In fact, most people I know feel pretty spoiled by our President of the last eight years, which I think is part of what makes this election so… polarizing. I mean, who can really replace Barry?
When I first started to learn about Bernie Sanders, he felt like the more progressive version of Obama, the logical next-step — not because of his gender, but because of his platform. Bernie called “bullsh*t” on the political process while activating and incentivizing the millennial generation, making our issues part of the conversation without writing us off like every other baby-boomer. In this primary race, Hillary Clinton represented the establishment while Bernie represented the anti-establishment. The only problem with that divide is that there is someone on the other end of the aisle— or frankly, universe— who also represents the anti-establishment: Donald Trump. Humoring Trump was all fine and good in the beginning of the race, when he was a joke, but when he clinched the nomination and people on the Sanders side started to see Trump as the logical vote because of the anti-establishment values they both represented, I started to feel like the election had jumped the shark.
I would like to write it off as some sort of short-circuit with the Berners, but what Bernie has taught me through his campaign is that if people are going to extremes and desperation to have their voice heard, it is time to listen. As someone whose rhetoric almost never featured the word “I” — but almost always “we” — Bernie’s race for President was not because it has been his life-long dream or because he even thought he would actually be elected, but with the hopes of changing the process and our political culture. This is exactly the reason why a Hillary/Bernie ticket is the answer and salvation we need not only from Trump, but from the political machine that has thwarted our country’s growth.
Honestly, I really believe Hillary Clinton represents everything that is wrong with our political system. She is the old guard. A guard that could thrive in a pre-internet, pre-social media time, where political leaders are slippery when wet and we, as Americans, aren’t privileged to hold the hose. With that said, unlike Trump, I don’t think she’s going to wake up one morning in a bad mood or with low ratings, and decide the best way to start trending again is to nuke come small country. As November draws nearer, I just do not think there’s the sort of time to waffle anymore on what a Trump presidency might look like, but create a dream team to prevent it. As hard as it is for me to admit that team includes Bernie as the VP instead of Commander-in-Chief, he has a real opportunity to guide his impassioned followers, who may feel displaced and discouraged about the political process. He can lead by example of strong leadership through joining the Clinton ticket and landing this plane safely in November.
In sports, there is a real value and honor in being a player who is tops with assists. The top scorer could not score without someone else seeing the opportunity to set the play. If Bernie is in the White House with Hillary, he will see the opportunity to set the play and clear the path so Hillary can score the goal. And while I believe Hillary of all people needs to be reminded that there is no “I” in “team,” I believe even more that Bernie has the tenacity and support to remind her of that. Moreover, if Bernie were to become the Vice President, he would also serve as President of the Senate. He’d be able to guide the Senate, which serves to represent Americans on a state level, and that might be where Bernie’s colors shine brightest.
Part of what I love about Bernie Sanders is the fact that he really cares about Americans. His priorities in his campaign focused on the day-to-day life of Americans and our future. His campaign success reminds us that real change starts small and gets big. Big change needs to start at the local level, then the state level, and then the federal level. We have the potential to save the planet by creating jobs and technology around solar energy; we can be the biggest leaders in the car industry again if we get ahead of the electric and hybrid auto market; and we have the potential to lead agriculture again by legalizing marijuana and taxing it. All that starts small. All of that starts under the Vice President’s watchful eye. All that can start with Bernie.
In order for all this to happen though, it does not just require Bernie to officially step down from the primary race — it also requires Hillary to take a slice of humble pie and invite him onto the ticket. Both steps are tall orders for these people and I am not sure it can happen, but when I think about good leadership, something we so desperately need right now, that is what it looks like.
Maybe this makes me a quitter. And there’s some truth to that. I mean, I’ve quit everything I’ve done in life but writing — and I think about quitting that every day. (I won’t, though.) I’ll stick with it, even if it means I don’t get the big pay-off until I’m nearly 80 years old, just like Bernie. Yet, I also believe that in order to achieve the long game, sometimes you have to work the short game. In this instance, if we can’t beat ‘em, we might as well join ‘em, and make the change within the machine for the long-game win… for the biggest championship of all: a free world.