My Problem with Bernie: A Liberal’s Confession

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Hip to be hippie?

I’m a staunch, lifelong liberal. To anyone who knows me, that’s hardly a revelation. Except for the few times I actually voted for a Republican (i.e., Rudolph Giuliani and then Michael Bloomberg, for New York City mayor), I’ve always pushed the voting lever in favor of the Democrats. That’s just my ideological makeup. Barring some seminal lifestyle change, I don’t anticipate my partisan allegiance changing anytime soon.

Because of this truth, I know I should be falling in line with all the other converts and accept Bernie Sanders as my liberal savior. But here’s the rub — I can’t. There’s just something about him that makes me…hesitate.

Is it his bombastic lecturing style, which makes me feel he’s admonishing a pack of recalcitrant schoolchildren? How about the vaguely accusatory tone, reminiscent of an elderly uncle at family get-togethers who always likes to remind everyone, ad nauseam, how wrong the country was not to vote for Adlai Stevenson?

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Or is it that pale, bespectacled Larry David-clone visage that invariably flushes bright crimson with oratorical ire as he wildly gesticulates and launches into yet another harangue against Wall Street (or Goldman Sachs, which to him is synonymous with Wall Street), wage inequality, the high cost of education and other hot-button issues that rile his mostly young followers into a frenzy on cue?

I don’t mean to adopt a patronizing tone; I think much of what Sanders espouses is well-meaning, full of the best intentions. But when he invokes the tired lexicon of a 1960s campus radical, it makes me wonder if he’s firmly rooted in the here and now or at Berkeley protesting the Vietnam War.

For instance, when he tosses around terms I find impossibly dated — like “revolution” — I cringe. I’m sorry; I just do. And yet, I know what he’s trying to do and why he’s doing it. He wants to appeal to the disenfranchised, the disaffected and the kids — like my smart young nephew who went to a great school, snagged a good job following graduation and yet still has to shoulder an impossibly Herculean student debt, his numerous scholarships notwithstanding.

A key plank of Sanders’ platform is free tuition, so it makes sense to me why young people are avidly following and clinging to the veteran Senator’s every utterance, like some geriatric Pied Piper. I get it completely and I don’t blame them. I would probably do the same if I were a debt-ravaged Millennial.

But I’m not. I’m a young Baby Boomer, just like our President. As someone who was born in the 1960s and came of age in the 1970s, I can’t help but feel jaded every time I hear Sanders using the rehashed language of the ’60s as he rails against a plethora of modern bugaboos. He’s right, but what gives me pause is not so much the context — it’s that old hippie vernacular that I heard so many times when I was growing up — as that there’s nothing new about these ideas. In fact, they’re old and recycled.

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Perhaps because so much of what Sanders says sounds like a musty heap of regurgitated platitudes, I’m having a hard time believing that certain swing states like Pennsylvania, Ohio or Florida will vote en masse for the old left-wing Jew, a self-professed “democratic socialist,” no less, from Vermont. (And before you all go politically correct on me, I’m a Jew myself, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor and an Israeli woman.)

I understand the idealistic kids supporting Sanders. Once upon a time, I shared those same ideals. But I’m also a middle-aged realist with the facial creases to prove it, and I know there’s no way in hell that the current obstructionist Republican Congress, the same one that gives President Obama such a hard time on anything he wants done, will work with him.

(And please, Bernie, stop citing Sweden, Switzerland and other countries as socialist utopias because of their healthcare policies. That’s not entirely correct. Yes, healthcare is far more accessible and cheaper in those countries but that doesn’t mean the quality of the healthcare is all that good. I know in Israel, which has socialized medicine, the really good doctors are private and, as a result, more expensive. The same applies to other countries where socialized medicine is the norm.)

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At the same time, I know that if by chance Sanders makes it onto the ticket, I will vote for him unless his Republican challenger is the sane, comparatively moderate Kasich — then I might be conflicted. No — I will vote for Sanders over Kasich. Still, I do wonder how Sanders would work with a Congressional majority overrun by mercenary Republicans bought and paid for by special interest groups like the NRA and pharmaceutical lobbies.

Hey, wait a second. I’m starting to sound like Sanders. Maybe it’s contagious. Just no love beads or peace symbols, please.

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Iris Dorbian
Iris Dorbian is a business and arts journalist whose articles have appeared in a wide number of outlets that include the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Venture Capital Journal, DMNews, Playbill, Backstage, Theatermania, Live Design, Media Industry Newsletter and PR News. From 1999 to 2007, Iris was the editor-in-chief of Stage Directions. She is the author of Great Producers: Visionaries of the American Theater, which was published by Allworth Press in August 2008 and An Epiphany in Lilacs, which was published by Mazo Publishers in 2017. Her personal essays have been published in Blue Lyra Review, B O D Y, Embodied Effigies, Diverse Voices Quarterly and Gothesque Magazine.