February 15, 2016
Drew Friedman for the Village Voice
Stumping for Hillary Clinton this weekend in New Hampshire, hedge fund manager Madeleine Albright squawked, “There’s a special place in Hell for women who don’t help each other.”
When the Democratic National Committee chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, was asked earlier this year why she thought Millennials resist Hillary Clinton, she casually threw them under the bus. “Here’s what I see,” she groused. “A complacency among the generation of young women whose entire lives have been lived after Roe v. Wade was decided.”
Asked a similar question by Bill Maher this past Friday, women’s-rights icon Gloria Steinem cawed, “When you’re young, you’re thinking, ‘Where are the boys?’ The boys are with Bernie.”
There seems to be no shortage of bizarrely sexist assumptions as to why I, a Millennial feminist, am not voting for Hillary Clinton. But speaking as a Millennial feminist, let me assure you: None of them is accurate. Granted, the span of my political biography is only as long as it took Howard Dean to go from human rights crusader to insurance lobbyist. But the reason for my political disaffection is plain: I’ve spent my entire Millennial life watching the Democratic Party claw its way up the ass of corporate America. There’s no persuading me that the Democratic establishment — from where it sits now — has the capacity to represent me, or my values.
And I’m not alone. According to a 2013 poll by Harvard’s Kennedy School, three out of five of my peers now believe politicians prioritize private gain over the public good. When young people openopensecrets.org to gauge just how cheaply our futures trade these days, are we being cynical, or just realistic?
If Millennials are coming out in droves to support Bernie Sanders, it’s not because we are tripping balls on Geritol. No, Sanders’s clever strategy of shouting the exact same thing for 40 years simply strikes a chord among the growing number of us who now agree: Washington is bought. And every time Goldman Sachs buys another million-dollar slice of the next American presidency, we can’t help but drop the needle onto Bernie’s broken record:
The economy is rigged.
Democracy is corrupted.
The billionaires are on the warpath.
Sanders has split the party with hits like these, a catchy stream of pessimistic populism. Behind this arthritic Pied Piper, the youth rally, brandishing red-lettered signs reading “MONEYLENDERS OUT.” If you ask them, they’ll tell you there’s a special place in Hell for war criminals who launch hedge funds.
Last week in Iowa, Sanders proved his bleak candor is every bit as appealing to American voters as Hillary’s enthusiasm for tweakmanship. Especially among the youth. According to entrance polls, Millennials backed Comrade Sanders over Neoliberal Clinton by a tidy 70-point margin. And in New Hampshire, the most recent UMass poll has Sanders taking 89 percent of the state’s Democrats under 30.
But these numbers should not surprise you. According to a YouGov poll conducted last week, people under 30 are more likely to say they support socialism than capitalism.
Capitalism, as Vonnegut explained, is “what the people with all our money, drunk or sober, sane or insane, decided to do today.” We’ve just spent a lifetime watching capitalism buy itself a government. And I’ll be frank: It’s not working well for most of us. Drones make orphans in our name. Our friends will die indebted. We are poisoning our own well.
The spectacle of our government’s being bought is so obvious, even the youngest among us can see it. “With Hillary,” eighteen-year-old Olivia Sauder told Times reporters at the Iowa Caucus, “sometimes you get this feeling that all of her sentences are owned by someone.”
Ding, ding, ding.
Having once been marked by the Onion‘s A.V. Club as a “hyper-articulate radical feminist communist,” I feel uniquely qualified to pour you a rich cup of cold-brewed truth here: The kids are lit. And yet despite our frank rejection of establishment politics, establishment media waste no time swooping in to lecture us about our cognitive defects like so many pedantic barn owls.
“Stay sane, America!” hoots David Brooks for the Times, going on to equate voting one’s conscience with voting for overt fascist Donald Trump. It’s plainly bananas, says Brooks, to waste a primary vote on a man threatening disestablishment. There’s no way he can win.
Yet according to a Quinnipiac University poll released on February 5, Bernie has 42 percent of the national Dem vote to Hillary’s 44 percent. “Democrats nationwide are feeling the Bern as Senator Bernie Sanders closes a 31-point gap to tie Secretary Hillary Clinton,” says Quinnipiac’s assistant director Tim Molloy in Friday’s press release. And according to Gallup’s January numbers, Sanders’s net favorabilityamong Democrats is actually four points higher than Hillary’s. By most poll estimates, Dems say they are just as, if not more, likely to vote for Bernie as Hillary against anyRepublican front-runner.
But David Brooks is just one gassy bird in the barn. I’ve got a stack of editorials here telling me how insane and delusional I am, each more insulting to my intelligence than the next.
My favorite owl pellet comes from Alexandra Schwartz, writing for the New Yorker, who claimed Bernie’s incessant talk of Wall Street fuckery is somehow outdated: “When [Sanders’s] campaign tweets that it’s ‘high time we stopped bailing out Wall Street and started repairing Main Street,’ you have to wonder,” writes Schwartz, obtusely, “why his youngest supporters, so attuned to staleness in all things cultural, are letting him get away with political rhetoric that would have seemed old even in 2012.”
What a charmed life Alexandra Schwartz must lead to think that the biggest financial meltdown since the Great Depression should resolve itself according to the needs of the news cycle. But believe it or not, the poors have not yet moved on from being gobsmacked by a globally devastating market collapse. Freedom from the burdens of financial ruin is a privilege I imagine millions of Americans wish they could share with New Yorker staff writer Alexandra Schwartz.
And what did the great tawny-bellied Paul Krugman have to say to the nation’s waywardly progressive? “Sorry,” he pecked in his Times column. “There’s nothing noble about seeing your values defeated because you preferred happy dreams to hard thinking about means and ends.” Pausing to cough up a mouse carcass, he chittered on: “Don’t let idealism veer into destructive self-indulgence.”
I’m trying to imagine an eighteenth-century Krugman admonishing a young Thomas Jefferson against letting his happy dreams of liberty veer into self-indulgence. For good reason, American historians seem unimpressed by owls counseling restraint in the face of corruption and oppression.
If anything concerns me at this pivotal moment, it’s not the revolutionary tremors of the youth. Given the Great American Trash Fire we have inherited, this rebellion strikes me as exceedingly reasonable. Pick a crisis, America: Child poverty? Inexcusable. Medical debt? Immoral. For-profit prison? Medieval. Climate change? Apocalyptic. The Middle East is our Vietnam. Flint, the canary in our coal mine. Tamir Rice, our martyred saint. This place is a mess. We’re due for a hard rain.
If I am alarmed, it is by the profound languor of the comfortable. What fresh hell must we find ourselves in before those who’ve appointed themselves to lead our thoughts admit that we are in flames? As I see it, to counsel realism when the reality is fucked is to counsel an adherence to fuckery. Under conditions as distressing as these, acquiescence is absurd. When your nation gets classified as a Class D structure fire, I believe the only wise course is to lose your shit.
The reason Wall Street is dropping zillions of quarters into Hillary’s Super PAC-Man machine isn’t because it wants change — it’s because Wall Street sees revenue in her promises of keeping things much the same. Under Hillary, our prisons will continue to punish for profit. Our schools will continue to be sold off to private contractors. And despite 87 percent of Democrats standing behind universal health care, Hillary insists it will “never, ever come to pass.” Not from her, I guess, since she’s taken over $13 million from the health care industry.
We really can’t, America, says Hillary. Nope. Not ever. We are a powerful nation, kids, but one run by the Great Market God. Leave your moral gag reflex at the door. Close that pesky Overton window, won’t you? And be a doll and bolt those tables to the floor. You’ll love the moneylenders, dear. I do. Hell, my daughter married one!
“Want a selfie?”
No, young heroes, mind not the barnshitting owls. And I insist we take a pass on contracting foxes to assess the holes in our fence. Abandon no hopes, America. We have important work to do. This democracy will not save itself.
“The note of hope is the only note that can help us or save us from falling to the bottom of the heap of evolution,” sermonized Father Guthrie, musing on what got him through the Great Depression. “All a human being is, anyway, is just a hoping machine.”