This is the stage of the Democratic primary where things get very testy and even nasty between supporters of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
I've begun to see more withering critiques and negative media about Hillary crop up in my Facebook feed as Bernie's supporters taste the possibility of victory after New Hampshire.
What if more of us broke with political tradition and really embraced them both? What if we were willing to love and publicly appreciate what they both bring to the table without diminishing the other?
That isn't just a nice sentiment; it's actually the best strategy to ensure we DO see progressive change in the next administration.
That's because on the Republican side, the fight is going to get increasingly nasty as the number of still-viable candidates leads to bitter infighting in South Carolina and beyond, something very much in evidence during Saturday's debate. Each will lose credibility and clout as they are further diminished by each other. It's already been an intense primary season for Republicans and the knife-fight only promises to get bloodier.
Inevitably this will lead to a lot of supporters who feel bitter that their chosen candidate was so badly wounded by the others, making it harder to rally and unify around the eventual nominee. A protracted and ugly primary season will leave the Republicans more fragmented and less enthusiastic about their final choice, with less time to prepare for the general election.
On the Democratic side of the aisle, perhaps our single most important strategy to elect either Hillary or Bernie is to not emulate what is underway on the Republican side. We need to fan the flames of the genuine enthusiasm, passion, and support that is building, regardless of the eventual nominee.
And that simply won't happen as effectively if the primary turns into a rancorous and bitter fight at the grassroots level.
My personal opinion is that I am very grateful for Bernie's presence in the race. He's brought sterling integrity and bold truthtelling to areas that have needed to be addressed, include calling out the corruption of the political process and calling foul on Wall Street. He's also championed ideas on the big stage that were considered untenable, such as single-payer health care. Even if we're not ready for single-payer health care, I'm glad it's now part of our national conversation.
As for Hillary, I am deeply grateful that we have a woman with the gravitas, intelligence, and experience who is truly ready to stand as the most powerful person in the world. She is steely enough to handle very tough actors on the global stage and tender enough to care for the downtrodden. She's a remarkable woman who was an exemplary Secretary of State and accomplished Senator. She would be more ready on Day One for what the job actually entails than perhaps any President in history. What a blessing for our country to have a woman so ready for that role!
I see them both as truly admirable people who play important functions in our nation: the idealistic purist who calls us into a bolder vision and the practical dealmaker who knows how to pull the levels of power to create progress. Bernie speaks more naturally to where we need to go, Hillary more to how we can get there, step by tenacious step.
We would be a lesser nation without both of them serving our collective evolution.
The Democratic Party is blessed to have their visions and voices to play off each other in a largely complementary fashion this primary season. Watching a Democratic debate is a pleasure, largely punctuated by agreement: yes and yes and YES!
If Hillary indeed becomes the nominee, as still looks most likely, she can use some of Bernie's revolutionary fire and idealism to rally the grassroots support she will need to win in the general. Her more measured and thoughtful approach to creating change is less galvanizing, to be sure, but it is ultimately more realistic.
If Bernie becomes the nominee, he'll need her sobriety and savvy to make the case for how his bold proclamations can get traction in reality.
Each of us who vote in the Democratic primaries will, at the end of the day, have to make a binary choice with our actual vote but we don't have to do so with a polarized heart.
If we can appreciate the real blessing of both of them and offer gratitude for their unique leadership gifts, we can allow a natural unfolding of the primaries in a way that doesn't leave unhealed scars, disillusioned youth, or cynical voters.
We simply end up with a choice of one of these two brave leaders as our nominee.
By not having a rancorous, negative primary season, we can ultimately present a more positive, hopeful vision for America that is both visionary and practical. We can speak to the hunger in the American electorate to have a politics that represents our better nature rather than our worst.
We can also more easily have them work together on making progress for our country, both in the election season and beyond (who knows, perhaps even on a single ticket?).
Embracing both Hillary and Bernie is thus our most sensible pathway forward. Let us dare to let the excitement for each flourish without needing to attack or diminish the other.
Let's celebrate our Bernie friends and our Hillary friends and recognize that each is offering part of the medicine our country truly needs.
Let's offer a higher way. That is ultimately what America is hungry for: a politics that shines with more wisdom, care, and service to the whole.
That's a winning ticket.