I’d like to think I was always politically engaged. I wasn’t. It wasn’t until my senior year in high school when I was taught (and realized for myself) about the importance of democracy, of being able to vote (which means being able to voice your disagreement in a more civilized and fair manner). I was only 17 years old then, turning 18 in 2008 – the first time I voted.
Before that, I was taught about fairness. I was taught that life isn’t fair sometimes at quite an early age; I was raised by a single mother, after all. Though I didn’t have a father, there were plenty of others who did. It isn’t fair, but that’s life, right? It wasn’t my fault I grew up without a father, nor was it anyone else’s simply because they had a father.
I stayed informed about the political environment, though I didn’t know near as much then as I do now and I wasn’t active, nor engaged (aside from voting during the presidential election). I was reading over some older material of mine that I had written in college for The Eagle, Chadron State College’s newspaper. It was written 6 years ago in 2011 about a politician seeking to defund Planned Parenthood. (It was Mike Pence, for those who are curious.)
It wasn’t until March of 2016 that I became politically active and engaged. I found a candidate that (in my opinion) knew exactly what was going on in this country. He pointed out the problems as he saw them. Not only that, he provided solutions to those problem. Not only that, he relayed it all in a comprehensive way.
I was still working for Parker then. I took a trip for a Bernie Sanders rally in Lincoln with a friend, Josh MacDonald. I’d been following his candidacy for a little while, researching more about Sanders and his accomplishments (and failures) so that I didn’t seem like an idiot when I’m meeting people at the rally.
I met a wide variety of people there. These people knew who their candidate was and what he represented. They also knew plenty about the problem in our country and even more about what’s happening in Nebraska. Of course, they didn’t know the problems of western Nebraska, but neither did I at the time.
I used one day of vacation for the trip, used on the day of the rally on the other side of the state. I worked the afternoon shift, 2nd shift, from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. I left that night with Josh and drove the entire night to Lincoln. Josh got a little bit of sleep on the trip there. We got breakfast, I slammed a red bull down (the biggest I could find), then took the time to dress up at the hotel room because “I can’t wait to meet Bernie Sanders”.
I spent the entire time meeting new people and talking with them about issues. We even had a protester (literally just one person). We had a little fun with him (he poked at us first, after all). Then I saw a group of people walk towards him. They talked with him to argue their stance against his. I couldn’t tell you the end to that story, but I know both parties walked away respectfully. There wasn’t yelling, only discussion. It was drowned out to anyone outside of their conversation by our noisy rally. I should mention that we were still waiting outside. The line was indescribably long… mostly because I wasn’t at the end of it anymore and we had already walked a relatively long way as it was.
Sanders filled up the event space entirely. There were so many people participating that Sanders even came outside to hold a second rally with us. How many politicians would even bother to come outside to visit constituents that couldn’t fit inside? How many politicians even have enough to warrant a second rally outside? Once people heard that the event space was full, everyone ran towards the building to gather outside. Taller people sat shorter people on their shoulders just to get a glimpse of this man.
It was life changing, for me. It felt natural for me to be there, for me to discuss issues and to interact and challenge the ideas of others as well as my own. We then went to eat dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings. I was up for well over 24 hours before finally getting some rest. Even then it took me a while because of how hyped up I was about getting a glimpse of the only man who seemed to care about the problems at home.
We woke up early enough to make it home that next morning. I had to work in the afternoon. I then attended a caucus at the library hosted by the Box Butte County Democratic Party. I learned every step of the way. The time came for debate. I was ready to make my improvised argument. Talking with everyone at the rally prepped me for this moment without even realizing it. Sanders’ side won the coin flip and I was selected to speak first. It wouldn’t have happened if everyone there hadn’t put their faith in me and allowed me to.
I received a lot of positive feedback for the speech. My picture was taken and featured in the newspaper as well. I can’t tell you how nervous I was at the time and throughout it. None of this would have happened had I not been so driven to go to that rally.
It was a shock to find out months later that Hillary Clinton “won” the primaries. We’re now stuck as a nation to choose “the lesser of two evils”. We all knew what happened, but still, we held our noses and chose one or the other. One year later, Donna Brazille releases a book revealing information about what happened. Brazille was the vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee, becoming interim chair after Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned.
Her book states that Clinton basically bailed the DNC out of debt with $2 million in exchange for virtually all of the power. It also states that Clinton received debate questions from Brazille during her debate against Sanders. Although everything Clinton did was technically legal, she also laundered money to bypass the maximum contribution of $2,700 by an individual. To reiterate, people could donate much more money to her victory fund, which she then transferred to her campaign. Again, technically legal.
I want to explain something so fundamentally different between Clinton and Sanders. People voting for Sanders were voting for him because he was calling out problems for what they were. People supported Sanders because he stood against the establishment; an underdog representing the working and lower class citizens properly. Clinton was the establishment, the very thing that Sanders was trying to change.
Yet there are some who still argue in her favor, blinded by their loyalty to her. I can promise you that if Sanders had done anything like that, I would be holding his feet to the same fire.
What Clinton did is clearly wrong, any debate against it is baseless (lest they be hypocrites). I’m asking, as a registered democrat: how can we expect to hold anybody accountable when we’re unable to hold our own accountable? How can we expect the public to trust us when we’re unable to prove to them that what we’ve done was fair, when we’re unable to prove to them that we don’t hold double standards for our own corrupted?
Fortunately for Nebraska, we were relatively unaffected. Sanders won the caucus, after all. While the Clinton camp could learn humility and to learn to let the people decide rather than to tip the cards in their favor (which always leads to demise), Sanders supporters should remember that all it takes to make change happen is to keep showing up like they did in 2016.