John Lewis Was Right, Where Was Bernie?

ListenLive-OPINION Originally posted in the Daily Kos 

John Lewis WAS Right. Where Was Bernie?

For awhile now, I’ve been lurking. Then as things in the primary heated up I was actively commenting and arguing. And even, dropping a flag here and there when people engage in out-and-out character assassination or CT. I’ve slowly been pulled in as more and more I see things said by people that I just believe aren’t true. And that don’t fit with the reality that I see.

But, I had held off writing a diary because I couldn’t quite put into words what I wanted to say. Until I read this post on the Huffington Post. I know this guy, Tom Sheridan, vaguely from way back. I was working at  a non-profit at the time of the McCain tobacco settlement bill in front of Congress. We ultimately lost, but I got a chance to see Tom on a daily basis — guiding our coalition through meetings on the Hill, advising us on messaging and grassroots, etc. No one took the loss harder than him (well, maybe the head of the Campaign For Tobacco Free Kids too it harder).

Anyway, I digress. Friends of mine on Facebook saw his post and posted it and I saw it. I thought that this was the kind of thing that I wanted to say.

The point is that this guy was at the forefront of many progressive campaigns and causes over the years. He’s seen Bernie and Hillary in action. Here is what he has to say:

For thirty years I’ve been a professional advocate on the front lines of America’s most pressing social problems, working side-by-side with the organizations that have led the charge for solutions to the most challenging issues facing our country. And I can honestly say that not once in those thirty years has Senator Sanders been a champion, partner or even an able ally. To be sure, he’s always been a reliable vote, but never a leader or even an effective supporter. Now, I understand that members of Congress can’t be all things to all people, and most members have causes they spend special time and attention to. The problem is Bernie hasn’t been a leader on any of them. Not AIDS; I know, I ran the national AIDS lobby. Not anti-tobacco; I know, I ran the public health coalition that brought the tobacco industry to its knees. Not disability rights; I know I was a co-chair for the ADA coalition. This list goes on but I’ll stop there.

On Bernie’s strength with millennials and the youth vote. I understand it, because Hillary is the old “establishment” candidate and Bernie is the new unvarnished candidate saying “Burn the place down.” But, does he have a record of burning the place down?

I’m especially troubled that his appeal to millennials is seen as his particular strength. I hope that millennials are wise enough to look behind the hyperbolic messages and ask themselves “can this guy change that?” Sadly the answer is if he really wanted to change things, shouldn’t he have at least tried over all these years. A new face, a new voice, a new more bombastic message may grab attention, and it has; but it is not a substitute for deeper evidence of whether that candidate is truly capable of bringing change.

It’s worth thinking about. Where is the change? Where was Bernie in the fights of the last 25 years or so? Leading them and doing the work or simply speaking out? There isn’t anything wrong with speaking out and we need more of it. But there is a difference between the hard work of leading and strategizing and simply giving speeches and voting.

But this isn’t about a hit piece on Bernie. Bernie is a fine progressive who votes reliably on progressive issues. This is a diary about Hillary. To wit:

Juxtapose Bernie Sanders’ history to the track record of Hillary Clinton. When groups I worked with have needed a champion she is almost always first in line to take up the banner and get solutions moving forward. This is true when she was First Lady, Senator, Secretary of State and now candidate for president. Unlike the Sanders campaign, when we have approached the Clinton camp not only have meetings always been scheduled immediately, her senior staff have always been in attendance, often staying in the room for more than an hour to hammer out ways she could help lead. I’m too cynical to be impressed by “check the box” meetings; instead these meetings were serious, respectful, and results oriented sessions by people committed to real change – not just cursing at the darkness. In short, on the front lines of the issue campaigns that have mattered most, Hillary Clinton has always been there, rolling up her sleeves to help.

The point here is that Hillary really has a record of being a progressive who gets results, and who champions a cause and tries to find a way through the issue to a solution.

Bernie is a good progressive who gives good speeches and can excite a crowd. I agree with much of what he has to say. It excites me as it does many other people. But at the end of the day, do we want someone who excites us but can’t get at the forefront and tackle the issues head-on?

I think that’s one thing that Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton have in common. They are both interested in getting results and fighting for what they believe is right. To tell the truth, I would have a hard time deciding who to vote for if Elizabeth Warren ran for President. I would probably go with Hillary because she has more experience, but it would be very close.

I know many people here are just starting out. They don’t have a history of being down in the trenches, of seeing the inside of the legislative process or of the politics of issues. To them, they hear Bernie talk and it is inspiring. I get it, really I do. To them Bernie is a fresh voice, promising a change immediately. But look underneath at the record. Is he a fighter and a doer?

It comes down to that for me. Do I want a show horse or a workhorse? In my case, this choice is clear. Hillary hands down.

I echo Sheridan in proudly supporting Hillary Clinton:

I want a leader who can take the new majority to a place where issues matter, solutions are expected and political cynicism is replaced by sustained civic engagement. I thank Senator Sanders for the inspiration but I’ll count on Hillary Clinton to get the work done.