Hi. I’m Alan Mairson. I’m a freelance journalist, a former staff writer and editor for National Geographic magazine, a husband, a dad, and a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan.
I’m also not much of a Lefty or a progressive. I’ve never considered myself a democratic socialist. I tend to be suspicious of large groups of people who gather under a single banner, any banner, to do virtually anything. I’m not a big joiner, and I’m certainly no revolutionary.
But three things happened recently that persuaded me to give Bernie Sanders, the self-described democratic socialist from Vermont, a serious look as he campaigns to become the next President of the United States.
On a cold weekend afternoon last February, my son Caleb and I were searching for a good movie to watch on Netflix. Here’s what we picked:
Yes, I know — it’s not The Godfather. Then again, Robert Reich still managed to give us a scare. But instead of using wise guys, machine guns, and a bloody horse’s head to “send a message,” Reich uses historic data and animated graphics.
The result is a depressing portrait of how income inequality is crippling our economy and our nation. But what makes Reich’s argument so riveting is not its moral clarity, but its practicality. That is, Reich doesn’t simply insist that the growing gulf between rich and poor is unfair or wrong or unjust (although he says that). What he emphasizes is that economic inequality is unsustainable. That if we maintain our current course, and do nothing to strengthen the middle class, then our whole economy will collapse.
Evidently, income inequality is everyone’s business, even the richest among us.
I finally listened to one of Bernie’s stump speeches. He also talks a lot about economic inequality. To give you a taste, here are a few highlights from one of Bernie’s recent campaign rallies:
Whatever you might think of Bernie’s policies, you must admit he does a good job of describing the problems we now confront as a nation.
My son Caleb is looking forward to next year when he turns 18 and can vote in his first presidential election. He’s also a huge Bernie Sanders fan.
This is a boy whose interests over the years have ranged from Minecraft and Call of Duty… to playing baseball… to live theater… to his girlfriend. So his interest in Bernie Sanders was a bit of a departure. Suddenly, he’s keeping up on the news. He reads about the candidates and their campaigns. He’s engaged and excited by what’s happening in the world.
As a result, Caleb and I now spend less time talking about the Boston Red Sox, and more time watching YouTube videos of Bernie’s campaign rallies. We discuss the upcoming caucuses and primaries. And when I text him a link to an article about, say, the candidates’ most recent FEC filings (“Hey... look at how much Hillary is spending on polling compared to Bernie”), he’ll often text me right back: Seen it already. Thanks anyway.
♦ ♦ ♦
On a cool July evening a few weeks ago, Caleb and I went to a Washington Nationals baseball game with a bunch of my friends. One of them — I’ll call her Claire — has worked for years in the U.S. Senate, and is a big supporter of Hillary Clinton.
Claire and I had a friendly chat about the upcoming election and how the Democratic primaries might play out. But when I told her that Caleb and I were going to Iowa to volunteer for Bernie’s campaign, she rolled her eyes, and explained why I was making a huge mistake.
Here’s how I’d distill her reaction:
Bernie is a sideshow. A distraction. He doesn’t have a prayer of winning the nomination — or the general election. And he’s not only bad for Hillary; he’s bad for the entire Democratic party. He’ll sabotage the Democrats’ ability to hold on to the White House. Besides, Hillary has more money, more experience, a bigger national organization, and the support of the Democratic establishment. Yeah, Sanders might win Iowa and maybe New Hampshire, but then he’ll head South — and implode. #FeelTheBern will become #CrashAndBurn.
You and your son are wasting your time and energy. Hillary is the party’s choice. So, get with the program. Don’t embarrass yourselves. And for God’s sake, don’t be a schmuck.
I looked over at Caleb, who had caught the gist of the exchange, and we shared a quick smile. He already understands that politics isn’t so simple. Despite what pundits say, voters still have a choice. Elections matter.
Most of all, Caleb knows that just because you’re way behind doesn’t mean you’ve lost the game*:
The playoffs are coming:
Who: Bernie Sanders vs. Hillary Clinton
What: the Democratic caucuses
When: February 1, 2016
* If you’re not a baseball fan, here’s the backstory for the video (above, beginning at 7:35):
It’s 2004. The Boston Red Sox are playing the New York Yankees (a.k.a. The Evil Empire) in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series (ALCS). Down 3-0 in games and on the brink of elimination, the Sox are just three outs away from losing Game 4 — and getting swept in the ALCS. But then, in the bottom of the 9th inning, Kevin Millar walks… Dave Roberts pinch runs, and steals second… Bill Mueller hits a single — driving in Roberts to tie the score. And then, in the bottom of the 12th, David Ortiz hits a two-run homer to win the game. The Sox go on to win Games 5, 6, and 7 — and the American League pennant.
In the World Series, Boston wins 4 straight games against the St. Louis Cardinals. For the first time in 86 years, the Boston Red Sox are World Series Champions.