Election 2016

Steve Almond, a Bernie Sanders supporter, pens an open letter to his wife, who supports Hillary Clinton. In this photo, Clinton and Sanders stand together before the start of the NBC, YouTube Democratic presidential debate at the Gaillard Center, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016, in Charleston, S.C. (Mic Smith/ AP)

Dear Most Worshipped and Venerable Queen of My Life,

I realize you are deeply committed in your support of Hillary. In 2008, you walked into the primary booth undecided. You pulled the lever for Barack, but I know you have never been sure it was the right decision.

I suspect that, deep down, you feel Hillary was pushed aside by a male candidate and has had to wait eight years for her chance. Heck, forget eight years. The fact that there have been no female presidents in our national history is our most obvious and least discussed example of white male privilege.

This election cycle must feel like a yet another re-run.

But the reason you support Hillary isn’t just because it’s “her turn” or a “woman’s turn.” It’s because Hillary is a brilliant and compassionate person who would make an excellent president. Years ago, when her husband was first running for office, I had the honor of interviewing her for 20 whole minutes. I came away completely blown away.

for months — until I actually started to research Bernie Sanders — I too supported Hillary.

What’s more, for months — until I actually started to research Bernie Sanders — I too supported Hillary.

So the reason I’m writing this letter isn’t to criticize Hillary. It’s in the hopes of inspiring you to learn more about Sanders.


Because unlike any presidential candidate in my lifetime, Sanders represents the voice of a political revolution that I honestly believe could save this country and planet.

I don’t make this statement lightly. For three decades, I have watched our political system overtaken by corporate money, which has eroded the sacred bond between our national will and the whim of our elected leaders. Our dominant (read: corporate) media no longer even pretend to cover politics as a moral undertaking. It’s just entertainment.

It is nearly impossible for politicians — even well-meaning politicians such as Hillary — to make meaningful change in Washington, as it exists. This is the painful lesson that Obama’s tenure has proved.

And this is precisely why Sanders keeps talking about political revolution, by which he means a moment “when people on the bottom begin to stand up and say enough is enough.”

Unlike the vast majority of presidential candidates, Sanders did not come to politics seeking fame and fortune. He came from a tradition of social justice. His ultimate aim is to create a mass movement, which he feels is the only way to disrupt corporate interests. Once we remove these parasitic special interests from our political process, it will become possible to address a range of huge and pressing issues: climate change, income inequality, institutional bigotry.

Those who clamor about how it will be impossible for Sanders to jumpstart a green economy, or secure universal health care, or free college tuition, or a progressive tax system that forces the wealthy to pay their fair share are missing the point. Sanders is a realist. He knows these legislative missions are impossible until voters, en masse, reject the senseless greed and cancerous gridlock of the status quo.

The reason Sanders — an aging socialist who lacks charisma, eloquence or corporate money — has taken the political world by storm is precisely because more and more Americans are starting to realize that he’s right.

What Sanders represents is an authentic return to the political idealism that guided FDR’s New Deal policies (Social Security, Medicare, our national highway system) and Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. The notion that inequality of means and opportunity represents a form of moral violence.

Or, to quote the rapper and activist Killer Mike:

“Bernie Sanders is the only politician who has consistently, for 50 years, taken that social justice platform into politics. And right now, we have an opportunity to elect someone who is directly out of the philosophy of [Martin Luther] King-ian non-violence. We can directly elect someone who cares about poor people; cares about women, gay, black rights; cares about lives that don’t look like his. This opportunity in history is not going to come in another 20 years.”

I realize this may all sound very pie in the sky, but the truth is pretty simple: The modern Democratic Party is essentially the Republican Party of 1996. (The Republican Party, meanwhile, has devolved into a pack of aggrieved low-information voters somewhat controlled by their corporate minders.)

Thus the idea — increasingly floated by Hillary’s campaign — is that Sanders will prove unelectable.

This is, in a word, nonsense. Don’t trust me on that. Check out what Robert Reich, the renowned economist, has to say.

In fact, according to the aggregated polls at Real Clear Politics, Sanders defeats Donald Trump by more than Hillary. (Americans, it turns out, would rather elect a guy who wants to hire people, not fire them.) He also would defeat Trump’s closest rival, Ted Cruz. At the moment, Hillary would lose to Cruz.

Sanders has criticized Hillary for taking corporate donations, and earning more than $600,000 one year in speaking fees from Goldman Sachs, and voting for the Iraq War.

unlike any presidential candidate in my lifetime, Sanders represents the voice of a political revolution that I honestly believe could save this country and planet.

These facts don’t mean Hillary wouldn’t be a good president. But they do suggest an allegiance to the current political reality, in which meaningful reform is virtually impossible.

In the end, we should all want a candidate who reflects, as closely as possible, our moral priorities. If Sen. Elizabeth Warren were running, I might choose her over Sanders. But she’s not.

For this reason, I would ask that you take a careful look at where Sanders actually stands on the issues that matter to you, and what he hopes to accomplish. (Clicking on the links in this piece would be a good start.)

You may not be won over, but hopefully you’ll gain a deeper understanding of why I, your husband, and so many other Americans have been.

Love Muffin


Tags: Bernie Sanders, Election 2016, Hillary Clinton

The views and opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the writer and do not in any way reflect the views of WBUR management or its employees.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.