I enjoy my Wednesday night pinochle games at the Senior Center primarily because I like playing cards and strategizing. Most of the people who attend the sessions are older than me (hard to believe!) and are very conservative in their political views. I try to keep my political views to myself and ignore the occasional derogatory Obama and Hilary remarks, though sometimes that is hard to do. My usual plan of action is to have a few comments ready to use to redirect political conversation to another topic.
I skipped pinochle last night to attend a political event - one where I met a completely different class of people. Bernie Sanders had a national meet-up in which he addressed approximately 3,500 small gatherings across the United States. There were two of the meetings in my county, one at a home in Willow Springs, and the other at a college facility here in West Plains. I attended the one in West Plains where I was able to meet and chat with two dozen like-minded individuals.
I support Bernie Sanders for President, and I support him enthusiastically - but I have always felt somewhat guilty about that. I know that politics in America is controlled by old white men, and the arc of our national growth and development has been set by old white men. Most of the serious problems that America is experiencing today (racism, poverty, income inequality, uncontrolled corporate greed, climate change, you name it) are rooted in the ideas and policies generated by old white men. I have supported a black man for the presidency, and I would love to support a woman for the job also - but just not Hillary. This year the only candidate running who has the courage to identify and speak to the real issues facing America in forthright and intellectually honest terms is an old white man - Bernie Sanders.
So with that acknowledgement of my sensitivity about supporting an old white man over a female candidate, I was pleasantly surprised to find that a full half of those two dozen in attendance at the West Plains gathering last night were women.
Before Bernie's internet speech began, the people at our location took turns introducing themselves and telling why they were there. Some talked of the inevitability of a Hillary candidacy, but indicated they hoped a strong showing by Bernie prior to the convention could nudge Hillary more to the left and away from her corporate benefactors - or, a Bernie candidacy could be instrumental in shaping Hillary into a better Democratic candidate. One fellow called Hillary "Republican Light," and said that he didn't think he could support her if she became the party's standard-bearer. I admitted that I probably could vote for Hillary if she is the eventual Democratic nominee, but that I would never be an enthusiastic Hillary supporter.
And that "enthusiasm" stuff is important! And that "enthusiasm" stuff was abundant for Bernie last night in West Plains!
Another thing I said at the meeting last night was that I was a fairly new to the community and part of my reason for attending was to meet people. Several extremely nice folks came up to me after the event to introduce themselves and chat. They really made me feel welcome One friendly couple invited me to attend a book-reading tonight by Meredith Cisco, the wonderful Ozark singer (and West Plains resident) who was featured in the movie, Winter's Bone.
Bernie's speech to his supporters was fairly brief and primarily focused on a litany of liberal issues (sorry, but I don't speak in code and use the term "progressive" to mean liberal), and after each noted current abuse, such as a few billionaires trying to control the course of the entire nation, he would thunder, "Enough is enough!" All of the ideas that Bernie promoted were things in which I fervently believe - single-payer Medicare-style health insurance for all, free college tuition, humane immigration policies, an end to Citizen's United, cutting military waste and closing bases abroad, and literally dozens of other good and extremely necessary ideas.
Bernie Sanders is an exciting candidate with a bold message - even if he is an old white man! He is definitely throwing truth to power.
Two dozen is a nice core group for a community effort - real potential for a credible Bernie campaign. I haven't seen anything in the area for Hillary yet - or events for any of the many Republican candidates either. Maybe they are just taking the locals for granted. That could be a big mistake!
No more Bushes! No more Clintons! Enough is enough!