The Blunt Truth About Bernie or Bust

The iconic 1969 Woodstock logo promised "3 days of peace and music," and featured a guitar with a bird perched on the neck. Now, 47 years later we get the eerily similar Republican National Convention logo, also employing the guitar image, only with an elephant stomping on the neck, seemingly threatening to snap it.


Of course, the guitar was a reference to Cleveland, the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but between Rudy Giuliani’s paranoid grandpa rant, and Trump’s version of America as a gangsta’s paradise, the whole affair came off more Hatestock than Woodstock.


But of all the ugly, clueless, classless and almost surreal moments of the RNC, none topped the song that kicked in at the end of Trump’s 75-minute, fact-challenged, dystopian diatribe. I was sure my ears were screwing with me when the dictator-wannabe began waving, and soaking in the adulation to the familiar opening chorus of The Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

Put aside that they probably took the song without paying for the rights — classic Trump — why would you use it at the RNC, where the theme is “You Can Always Get What You Want And It’s Actually More Fun if You Screw Someone Else While You’re Doing It.” “Lock her up?” Really? They should lock up whoever created the playlist. Maybe it was Lucifer.

But no matter who chose it, now that the DNC has kicked off in Philadelphia with the Bernie or Bust people out in full force, and full voice, the song still resonates. Despite passionate speeches by First Lady Michelle Obama, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) himself, along with Sarah Silverman’s blunt “you’re being ridiculous,” even at the end of the night, the few Bernie supporters interview remained unmoved.

I get the passion, along with the rhetoric of revolution. I marched in anti-war demonstrations against the Vietnam War, with people carrying signs that read “Peace Now!” A noble ideal, yet I always felt an annoying twinge that the message also reflected the petulant demands of a spoiled generation that was raised on instant gratification. As things turned out, there was no “peace now.” But there was peace, if you can call it that, about five years later.

Revolutions don’t happen overnight. There’s no instant utopia, just a slow turn of the wheel. A movement.

What Sanders brought to this election was a movement grounded in a vision for the values that this country should stand for. A declaration of how things ought to be: fairness, equal opportunity, access to affordable health care and education, getting the money out of politics by overturning Citizens United, getting the rich to pay their fair share in taxes, and protecting Roe v. Wade. Dismantling our American oligarchy and restoring the American dream for everyone. And I agree. It’s the way life ought to be. But given the fact that the polar opposite vision exists on the other side, this is, and will always be, a tug of war of ideals. Paul Ryan is right: this is a binary choice. And if you’ve paid any attention to Trump’s conduct over the past 13 months, you instantly realize that this is not a debating society, it’s a street fight. The timing of the WikiLeaks DNC email dump should give you some idea of the tactics involved.

It took 100 years to get from the Civil War to the civil rights movement. And while there has been progress, 50 years later the same struggle rages on, whether it’s in the streets, or in the courts.

Standing proudly with your unshakable ideals, stubbornly insisting on casting a protest vote doesn’t turn the wheel of progress. It may make you feel intellectually pure, and protect you from the nagging sensation that you compromised, but Bernie or Bust is not standing up for your beliefs. Given the stakes, it amounts to a political temper tantrum.

To those who insist that it’s our way or the highway, I would suggest you look at the career of the man who inspired you. Sanders has been in public service for 35 years. Fighting for what you believe in is a constant struggle, in which you get as much as you can at any given time, and live to fight another day. Sanders was tough during the primaries and graceful in supporting Hillary Clinton. He made his presence known at the convention, and in shaping the party platform.

I understand passion. But passion is what gives someone the strength to fight over time. Patience and pragmatism are not the words of capitulation. They’re the language of realism. And it’s time to get real. It shouldn’t take more than remembering that Ralph Nader’s 2000 run bequeathed us George W. Bush, the Iraq War, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and almost a second great depression.

So, before you curl up in bed with your ideals, take a breath, look at the past, and then imagine the future beginning next January when Donald Trump takes the oath of office.

At some point, this isn’t about personalities, it’s about policy. And the ability to make policy depends directly on who gets elected. If Clinton wins, if the Democrats take back the Senate, they will go into next year in a position of strength, beginning with a Supreme Court nominee who will instantly change the balance of power.

And that brings me back to The Stones’ song and its relevance to the Democratic Convention. The chorus goes: “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need.”