Joe’s Op Ed: Super Tuesday Hangover

Hey folks.

I haven’t said much about the election. I am a voracious reader, someone who keeps up on the news (in a balanced way), yet I have only contributed soundbite opinions when drawn into a political conversation where it would be rude to refuse. I’ve been watching the mood of the headlines and my FB feed, tempted to chip in, but I just feel too tired.

I’ve had a lot going on. I recently moved to a new city (“moved” is a complex and nebulous concept in my world, as you may know). I’m sober again, there has been lots of attention and excitement around the musicals I have been writing for, and I’ve been dealing with some medical stuff. Money issues are ever-present, no change there, but my priorities have changed quite a bit. I have not had much bandwidth to be very active in this election, other than to vote. But in the waning Chicago light, I somehow feel moved to throw in my two cents.

I voted for Bernie last time, and Hillary. It was painful to witness my mother watch Hillary lose that race, a memory I will never forget. It was otherworldly to watch what’s-his-face take the wheel of the US government, and it has been jaw-dropping to see so much good work dismantled in the name of blind tribalism. I think Warren is kickass, hooray for gay Buttigieg getting as far as he did, Kamala, Booker, even Biden as VP under Obama, go you. And I would be grateful for any of them in place of who we have now. But I voted for Bernie again this time, without fanfare.

Take an analogy, if you will – and this is actually NOT about healthcare! Hang in there with me – sometimes in life, one will likely get injured or sick enough to need to go to the hospital. Do you want to go to the hospital? No. Do you want to live in the hospital all the time? Of course not. Do you want to admit that you need to go to the hospital? Probably not – you have shit to do, life is hard enough without disruptions, and who wants to even entertain the idea that there might be something dangerously wrong that would require time, effort, vulnerability and trust – nobody ever. But, it is highly probable that at some point you’ll get injured or sick enough that you should go to the hospital. Is going to the hospital and potentially saving your life “right wing” or “left wing?” Conservative or liberal? Of course it is neither – something’s wrong and it won’t fix itself, so you should probably go to the damn hospital. Hopefully it’ll be quick, you’ll focus on the problem for however long it takes, change some things about your lifestyle so you don’t have to deal with it again, and go on about your life. Fingers crossed. But the sooner you go, the sooner you can deal with it and move past it.

I wish we could actually vote for policies, and not personalities or parties. I am not a Constitutional fundamentalist, I believe ideas and texts need to evolve or they will likely become harmful when conditions change (as history shows), but I happily accept the Constitution as a framework with which to run this country. Something noteworthy about the Founding Fathers’ original intentions is that they feared the electorate would split into warring political factions.. They even tried to ward it off but were clearly unsuccessful; perhaps tribalism is too ingrained in the human species, but I digress – I highly doubt they would have agreed to restrictions requiring a voter to register as a particular party in order for them to vote for the candidate of their choice. The votes for the electoral college system were based on population numbers that changed long, long ago, yet everyone thinks they might be able work the system to their advantage at some point and it seems too big a task anyway, so it hasn’t changed. Citizens United is an absolute abomination to a supposedly democratic society. The incomprehensible sums of money that are spent in elections are shameful – and I don’t use that word lightly – when politicians hem and haw over the cost of evidence-based social programs that improve people’s lives and the economic success of the nation in the long run. Economic inequality is a grotesque and mindless monster threatening to slobber all over and mangle this nation, munching it limb by limb, until it ultimately devours itself. Climate disasters are coming – they are here and getting worse – and we are not in any way prepared. It will get ugly. Our country is sick folks, we need to go to the hospital.

We need campaign finance reform. We need a single-payer healthcare system. We need to deal with our student loan debt crisis and find a way to provide accessible quality education for everyone. We need solutions to our massive contribution to Global Warming. We need industry turnover, for a healthier planet and so that people can have jobs that actually go somewhere and mean something. We need to quit meddling in the affairs of other sovereign nations for our own benefit and reign in our military spending. We need regulations on how much more a CEO can get paid than the bottom tier worker; some kind of redistribution of wealth (sorry, not sorry) – it’s obscene, immoral, and it’s causing massive problems. We need to cooperate and spend our collective money (i.e. taxes) on things that are actually beneficial to the Earth and all it’s creatures, and not just a few humans. Emergency interventions are needed to get us healthy and moving in the right direction, and that requires admitting unpleasant truths, cooperating with each other, and changing the way we live. Yuck, I know, I don’t want to have to deal with it either, but reality bites.

Do I think these challenges can be met without difficulty, or within the timespan of a single presidential term? Absolutely not. Do I think one single leader has the power to either save our souls or doom us to misery and death? Hell no – as if we could get off the hook that easy.

Do I think a better future is worth fighting for, even if we don’t get to see the fruits of our efforts in our lifetime? Yes I do.

Will I vote for anyone who is honestly willing to take these challenges head on, speak truth to power, call it what it is, and get us moving in the right direction? YES.

I didn’t vote for Bernie because I like him, or because I think he earned it or deserves it; this isn’t about Bernie, the guy, at all. I have my biases – I want a woman to win, I want someone LGBTQ to win, I want anyone who isn’t white to win – but that’s not why I voted for Bernie. I didn’t vote for him because I’m a democrat, or because I think he is “electable.” I voted for his ideas and his policies. Period. It is not radical to go to the hospital when you are really sick or injured – it’s prudent, humble, and good for everyone, not just yourself. I voted for him knowing that our system isn’t fair. I voted for him knowing I would be accused of naive idealism. I voted for him knowing he may or may not win. I voted for the ideas that I think will help this country evolve into a safer, stronger, smarter, fairer, and more loving country.

And whoever wins – I will continue to fight for the values of compassion, humility, justice, and the search for truth, and I will continue to believe that the world will evolve into a better place – eventually.


“Mine is a faith in my fellow man” – Billy Bragg, Between the Wars