Hawaii Five-O becomes the Love Boat

So, when I was a kid, the Love Boat was a hit show. It often featured what I perceived to be older actors and actresses that I didn’t recognize at all, but because they were on the show in a prominent way, I figured they must be somebody famous or have been famous at one time.

Recently, my wife and I have been watching Hawaii Five-O – the new one, featuring people near our age, late 30s to mid 40s – and actors and actresses keep popping up in prominent roles that I recognize from when I was a young adult. For example, Melanie Griffith and Tom Berenger are the parents of one of the lead characters. Daryl Hannah portrayed a real estate agent.

Would my kids recognize these actors? No. Would my kids see them as older? Yes.

I’m old. And my shows have become the Love Boat. Crap.

Sure, I’ll support Clinton. But I won’t be stupid about it.

Following her primary victory in New York this week, Hillary Clinton reached out to Bernie Sanders’ voters:

To all the people who supported Sen. Sanders, I believe there is much more that unites us than divides us.

I believe this is true. On a great many issues, Clinton lines up with Sanders just enough that I’m willing to submit to the twisted logic of the United States’ political duopoly and – should she end up the Democratic nominee – vote for her instead of a third party.

But just enough means differences remain. And boy, it is a doozy of a divide.

For me, Sanders’ entire campaign has been about breaking the power of the plutocrats – the rich – and restoring the power of the people in our democracy. That’s why there is the twin focus on the problem of excessive money polluting our politics and a lack of money diminishing the economic opportunity, security, and freedom of the typical American.

Before this primary season, I guess I still thought there was widespread agreement among people on the left, broadly speaking, that this was a worthy goal. Now I’m not so sure. What I now see in Clinton – and, by extension, her supporters – is a seeming acceptance of plutocracy – an acceptance that the best that we can hope for against the wealthy and their interests is to hustle, bargain, and plead for small changes, rather than take on their power directly and forcefully. This is, by the way, a charitable interpretation. I am sorely tempted to believe that Clinton-like centrist Democrats actually believe that the wealthy have a natural right to rule. After all, didn’t they clearly win the economic game? Sure, offset the losers somewhat, but not so as to upset the natural order. (This is, by the way, a variation on the themes put forward by Thomas Frank in his new book “Listen, Liberal”. I recommend it.)

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Clinton would prove to be the “fighter” she always claims to be against the power of the plutocrats. I would gladly be proven completely wrong. But I suspect I won’t be. Despite the relative success of Bernie Sanders and his campaign, I doubt very much that Clinton and her brand of liberal have gotten the message that we’re at the end of a decades-long experiment in bad policy. Better alternatives are out there. The Sanders campaign is not spouting some sort of utopian vision. We have the benefit of seeing that other countries have already experimented with other systems – the Nordic countries, in particular – which have far better social outcomes for most of their citizens. Are these systems perfect? Of course not. Would we have to put an American spin on them? Yes. But moving in the direction of a democratic socialist politics and economy remains a goal worth fighting for. I sincerely hope that Clinton and her supporters start showing that they share this vision.

Sanders should stay in the race, but stick to his critique of our political economy

Bernie Sanders explains his vision of democratic socialism during a speech in Nov. 19, 2015.

While still conceivable after New York, Bernie Sanders’ chances of winning the Democratic primary have now become highly improbable. Improbable, but not impossible. And for that reason alone I think he should stay in the race. (For the record, this is exactly what Hillary Clinton did in 2008. She stuck it out until June of that year, even after it was apparent that she was on the ropes.)

But as a Sanders supporter, I wish he and his campaign would stick to their original, long-standing – and accurate – critique of U.S. political economy. That is, that our democratic republic has been hijacked by plutocrats, who are using the power of their money to distort our politics and economics to serve their interests and not those of most Americans.

What I don’t want is to see his campaign descend merely into constant sniping and criticism of fellow progressives and the primary process in general. Yes, suspicious activity – like the voter registration changes leading up to the New York primary – need to be thoroughly investigated. And yes, there are a variety of reforms needed in the way the Democratic party primaries are managed, including the existence of superdelegates.

But at this point, these are short-term tactical matters, having to do with this campaign alone. It is also important to play the long game, and Sanders is clearly winning that. He has energized young people. He’s proven that a sizable portion of the Democratic party electorate – roughly 40% – wants to see the party lean in the direction of democratic socialism, rather than stick with a centrist, corporatist approach to politics that has dominated the party for the last 30 years. (With any luck, Sanders will stay in through California, and we’ll have something of a national referendum on this issue.) And he has done all of this mostly as an outsider with largely small donations, proving that there is room to maneuver in U.S. political institutions for people-centered candidates and movements. All of this is a base upon which a new political economy can be built – and upon which a new Democratic party can be built, complete with the primary election reforms mentioned before.

But to do any of this, Sanders and his campaign – and his supporters – need to maintain the moral high ground, which is so clearly won. That’s what makes more centrist Democrats squirm. And I’m not inclined to let them off the hook or give them excuses to ignore the central message of the Sanders campaign, which is that their approach has proven to be a misguided failure for most Americans and that a new way is needed.