Feeling the Bern (2016) Pt. 2

Photo by Julie Dermansky

This is part two of a personal account of what happened during the events leading up to the 2016 Democratic nomination. You can read part one here.

In addition to not providing adequate accessibility for those with disabilities, the venue was way too crowded—period.  Fire and safety codes were blatantly ignored. Even with every seat filled, the leftovers standing everywhere created a potential disaster of multiple proportions. Escape would have been impossible had an emergency erupted.  As for the bathrooms, forget it. Able-bodied people used the one stall large enough for a wheelchair and took their sweet time. If they had enough leg strength to hover over a toilet and dirty up the seat for the next person, they did not need to be using a handicapped stall at all.

Secret service was everywhere: Armed guard on every bus, armed guards stationed on the perimeter, on roofs, at entrances and throughout the arena. Credentials were checked thoroughly. A dog was on duty on 2 of the 4 days to sniff all wheelchairs. Helicopters circled constantly. All that was fine, given the tenor of recent times and world terrorism events. But just why was it necessary for a dark-suited agent to stand in my alcove to confiscate personal signs?  He stood menacingly, waiting for the Bernie delegate next to me to hold up an unapproved sign. Pissed and in protest, she put tape on her mouth the same color green as her “Enough is Enough” t-shirt. Earlier, at an “Our Revolution Continues” forum, there were several uniformed police standing on both sides of the stage. Were they expecting trouble? Only Bernie delegates were allowed in. The only incident I witnessed was the altercation that happened with the lady with multiple sclerosis in a wheelchair next to me. This lady requested another woman standing in front of her to back out of her face. When the rather large booty invaded this frustrated wheelchair occupant’s face yet again, the lady with MS took a bite. The astonished “victim” exclaimed “You bit me! Why did you bite me?” She wasn’t seen again. The friend with MS was surprised she bit the butt in her face and claimed her meds were to blame–Ha.

Contrary to news reports, Bernie delegates did not boo him at their meeting.  His entreaty to support Hillary was booed. The lady behind me sobbed uncontrollably.  The Democratic Party needed to be patient with heartbroken zealots. Most needed time to grieve. They did not need arrogance and smugness.  I could truly feel what they were feeling. On the convention floor, chants of “No more wars” by Bernie fans were drowned out by cadences of “USA” by Hillary fans.  Unsettling tension permeated all week. Nothing substantial had been done to quell the division caused by the handling of the primaries. It was not sour grapes from whiners. It was justifiable anger amid no semblance of fairness or democracy. We were not wanted or needed.

What a tough but history-making week!  There were some bright spots.  Louisiana’s new Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards addressed a Louisiana/South Carolina breakfast. Joe Biden was a welcome, stark contrast to getting-on-one’s-last-nerve-Leon Panetta. President Obama brought tears with his shout-out to Bernie. And beaucoup balloons were festive.

The unspeakable happened on November 8, 2016. Over 49% of Americans did not vote and Donald Trump was elected president. He was a bloviating buffoon and Pence was calculating and even more ominous.  Hillary had more popular votes by over 206,500 but lost the electoral count. The DNC shot the country in the foot by not heeding the pulse of the people and pushing Hillary while dissing the candidate who could have/would have beaten Trump—Bernie.

I knew it was not the time to point fingers of blame, so I sat on my hands. I refused to let the disastrous election keep me hostage to ongoing gloom, doom and catastrophizing. There was no capital to move to another country so I had to make the best of things on my own.  While waiting for Trump to fall on his own sword swinging wildly, I would not put my head in the sand nor lick my wounds too long. The work of progressives had to continue with even more intensity and urgency. Despite Trump, Scalise, McConnell and their spineless GOP co-conspirators working so that the wealthy got wealthier, the forgotten poor were obliterated, the environment was eviscerated, and blind bigotry was fueled, my country would survive and conquer.  The USA was greater than such selfish callousness.

Though not pleased with the territorial DNC post-election, I was not surprised given its presidential primary behaviors. Was it just window-dressing to name Ellison deputy-chief?  I felt quite disenfranchised from a party that was not inclusive enough, but the Democrats were still head and shoulders above the GOP. The real work was to convince the younger generation, as well as members by default like myself, that the Democratic Party had something worth getting enthusiastic over—that the Democratic Party had learned from its drastic mistakes of ignoring a groundswell of discontent—that the Democratic Party cared more for everyday people than huge donors.  If the disaster of Trump was to render anything positive, it was to galvanize Americans to pull together for the good of all. The designation of Independent was not truly recognized in Louisiana, the Rethugs were acting demonically, and there was nothing else, so I remained a reluctant Democrat. I didn’t want to lose my voice altogether and, besides, Bernie wanted Democrats to stay and work for change from within. By hokey, it was my party, too, and I refused to be chased out by party purists.

But the temptation to abandon ship was strong as the party made things worse.  Howard Dean was dead wrong when he attacked Tulsi Gabbard as not fit to serve in Congress. Tulsi was a military veteran against regime change who resigned her post in the DNC to support Bernie. The Clintonian Democrats revved up and attacked anyone with more progressive ideas proving they learned nothing from the November election disaster that installed Travesty Trump. Instead of consolidating citizens, the party still paid homage to corporate donors and attempted to stifle legitimate opinion. Nothing learned. Same old, same old. But the dysfunctional Democratic Party was still head and shoulders above the repulsive Republican Party. What a low setting of the bar.

The America that Trump planned to make great again were the richest of the rich—not the middle-class and certainly not the poor. One of his first treacherous acts increased the amount middle-class folks had to pay for FHA mortgages. Rather than unite the country, he chose a cabinet full of fellow unqualified billionaires to place their collective fists on the scale of economic equity.  

On November 2, 2017, Donna Brazile’s bombshell hit the news and Gilda had a newfound respect for her. Brazile admitted that the DNC rigged the primaries against Bernie and in favor of Hillary.  What took so long? She claimed that she would not have taken the interim DNC chair position to replace ousted Debbie Wasserman Schultz if she had known how bad things were. Her phone call to Bernie to apprise him of matters was the hardest call she ever had to make.

I attended the Unrig Summit at Tulane University in early February 2018. The panel on Criminal Justice Reform in Louisiana was led by Nina Turner. In the front row with me and my Northshore friends was Shannon Jackson, Bernie’s trusted aide and leader of Our Revolution. He gave me a button and card and talked a bit. I asked him if Bernie was going to run and he slyly said he was going to run for reelection to the Senate. I did not let him escape with that and voiced that was not the race referred to. With a knowing grin, he then answered if Bernie’s health remained good, he would run in 2020. Exciting!!  I answered that the more Democrats who jumped in, the better for Bernie’s chances. Shannon said he would be in touch with me about helping. The home visit to my house was one of the 1st ones and a huge success. I told him I’d find a bigger house so more people could fit. I also reiterated that judging by the shocking presence of almost 5000 jubilant folks in deep red Kenner, Bernie could’ve, should’ve, would’ve won.

My son, Robby, who had served as my campaign manager when I ran for Congress against Scalise, encouraged me to take on the Chair position of the Jefferson Parish Democratic Executive Committee. Several members thought it a good idea even though I was the least traditional Democrat on the entire committee, and one friend was willing to take the reins after a year. So, at a crossroads, I struggled with my decision. I believed in the mission of change/within rather than quit. I understood the necessity of compromise and strategy with polar GOP opposites and hardheaded Democratic corporatists. Yet intolerance, bigotry, greed, giving up without trying, profit over people in education, environment, prisons, and healthcare—these frayed my last nerve. It was so tempting to weave a protective cocoon and abandon politics rather than continue hitting my head against the walls of both parties. I didn’t want to be Chair of the JPDEC or involved with thankless and vicious politics. Bernie was squashed by reigning Democrats and the venom that still existed for him and people like me who still believed the same way he did, was disconcerting. Disappointed Clintonites still blamed Bernie for their loss. They did not consider that his supporters voted for Hillary at a larger clip than Hillary supporters voted for Obama in 2008 or Rubio and Kasich supporters voted for Trump in 2016. More Hillary voters voted for John McCain in 2008 than Sanders voters voted for Trump in 2016. But the vitriol continued against Bernie believers. Hillary diehards refused to acknowledge that enthusiasm for him increased voter turnout. This kind of excitement could not be engendered by simply harping against Trump. Bernie emphasized what he was FOR instead and appealed to young voters, jaded voters, disgruntled voters, and optimistic voters.

In March 2018, the Parkland kids who had survived the Valentine’s Day massacre at their high school were soullessly attacked by white conservative asswipes. One talk show host threatened student leader, David Hogg, with sexual assault with a hot poker. Another one called Emma Gonzalez a skinhead lesbian.  Despicable people. The level of pure evil was alarming. Trump, meanwhile, tried to distract from all the salacious scandal of paid silence of porno stars by drumming up war and launching airstrikes in Syria. He pardoned Scooter Libby for lying to the FBI in a clear message to encourage “friends” to lie in exchange for pardons. The choice became more clear and I accepted the Chair position on April 18, 2018, in a very uneventful committee election. No one else wanted the position and trusted me to do no harm.

We have all endured 2 years of the torturous scourge of a Trump presidency. The incompetent, tweeting nincompoop is reaching even lower lows and our country is teetering—migrant children jerked from their parents, corporations given permission to rape the land, air, water, and national parks, Americans hurt irreparably by a government shutdown for a moronic wall, fake crisis manufactured on the border, war drummed up in Venezuela, rumps kissed of tyrants, butchers and authoritarian leaders/governments, vicious attacks on our intelligence agencies, allied countries and reporters/free press. He is a raging racist, a deranged bigot with no tolerance for folks having more melanin (unless they host his businesses). He is a spiteful, petty, petulant grandstander—a whiny, revengeful ninny-baby—a self-aggrandizing liar of immense proportions—a disgusting ruthless piece of excrement—a cowardly bully who hit his son in the face knocking him to the floor in front of all his freshman dorm friends.  He is a bloviating braggadocio who continues to embarrass—dropped out of the Paris Climate Accord, displayed total ignorance of the way NATO works, called peaceful protests against inequality “disrespect to the flag” and white supremacists’ violent protests “free speech”, blamed devastated Puerto Rico for its insolvency though he bilked them of $33 million for a bankrupt golf course, didn’t know the difference between weather and climate or wall and real border security, claimed forest fires in Finland were prevented because they raked the forest floor. He pulled out of the Iran nuclear treaty and increased Middle East tension and conflict additionally by moving our embassy to Jerusalem. He said Russia should be accepted back on the G-7 Summit after being thrown off of G-8 for blatant aggression in invading Crimea. Why his affinity for Putin? What did Putin have on him? Why the secret meetings in Helsinki, Finland? The vain wuss valued his hair in Paris more than honoring America’s fallen in the rain and didn’t bother to lay a wreath on the tomb of the unknown soldier on Veterans Day in DC. Enough about this despot already.

No true supporter of Bernie will risk the reelection of callous cretin Cheeto von Tweeto. The question is, will the Democratic Party finally get smart and stop dissing the very progressives they need to inject passion, court the young, and defeat a cold-hearted, greedy, nauseating narcissist? Wall Street and Koch ilk have already begun an assault on progressive candidates who have declared intentions to run. If the DNC and Democratic Party harken to these commands, they will be eerily reminiscent of past mistakes. This is not “strategy”, it is suicide.

It is not enough to defeat a tyrannical imbecile. Democrats must replace him with someone who can orchestrate our healing and rehabilitation with all our people as beneficiaries. This person must not owe her/his soul to PACs or lobbyists.  

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