if you meet Bernie along the road…

I watched the Democratic debate last night. In almost every way, it was the same as the last Democratic debate, which was pretty similar to the Democratic debate that came before that. I find that sort of comforting. It means the candidates are mostly consistent.

The only real difference last night? Bernie’s poll numbers. He’s clearly gaining momentum. Which is mostly a good thing. Why mostly? I’m glad you asked.

Buddhists have a saying — they have a lot of sayings. So do the Irish, for that matter, they’re a grand folk for the sayings, and the Irish Buddhists, those people, you just can’t get them to shut the fuck up at all, at all. But this is the saying I’m talking about:

If you meet the Buddha along the road, kill him.

Obviously, that’s not meant to be taken literally. You don’t want to be killing the Buddha. You don’t want to be killing anybody, for that matter, along the road or off it. No, that saying is a metaphor, is what it is. Basically, what it means is this: the Buddha isn’t going to enlighten you. You have to do that on your own. It means the Buddha — any Buddha — is really just another bozo on the bus. Killing the Buddha means killing the idea that somebody — anybody — has all the answers. It means it’s okay to have heroes, but it’s necessary to remember that heroes are just as capable of fucking up as you are.


Why am I nattering on about this stuff? Because I’m feeling the need to say this:

If you meet Bernie Sanders along the road, kill him.

See, you can get by with saying ‘Kill the Buddha’ because folks understand it’s a metaphor. You say ‘Kill Bernie’ and folks get pissed off. I’m saying this, though, because two weeks before the Iowa caucus I’m seeing a lot of this: ‘Only Bernie Sanders is telling the truth.’ And ‘Only Bernie Sanders can make meaningful change in America.’ And ‘Only Bernie Sanders can beat the Republicans.’ And ‘Only Bernie Sanders understands what Americans really need.’ And ‘Only Bernie Sanders is running a clean campaign.’

Now I need to say something else. I’m almost certainly going to support Bernie Sanders in the Iowa Democratic caucus (I say ‘almost certainly’ because the caucus is still a couple of weeks away and it’s theoretically possible that Bernie might say or do something in those two weeks that will change my mind). I’m going to support him because I’ve been a liberal my entire life and his views more closely resemble my own.

But Bernie is not the Buddha. I’m a pragmatic liberal. As a liberal I love Bernie’s views and ideas, but as a pragmatist I’m aware that some of his ideas just aren’t feasible. They just aren’t going to happen. For example, his healthcare plan.

In concept, it’s brilliant. Health care as a right, and bugger the insurance companies.Who could be against that? I mean, aside from insurance companies, and I’m of the opinion they can go fuck themselves in the neck. But how’s he going to actually do that? How’s he going to fund it?

Bernie’s plan requires the individual states to end their current ACA exchanges AND all private health insurance. It then requires the federal government to contribute the funding it would have paid to that state under the ACA into what he calls an American Health Security Trust Fund. That fund would then be combined with a new payroll tax on every taxpayer, AND a healthcare tax on folks making a lot of money, AND a surcharge tax on folks making even more money, AND a transaction fee on Wall Street trading.

I’m also troubled by the fact Bernie suggests his plan will end all the wrangling about care and treatment. That just ain’t so. Instead of private insurance companies making decisions about which treatments and procedures are acceptable, you’d have the government making those decisions. There’s still going to be somebody there “Dude, no way we’re going to pay for your acupuncture.” The difference — and yes, it’s a big, meaningful difference — is the decisions won’t be made on the basis of profit. Instead they’ll be made on keeping costs down. But it’ll still means some folks will be denied treatment they want or need.

Again, I love the fundamental idea. A single payer system would improve life for a LOT of U.S. citizens. But I want to know how Bernie’s going to get Congress to go along with all those taxes and fees and surcharges? Obama’s plan was modest in comparison, and we’ve seen how much resistance it’s still getting. I just don’t see any way Bernie can implement his plan unless there’s a radical shift in Congress — which is highly improbable.

Hillary’s health care plan, on the other hand, is basically just a series of incremental improvements and expansions on the existing ACA. That’s a good thing, to be sure, but it’s not the sweeping change that Bernie promises. I’d much rather see Bernie’s plan put into place, but I think her plan has a better chance of actually being implemented.

I think there’s a decent chance Bernie can win the nomination, and if he does I think there’s a very good chance he’d be elected. But as a pragmatic liberal it’s important for me to acknowledge that President Sanders won’t be able to do all the things he wants to do. He won’t be able to create a single payer health care system. He won’t be able to break up the big banks (and, in fact, his ‘plan’ to do so isn’t really a plan at all — it’s the concept of a plan).

So if I think Hillary’s plan is more feasible, and if I don’t think there’s any way Bernie can actually do the things he wants to do, why am I supporting Bernie instead of Hillary?

buddha smiling

Because he’s arguing in favor of values rather than policies. I support him because he wants to do those things. I’m supporting Bernie despite the fact that I’m a pragmatic liberal. Electing somebody who wants to make those changes might be a step in the direction of creating an electorate more willing to elect a Congress that would make those chances possible.

As a pragmatic liberal, I believe Hillary has a better chance to implement her plans and incrementally improve life for most Americans. As a pragmatic liberal, I think she’s likely to do better in the general election.

But I support Bernie because it’s really hard to kill the Buddha.


Editorial Note: If Bernie doesn’t get the nomination, I’ll happily support Hillary. I like her. Her incrementalist approach to policy won’t create any sweeping change, but even small improvements are worthwhile. And she consistently addresses local issues that get ignored in a national campaign. Perhaps the very best part of the debate last night was when Hillary, in her closing statement, brought up the appalling situation of Flint, Michigan.

10 thoughts on “if you meet Bernie along the road…

  1. It’s obvious to me, the pragmatic me, that Bernie’s ideas cannot all be implemented easily, if at all, especially if there is still a bought-and-paid-for Congress trying to repeal Obamacare every ten seconds. I’m also aware, after watching last night’s debate, that Bernie is not a strong candidate in all areas. He’s kind of a one-note candidate, taking everything back to financial corruption. He does not bring up the salient points in a debate that would help him rebut Hillary’s. Not a well-rounded kind of guy, right? But he is hitting the nail on the head, repeatedly, the one thing that needs to change if any of these liberal ideals can ever come about: getting the money out of the system. That is why I support him wholeheartedly. He alone cannot change anything, except perhaps by executive order if he gets elected. He can set the tone for the nation however, and push us in the obviously correct direction. He has said over and over that he can’t do this as one person, the people have to stand behind him and push as well to create real change. He is an idealist reformer. and the idealist me needs him now. Thank you for this.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jody, when you were here visiting I recall saying I thought Bernie was a better person, but I thought Hillary would be a more effective president. There’s part of me that still thinks that’s true.

      I feel about Bernie the same way I felt about Obama eight years ago. He didn’t have the domestic and foreign policy chops that Hillary had — but he was clearly smart and worked hard and I figured if he surrounded himself with good people, he’d do okay. And I think he has.

      Bernie IS largely a one-note candidate. He DOESN’T have Hillary’s policy chops. But he’s smart and he’ll work hard, and if he surrounds himself with good people, I think he’ll do okay.

      Hillary wouldn’t have the same learning curve; she’d step into office and be able to get right to work. Bernie won’t be able to do that. But like I said in the post, he’s running on values I believe in, and sometimes that’s more important than policy chops.


      • Regardless of which is the candidate, regardless of which is elected (OhpleaseohpleaseohpleaseohPLEASE don’t let a Republican get elected!), the Republicans will continue their attempts to repeal Obamacare, continue to cut taxes for their friends, continue to strangle the government.

        And while their hatred of Obama has been a most shameful exhibition of obstructionism, I think they will figure out a way to reach even lower heights if Hillary is elected.


      • One of the things I like about Hillary is also the thing that scares me the most about her. She’s tough. Tougher than Obama, in my opinion. Obama spent a LOT of time trying to appease the Republican opposition. I fear Bernie would do that as well. I don’t think Hillary would tolerate that bullshit for very long, and would be quicker to use executive orders.

        I’m not convinced that’s a good thing, but I think she’d be better prepared to deal with obstructionism.


  2. Like you, I support Bernie; like you, I don’t think his health care kinda-sorta-plan has a snowball’s chance in the hell we call Congress, but I’m pleased that he’s finally getting attention from the major media outlets. It’s important that people hear a more fact-based than spin-based campaign. He actually answers questions without attempting to dodge them.

    I’m extremely happy that Bernie has been in this thing and that people are coming to understand have the opportunity to learn a little about socialism. It’s probably a lost cause to think that voters in this country, as a whole, are going to be educated enough to understand that “Democratic Socialism” isn’t Marxism or Stalin’s socialism or the communism of the USSR and its eastern bloc, but it seems a good start.


    • Oddly enough, I think all the fuckwits in the Republican party have actually made it easier for Bernie to run as a socialist. They’ve spent SO much time and effort labeling Obama as a socialist, that the term has lost a lot of its power — at least among those folks who haven’t bitten the tea party apple..


      • Patrick, I noticed this in The Washington Post. Thought you might be interested:

        A little-noticed data point in the new Selzer & Co. Iowa poll, in fact, shows that 43 percent of likely voters in the Feb. 1 caucuses say they would use the word “socialist” to describe themselves.

        And to be very clear, this question was not whether they would vote for a socialist or sympathize with socialism; it’s whether they consider themselves socialist.

        The 43 percent of likely Iowa Democratic caucus-goers who self-identify as socialist is actually more than the number who identify themselves as capitalist — 38 percent.

        Sanders does better among self-described socialists — though he doesn’t quite have a monopoly on them. Balz writes that socialists account for “58 percent of Sanders’s supporters and about a third of Clinton’s.

        The article also notes that while Iowa’s conservatives “tend to be quite conservative, and its liberals tend to be quite liberal.”

        Liked by 1 person

  3. We’ve been having political discussions with our boys (who turn 15 in Feb). We were trying to explain to them in a quiet, rational manner, some of the actual things that Trump has said, and first they didn’t believe us and then they were completely appalled, angry and confused. Which is really about how I feel about the Republicans in general. I have a desperate shadow of hope for the Democrats, but not much, and I keep trying not to be completely cynical about the whole system to the boys, which is really hard. Riley is off today though, on the MLK holiday from school, volunteering for the League of Voters, so I’ll take that as a sign of hope that the younger generation is willing to try to fix things. At least until they get disillusioned.


    • Beckett, I’m not really concerned about the election itself. Whoever the Democratic candidate is, they’ll have a big advantage in the general election simply because they’re not visibly insane. The Republicans have done everything they can to make it more difficult for racial minorities to vote, but even so there’s no mathematical way they can win a presidential election without the support of a significant number of racial minorities and women.

      It IS possible for the Democrats to lose the election by doing something stupid, but I don’t see any way the Republicans can win.


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