My days of reading Rolling Stone magazine go back to the early 1970s, when the undergroundish magazine was using newsprint and was full of strange and stimulating stuff about music and politics that a boy from southeast Kansas couldn’t easily find anywhere else.
Today, the now slicked-up version, still published by its co-founder Jann Wenner, endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. The editorial endorsing her was authored by Wenner, and I found it not only well-written, but well-reasoned.
Wenner compliments Bernie Sanders for proving “to be a gifted and eloquent politician,” who “has articulated the raw and deep anger about the damage the big banks did to the economy and to so many people’s lives.” He praised him for making it clear “how punishing and egregious income inequality has become in this country.” Wenner says his “heart is with him.”
it is not enough to be a candidate of anger. Anger is not a plan; it is not a reason to wield power; it is not a reason for hope. Anger is too narrow to motivate a majority of voters, and it does not make a case for the ability and experience to govern. I believe that extreme economic inequality, the vast redistribution of wealth to the top one percent — indeed, to the top one percent of the one percent — is the defining issue of our times. Within that issue, almost all issues of social injustice can be seen, none more so than climate change, which can be boiled down to the rights of mankind against the oligarchy that owns oil, coal and vast holdings of dirty energy, and those who profit from their use.
Hillary Clinton has an impressive command of policy, the details, trade-offs and how it gets done. It’s easy to blame billionaires for everything, but quite another to know what to do about it. During his 25 years in Congress, Sanders has stuck to uncompromising ideals, but his outsider stance has not attracted supporters among the Democrats. Paul Krugman writes that the Sanders movement has a “contempt for compromise.”
Every time Sanders is challenged on how he plans to get his agenda through Congress and past the special interests, he responds that the “political revolution” that sweeps him into office will somehow be the magical instrument of the monumental changes he describes. This is a vague, deeply disingenuous idea that ignores the reality of modern America. With the narrow power base and limited political alliances that Sanders had built in his years as the democratic socialist senator from Vermont, how does he possibly have a chance of fighting such entrenched power?
I have been to the revolution before. It ain’t happening.
Noting that Clinton “is one of the most qualified candidates for the presidency in modern times,” Wenner reminds us about that infamous 2000 Bush v. Gore election and how, “The votes cast for the fantasy of Ralph Nader were enough to cost Gore the presidency,” a sin of the left for which we are all still paying. And as I have tried to do, Wenner compared this moment to a similar one and came to the same conclusion I have:
Rolling Stone has championed the “youth vote” since 1972, when 18-year-olds were first given the right to vote. The Vietnam War was a fact of daily life then, and Sen. George McGovern, the liberal anti-war activist from South Dakota, became the first vessel of young Americans, and Hunter S. Thompson wrote our first presidential-campaign coverage. We worked furiously for McGovern. We failed; Nixon was re-elected in a landslide. But those of us there learned a very clear lesson: America chooses its presidents from the middle, not from the ideological wings. We are faced with that decision again.
After pointing out that this election is “a tipping point like none since before the Civil War”—because “We are at the culmination of a decades-long effort by the right wing to take over the government”—Wenner writes:
When I consider what’s in their hearts, I think both Clinton and Sanders come out on the side of the angels; but when I compare their achievements in the past decades, the choice is clear. This is not the time in history for a “protest vote.”
No. It’s not the time merely to register one’s anger. As I have said and will keep saying, there is too much to lose. Look around you. Out there in the darkness of an easily-frightened, overly-anxious, often ill-informed electorate, there lurks a Drumpf. Or possibly an even more dangerous beast: Cruz, The Christian Crusader.