Can We All Get Along? A Plea to Bernie and Hillary Supporters

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Photo of Rodney King courtesy of Justin Hoch.

Last month I devoted my inaugural column for the CFR on the misgivings that I, a lifelong liberal, harbor toward supporting Bernie Sanders. Couched in the language of a seriocomic rant, the piece teemed with deliberate tongue-in-cheek humor and unsparing honesty.

Not once in this article did I say that Sanders should be lynched in the town square or drawn and quartered by a pack of untamed horses. In fact, I freely admitted that if Sanders makes it on the Democratic presidential ticket over Hillary Clinton (which may be doubtful, considering Clinton’s current delegate count is 1,221 versus Sanders’ count of 571 toward the 2,383 needed to win the nomination), then I will absolutely vote for him — a far preferable and certainly less nauseating alternative to President Trump.

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And yet, for some psychological reason I have yet to fathom, my essay apparently unleashed the worst instincts in some Sanders supporters. It’s one thing to disagree with someone on political ideology. That is an avocation that has been with us since time immemorial or since cavemen disagreed on who would be head caveman back in the Paleolithic Period. However, it’s another thing entirely to subject someone whom you’ve never met, someone on the same partisan divide as you, to vicious name-calling and invective that seriously made me question and fear for the sanity of my detractors — as well as my physical safety.

Seriously? Did people forget to take their daily Xanax dose? Here’s my simple exhortation to all those who called me a bitch and a slew of other lovely pejoratives: Please get a grip on reality. I am not the enemy. If you want to point a finger at a foe, point it toward the people flocking en masse to the polls to put Donald Trump, in all his blustering, demagogic glory, on the top of the GOP presidential ticket.

This leads me to my next point. And here I’m making an earnest and deeply felt entreaty to both Bernie and Hillary supporters. In the immortal words of LAPD beating victim-martyr Rodney King, “Can we all get along?”

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Millennials might not know who King was, but Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers sure do — or should. In 1991, King, an African-American resident of Los Angeles, was brutally beaten by four white LAPD cops after they stopped him for a possible DUI violation. The beating was videotaped by a witness who subsequently sent it to a local TV station where it got heavy airplay. The video then was picked up by the national media and overnight King became a symbol of wanton police brutality against African Americans.

The four cops were charged with assault with a deadly weapon (police baton) and excessive use of force. Later, a mostly white jury acquitted the officers, even though it was clear to anyone who watched the video what transpired.

Following the announcement of the verdict, outrage swept through L.A. For nearly a week — from Apr. 29 through May 4 — rioting, looting and arson raged on. During the pandemonium, King appeared on TV and made his plea:

Throughout King’s tragically short life (he died in 2012 of a heart attack after a history of alcohol and drug abuse) that oft-quoted line, a hallmark urging for peace and solidarity, would be synonymous with him.

This might seem like a crazy analogy — or not — given the current mutiny within the Republican ranks against Trump. But it bears another repeating to fellow Democrats: “Can we all get along?”

Can we all get along? Will we?