What the June Primary Will Mean for Berkeley

Becky O'Malley
Friday March 04, 2016 - 03:13:00 PM

In some quarters there’s concern because the number of votes in Democratic primaries is substantially lower than in previous presidential years. For example, a writer in the excellent Facing South newsletter published by the Institute for Southern Studies points out that “voter turnout for the party's 2016 primaries in the South is 45 percent lower than it was in the party's last competitive presidential primary in 2008.” And the same trend has surfaced in all the primaries so far around the country.

But not to worry. Despite the doomsaying of lathered-up Bernie Sanders fans, it’s more than likely that Democrats and those who usually vote for Democrats are not bothering to turn out for the primaries or the even more annoying caucuses because the Republicans, or what’s left of them, are making such damned fools of themselves that the Dem-symps are rapidly morphing into Yellow Dog Democrats. That’s a term originating in the 19th Century to describe people who would vote for an ol’ yaller dawg on the Democratic slate before choosing any Republican. (Not to be confused with Blue Dog Democrats, who are contemporary conservatives.)

A Planet reader whose second epistle is in this issue is the opposite, a kind of voter only too common in Berkeley, the folks who brought us the Ralph Nader Administration which we enjoyed (endured) between 2000 and 2008. People like this appear to regard voting as a sacramental act. It’s all about what voting does for me, how I feel when I vote, not about the consequences of my vote for everyone else.  

Anyone old enough to remember Barry Goldwater’s slogan, “In My Heart I Know He’s Right”? 

There are reasons why more than one commentator has identified Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders as two sides of the same coin. They’re both mad as hell, and they aren’t going to take it anymore, so there!  

They appeal to different segments of the population, but the shared meme is that whoever’s running things in this country doesn’t represent what I want for myself. 

I’ve successfully avoided the study of sociology, but from this angle it looks an awful lot like a class thing, and I don’t mean that money is what it’s all about. Supporters of both candidates feel like outsiders, and they’d like instead to feel that “someone like me” could be in charge. 

Who’s “Me” is different for the two candidates’ supporters, however. For Trumpers, rudeness and even outright vulgarity are markers for the class they identify with: people for whom the right to public flatulence is the preferred form of expression. For Sandernistas, “people like me” seem smart and have visionary dreams unencumbered by facts. These two Mes couldn’t sit down at the same dinner table, of course. 

In both parties the outsiders tend to view the political world through the “How does it affect Me?” lens. Today’s Planet correspondent says “…racism is only one issue, and despite how it may offend your sensibilities, it's not as important as things like investors' rights agreements or war, because it affects far fewer people and generally does not affect the environment.”  

Just a guess, but he’s probably White. And when the writer goes on to say that it doesn’t matter much that Hillary’s a Woman…you can bet he’s a Man. Lucky for him, too bad for the rest of us—though collectively we White Women and Non-White Everybody Else do outnumber those White Men, don’t we? 

I continue to think that the reason many of us who are over thirty don’t bother to choose a horse in the Hillary v. Bernie race is that either one of them would be undeniably better than any of the Republicans now available, so why bother? 

More than that, all of the Republicans would be not just a little worse, but a lot worse, regardless of how H. or B. would vote on critical issues like investors’ rights. Trump is the loudest and ugliest bad guy, but he’s just one of the evil triplets, not much different from Cruz or Rubio. Kasich is perhaps the most dangerous of the bunch, since he has a civil façade though a dreadful track record in Ohio.  

Millennials, bless their tiny hearts, hope for another messianic figure like Obama was when he burst on the scene. They are nostalgic for the excitement they saw their parents and older siblings feeling in 2008, but that’s not on offer this year. Another commentator (maybe the currently distraught David Brooks though I can’t remember) echoed and improved my previous take on the Democratic primary: the kids like Grampa because he takes them out for ice cream, while Grandma says eat your vegies first. As a certified Grandma, I can relate to that. Bernie Sanders is Santa Claus and Colonel Sanders rolled into one, while Hillary is Mary Poppins at best.  

Yes, recent accounts of H.Clinton’s excursions into realpolitik, especially in Libya, are unnerving, but there’s no reason to think that Trump would not be a lot more dangerous. Sanders might be better than HRC, but since he’s had absolutely no experience in international affairs except a stint on a kibbutz and a honeymoon in Moscow you can’t be sure. 

Finally, I’m sorry to say that the name-calling and bad manners we see in the Republican debates seem to be catching. The letter writer starts out: 

“Jack Bragen: By your comments you are clearly not progressive; you are liberal at most, maybe center-right. That explains why you ‘believe [Clinton] would make a superlative President.’ No progressive would say that or anything even close. You clearly represent the conservative faction of Berkeley.” 

As a free speech fan, I posted his letter, but I’ll go on record here saying it’s tacky—sounds as rude as the Republicans, in fact. 

If the writer actually read the Planet regularly, he would know that long-time Planet columnist Jack Bragen doesn’t even live in Berkeley, let alone represent its conservative faction, whatever that might mean. Some Berkeleyans (I started to say we Berkeleyans, but no, that’s wrong) have a tendency to label anyone to the right of the farthest left-wing table in the cafeteria at CCNY in 1937 as a conservative, but it ain’t so. Calling someone out as a liberal in one sentence and a conservative two sentences down is unfortunately all too typically Berkeley at its worst.  


And what do all these labels mean, anyway? All I really know is that if everyone in Berkeley who has issues with Hillary Clinton stays home on the day of the June primary in California, it won’t make a dime’s worth of difference, so what are we arguing about? November now, that might be different.