Against sideline-ism

Bernie Sanders should get the nomination (and then win the election) because he makes the clearest, most believable and trusted appeal to the self-interest of a strong majority of Americans.

The trouble is that a lot of us don’t vote self-interest. We don’t vote for the candidate we really think will best represent us.

A friend—a good liberal Democrat—said some months ago that although he strongly preferred Bernie, he was unwilling to waste his vote on such a long shot, so would go with Hill. Bernie is not as long a shot now as he was then. I wonder what my friend is thinking.

I argued with him at the time: so you’ll stand on the sidelines observing the polls and then vote what they tell you. Instead of voting the way surely the founders, the theorists of democracy, intended, your self-interest.

Bernie is making a lot more progress than expected (or than the polls showed) at the start of his campaign. Still, think where he would be, where we would be, if not for a highly problematic idea that pollutes the thinking of even the most progressive: the idea that you should not vote in a primary for the candidate you think best, but for the candidate, if he or she is even remotely in your corner, who is deemed (usually by polls) most likely to win.

What do you call this seemingly sober, responsible poll-watching strategy? Feedback loop? Self-fulfilling prophecy? How about “sideline-ism”?

It’s a Catch 22: Can’t vote for him because he can’t win; he cant win because I won’t vote for him.
What if there were no polls? What if all you knew was what seemed best for you and yours, for your community, for the world ?

What if in fact you were required by law (since democracy seems subverted by any other way) to vote your conscience, your own “self interest” as best you could determine it.

In sports the underdog sometimes becomes the topdog—with the help of committed, enthusiastic fans, not poll-readers and risk-assessors.

It has been hard to imagine a senior citizen, professed democratic socialist Jew as president. But imagination is what it’s all about. And imagining the unlikely has gotten easier in the last eight years. Before Barack Obama, it was pretty hard to imagine a progressive black guy as president.

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