We Need a Democratic Nominee who can Bring the Country Together

So why are we so quick to dismiss Bernie and bash Biden?

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The donkey is the mascot of the US Democratic party — photo by Ansgar Scheffold on Unsplash

The dizzying levels of American political incivility have always baffled me but as an immigrant, I naively thought it was because Trump brought out the worst in people.

Granted, he is abrasive, brash, impulsive, and woefully misinformed at the best of times, which makes him difficult to interview. Sometimes, he insults journalists and even walks away, leaving an entire press corps and a nation hanging. The press, it seems, have been giving as good as they get since he started campaigning the first time around.

Failure to take him seriously by demonizing his supporters may have gotten him elected, too. Instead of acknowledging their concerns and giving them a voice, media largely looked down on them as people we should spite.

Back in 2016, I had already filed for naturalization and was waiting my turn, which alas didn’t happen in time to vote. For context, I’m from the European Union and I was born in France. Elections, to me, are either at bloc level or at country level. One thing they aren’t however is personal. When you grow up with liberté, égalité, fraternité as a motto and you see it on every public building, you’re well aware you’re part of a greater whole.

Since I’m secular, the social contract is the closest thing I have to religion, self-evident basic human decency. When I immigrated to the US in 2013, I erroneously believed I was moving into a similar culture because those were the Obama years.

The whole world was in awe of America and so was I. The momentum was impossible to ignore and it looked like the country was finally self-actualizing.

To boot, I moved to Seattle, Washington State, one of the most liberal cities in the nation that showed immense political promise. We had Kshama Sawant, we got Pramila Jayapal, and then Jenny Durkan — a lesbian— became mayor.

When Trump happened, the cracks started showing and I began to reckon with America as it was, not as I thought I knew it.

It still foxes me. At the heart of my confusion is the near complete absence of solidarity on the Democratic side even after almost four years of Trump.

How much more serious does the situation have to get until people join forces and close ranks, exactly?

Old, ill-fitting narratives started emerging again about the Bernie bros but does Pramila Jayapal look like a Bernie bro to you? Does Porochista Khakpour look like a Bernie bro to you? Do I even? This isn’t a pen name by the way, I’m a foreign-born hyphenated American and Bernie represents what we in Europe take for granted.

He calls it Medicare for All, we call it dignity for all, same thing.

With universal health care, you don’t have to choose between shelter and food or health as I did when depression incapacitated me for five years. Because I lived in America. Although I was always insured, the yearly deductibles and co-pays were beyond my household’s reach so I white-knuckled my way through. I’m not that old so five years represents a sizable chunk of my life to date and undoing that damage is taking a very, very long time. So to have a fighting chance of getting better, I moved back to the EU.

No, being in Europe doesn’t make me any less American, but I’d rather be a live American than a dead one if you don’t mind.

Much as I did in 2016, I believe Bernie Sanders could move America forward but he remains divisive to the extreme, the arch-enemy of Republicans, and quite the unthinkable choice for many Democrats.

But can Bernie bring the country together during a pandemic the Trump administration seems ill-equipped to deal with? There’s no denying Medicare for All would keep us all safe but getting to a point when it’s even a thing will take time. There’s no instant self-gratification with policies. Likening government to an ocean liner, Barack Obama once explained that, sometimes, the job of POTUS was just to make stuff work. “Sometimes the task of government is to make incremental improvements or try to steer the ocean liner two degrees north or south so that, ten years from now, suddenly we’re in a very different place than we were.”

Even Obamacare didn’t happen overnight, remember? And yet, much as I’m fond of Bernie, there’s also a strong case for Biden.

This election is about ousting Trump, gathering America’s broken pieces, and trying to glue them back together. It’s not about me, and it’s not about you either.

In the 2017 French election, voters from across the political spectrum came together to keep the extreme right from power. Were we all skipping with joy all the way to the polling station? Non, we complained until the bitter end and we’re still complaining. Many of us grudgingly voted Macron in because the alternative was unthinkable.

Unlike Americans, we don’t have a pledge of allegiance to the French Republic, we just have fraternité but we still did what we had to do to protect our country.

While the personal is unfailingly political, the political always transcends the personal, which is both unfortunate and frequently infuriating. It happens often enough for reasonable humans to have learned how important conversation, mediation, and compromise are when we cannot get our own way.

Biden bashing is now the social media hipster trend du jour with Democrats offended by a surge in support for the former VP and it’s painful to witness. However, one of the main criticisms leveled at him warrants pause for thought. What if Joe Biden does have a long history of giving Republicans what they want?

They make it sound like being the guy in the middle with the ability to bring both sides together is a terrible thing rather than a potential asset.

And by doing so, they’re aiding and abetting Trump.

Not all Republicans support Trump but many Democrats are unaware of this because they refuse to engage with the other side.

As evidenced by the way they call out and shame the candidates who are not their chosen nominee on social media, they also refuse to engage with their own side. If Trump is often compared to a toddler throwing temper tantrums, his tenure has only normalized such behavior and it’s now commonplace on both sides.

While bipartisanship may have run its course in the US, for now it’s what we still have. And we shouldn’t allow infighting to detract us from getting the job done.

Trump has to go and if the best candidate is the one who alienates the fewest people or the one who galvanizes the most then so be it. Let’s hope the others will be gracious enough to support whoever gets the nomination and that we, the people, will follow suit even if we’re whining all the way to the ballot box.

This isn’t about anyone’s “big feels”, this is about the future of American democracy.

Because patriotism should not be partisan otherwise we’ll be in trouble for a long time to come.

I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor now based in the Netherlands. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.

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