— You can’t actually be serious.
This isn’t verbatim, but it’s pretty close to an actual conversation I had over the holidays. I’d said I hadn’t yet completely decided who I was going to support in the Iowa Democratic Caucus. Which is true. I’m leaning toward Bernie, but I won’t rule out supporting Hillary. I like them both, though in different ways and for different reasons.
— You can NOT vote for Hillary. You just can’t.
— Well, yeah, I actually can. And I might.
— No, be serious. She’s a puppet of the oligarchy.
— Six weeks ago you didn’t even know what ‘oligarchy’ meant.
— I know now, and voting for Hillary is like willfully voting to destroy democracy.
— Oh, well there’s nothing completely fucking insane about that comment.
— She’s in Wall Street’s pocket. She’s as bad as the Republicans.
— Oh? As bad as Trump?
— Rubio? Cruz? She’s as bad as Bush Three or Fiorina. Or Christie. Or Carson?
— Almost. You can’t trust her.
— You can’t trust any politician a hundred percent.
— You can trust Bernie.
— I like Bernie, but c’mon. It’s not like he’s the Chosen One. He’s a good man, but he’s not necessarily the guy I’d pick to carry the One Ring to Mount Doom and chuck it into the fire.
— Hillary would use the One Ring. In place of a Dark Lord, she would set up a Queen, and…wait, what I’m saying is she’ll say or promise anything to get elected. Totally untrustworthy. Her policies suck.
— What does that even mean, ‘her policies suck’? Which policies suck?
— Her policy on the TPP. Bernie is opposed to it, and so is Elizabeth Warren.
— Do you even know what the TPP is? Or what it does?
— You’re telling me you support the TPP?
— Parts of it, sure. I like that it requires other nations to give more respect to copyright law. Other parts, not so much. And by the way, Hillary doesn’t support the final version of the TPP. She supported an earlier version of it. She changed her mind because the new version gives too much protection to pharmaceutical corporations.
— Bernie has always opposed it. That’s the thing. Hillary supported the invasion of Iraq, now she doesn’t. She was against gay marriage, now she supports it. She supported the TTP, now she doesn’t. She doesn’t have any core beliefs. Bernie’s always consistent.
— Not always. He’s slowly changing his views on guns.
— Well, guns.
— And pot. He changed his views on legalizing marijuana.
— Did he? Well, that’s different.
— And his political affiliation. First he was a Socialist, then an Independent, now he’s a Democrat.
— Well, you know, times change, you get new information, and sometimes you have to…you know.
— But that doesn’t justify supporting Hillary.
— I haven’t said I am supporting Hillary. I said I haven’t decided. Times change, new information, all that. I could support either of them. Or Martin O’Malley, for that matter.
— O’Malley doesn’t have a chance.
— People said Bernie didn’t have a chance.
— That’s different.
— Look, Democrats have three candidates, all of whom are better prepared to lead the nation than any of the Republicans.
— Yeah, but Bernie is the only one who can change the system. He’s the only candidate that doesn’t accept corporate money. He’s the only one who has any hope of keeping the big banks honest.
— Because he’s pure of heart.
— Well, yeah, sort of.
— My good blade carves the casques of men, my tough lance thrusteth sure, my strength is as the strength of ten, because my heart is pure.
— Galahad. The poem? Galahad achieved the Grail, and all that because his heart was pure.
— What the hell are you talking about?
— I’m talking about the most annoying trait of Hillary-haters, and that seems to include a growing number of Bernie supporters. I’m talking about the tendency to attribute Hillary’s policy positions malevolence and corruption, while attributing Bernie’s to virtue and integrity.
— Bernie’s a good man.
— Yes, he is, and he might make a good president. Jimmy Carter was also a good man..Hell, he’s still a good man…but he wasn’t a very effective president, was he.
— I’d rather have a good man in the White House than…don’t do that gender thing on me; you know what I mean. I’d rather have a good person in the White House than an effective corrupt one. Wouldn’t you?
— I don’t know. Maybe. Probably. But it’s easier to remain a good person when you’re representing a state that has the population of Nashville, Tennessee. When you represent six hundred thousand people in a nation of three hundred and twenty million, you don’t get challenged to make as many political compromises. Hillary has been dealing with international issues for decades. She’s had to make lots of compromises. Is her heart as pure as Bernie’s? No, of course not, how could it be? Does that mean she’s corrupt? No, it doesn’t.
— So you think Hillary Clinton is pure as snow?
— No, of course not. I’m pretty sure she’s pulled some shady shit as Secretary of State. That’s part of the gig, pulling shady shit. What I’m saying is that she’s been playing on a much larger and much more complex stage, and that necessarily means she’s had to wade in more shit than Bernie has.
— Which makes her dirtier.
— Yeah, it does. It also means she has more experience in handling shit, and being president is a job where experience can really matter.
— But I’m tired of voting for the lesser of two evils. I want to vote for somebody I respect.
— Then support Bernie. I’m probably going to.
— Then why are you arguing for Hillary?
— I’m not. I’m arguing against a false dichotomy. I’m arguing against the way Bernie and Hillary are being represented by a lot of Bernie supporters. I’m saying this isn’t a choice between Good and Evil. It’s more a choice between Good, Better, and Best.
— Yeah, I don’t know about that. How can Bernie be Best if Hillary is Better?
— Okay, forget that metaphor. Try this. Hillary has been around the block a few times. She knows her way around the block. Bernie might not be as familiar with the block, but maybe he can find a better, straighter path. Does that work for you?
— Maybe. I’ll have to think about it.
— All I’m saying is that they’d both get us around the block. I’m saying we can see Bernie as a hero without making Hillary a villain. I’m saying Bernie can be Frodo without Hillary being Saruman.
— Sauron. Sauron’s totally evil. Saruman was once good. He was the head of the White Council, who…
— Jeebus on toast. This is exactly what I’m talking about. Hillary is NOT Sauron.
— Saruman then.
— No. Are you fucking kidding me?
— How about Bill Ferny?
— That guy from Bree? You remember, the one who sold the hobbits the half-starved pony?
— Oh yeah. I always liked that pony. I always feel bad when I read that part where it gets chased away by that thing with the tentacles.
— He was a good pony.
— But you’re still doing it. You’re saying Hillary would be cruel to animals and snitch on the hobbits to the Nazgûl.
— Okay. Yeah, Hillary probably wouldn’t snitch to the Nazgûl.
— That’s a start.
— But Bernie would fight to get a living wage for the orcs.
— I need a drink.