So, last night, I was excited to watch Hillary Clinton speak and accept the nomination to be the Democratic candidate for the presidency of the United States. I’m aware that many of you, and a lot of people I know, people I care about, people I respect, people whose opinions matter to me, wish it had gone down differently. As someone who believed in Howard Dean in 2004, I know all too well the sting, the frustration, of believing in someone, in believing in a message, and seeing things feel like they’re gonna get there and having it not.
I understand that there are things about Hillary Clinton that you don’t like, things you might even find abhorrent. I won’t do what so many others seem to want to do and dismiss those criticisms, erase them, explain them away as privilege. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that your feelings come from a real, and well-studied place. I hope you’ll give me the same benefit of the doubt here that I came to my support of Hillary sincerely, as an informed voter, and that perhaps our difference of opinion between her and Bernie has less to do with any negative feelings of him, as in fact I didn’t really start to get off the fence and be a Hillary supporter till the first Super Tuesday, and more to do with perhaps a difference of opinion on what the role of a President actually is.
I’m not writing this right now to sell you on voting for Hillary Clinton. I’m writing this here right now to sell you on voting Democrat in 2016. And in 2018. I’m a registered Democrat, and I have been since I was 18. Before that, I grew up in a household of Democrats. My father was very active in labor unions, he held union office as a vice president of the AFL-CIO in Columbus, Ohio. But I’m not a Democrat because my parents are. In fact, when I turned 18 and had the first chance to vote and register with a party, I considered going with the Republicans, but I ultimately ended up registering Democrat and voting for Al Gore. But I’ll say that I didn’t really know what it meant to me to be one until Howard Dean.
What draws me to the Democratic party, and what makes me remain a loyal member despite awareness of turmoil, despite insults thrown my way occasionally by people who smugly declare their independence like it makes them by default more informed than me, is the fact that I see a place for myself there as much as for my dad. I care about unions, I’m a proud union member myself. But I see unions much like I see the value of the Democratic Party: the idea that we are stronger when we come together. And as of yesterday, with Sarah McBride’s appearance as the first out transgender person to speak at a national convention, a voice like mine is part of that togetherness. (If you don’t think I cried during that speech, you’ve never read my writing before.)
Sometimes I get into arguments online because, well, sometimes I’m online. Often someone will roll out the racist history of the Democratic Party. It’s easy to dismiss that, but perhaps a bit lazy, and very disrespectful to the struggles of people of color due to policies and practices that were carried out under that banner during those eras. Rather than distance myself and my party from that history, I think we have to own it. We have to carry it, the same way we do as a nation. We have to remember it, we have to accept that criticism in order to forever learn from it.
But what impresses me about the Democratic Party is that we’ve actively, through blood, sweat, and tears, pushed the party away from that. Brick by brick, progressive idea by progressive idea, the Democratic Party has worked over the last century to say, “This is not who we want to be.” We are far from done, we have so, so, so much work to be done. But I believe we are doing that work.
When I look around the footage of the Democratic National Convention this week, I am overcome with pride for my party. I see the sea of faces that represent the country that I know America to be. I hear a diversity of ideas that mix together, sometimes more angrily than I prefer, but the voices are there. I love that this coalition of ideals that mostly formed around FDR’s New Deal have come together to bring us a place where, if we’re willing to do the work, revolutionaries and lifelong independents like Bernie Sanders can sit down with dyed in the wool partisan leaders and find a way to reach common ground. I love that this party is both nominating Hillary Clinton *and* adopting a platform that was heavily influenced by her chief rival. I love that said rival was given a prime time place to speak and that signs supporting him were handed out at the convention that was nominating his opponent. Bernie Sanders was given reverence when just a week earlier his counterpart across the aisle, the second place Republican candidate, was booed off the stage.
I’m not as against the two-party system as a lot of people are. I don’t think it’s perfect, I don’t think it is absolutely hands down the best way to run a country, but I think it can work, and I think at the very least it tries to ensure that those who are elected are done so by majority vote. It’s not that I don’t believe in many of the ideals of the Green Party, it’s just that I think there is room in the Democratic tent to fit them, and we need to fit them. I think that just like we pushed out the Dixiecrats and ushered in a new era of civil rights reforms, just as we evolved in our party ideas on gay marriage and now, thank you, Barack Obama, transgender rights, we are seeing the beginning of a sea change in the overall philosophy of the Democrats. I don’t believe that we need a new more left-wing party, I believe that we can have that within the Democrats and we’re making that happen. The Howard Deans and the Barack Obamas and the Bernie Sanders are making that happen, and now it’s up to us to carry that torch. We can change the face of this party, and the proof of it is that it’s been done before. It is happening right now. I don’t want to be fighting other liberals over progress, I want us to be strong together.
Wednesday night after Barack Obama’s speech a friend of mine on Facebook put out a plea towards his legacy to those who dislike him to listen to the speech, and whether they agree with him or not, to give him the benefit of the doubt that he is speaking honestly and sincerely in what he believes in. I ask you to do the same with Hillary Clinton. Put aside your legitimate concerns about her, and listen to what she says here and now, and just give her the benefit of the doubt, just assume she’s being sincere. If you’re interested in the ideas she’s talking about, please check out the Democratic platform. You may not like everything, but weigh the options, and please, vote.