If Republicans have a butt-clinching choice between Frankenstein and Dracula, Democrats face a less existential dilemma: Which version of idealism do we vote for? The one of a woman in the oval office or the one of how we think society should operate?
Tortured by the choice I've arrived at a compromise: I'm rooting for Bernie and hoping for Hillary. I'm giving money to one but voting for the other. Why? Because the best thing that could happen to progressives is a contested convention.
As the Republicans lurch toward their zombie apocalypse, a brokered Democratic convention would be a battle of ideas not personalities. Well, mostly. And it would plant the seeds of a certain Bernie-centric idealism that would take root in Democratic soil and eventually branch out across the country, whether he wins or not.
Bernie's Hat Trick
Bernie Sanders has pulled off the linguistic trick of the century: He's turned what were once political obscenities into acceptable language. Free tuition? "Medicare For All"? Higher taxes for a higher standard of living? Speaking these heresies would have ruined liberal politicians even just a couple of years ago, and now, thanks to Bernie, much of the mainstream is debating their merits.
Bernie's Message Doesn't Require Bernie's Presidency
A grassroots tipping point is more important than any individual leader, and Bernie's ideas are nowhere near a moment of critical mass (maybe in Democratic circles, but certainly not nationwide).
A plan of "free tuition" is as bold as social security, Medicare and universal health insurance. And each of those programs took between 30 and 100 years from initial public utterance to a passage-friendly tipping point.
Movements rarely manifest through any one political figure but with a groundswell of grassroots support. It starts with the articulation of a "heretical idea" and then absorbed into the mainstream as a logical solution. We are not going to get "Medicare for all" and free tuition in the next 4 to 8 years and that's why it doesn't matter whether Bernie wins the nomination.
What matters is that mainstream America adopts his vision. What matters is that we move closer and closer to that vision until the moment when it's possible for a future President Roosevelt, Johnson or Obama to sign and more importantly PASS the legislation manifesting the vision.
We can move closer and closer with or without feeling the Bern or climbing the Hillz. In the end, they are both important but not critical figures in building a shared vision of the country. What's critical is that the message be heard, adopted and seen as a viable solution. And for that to happen, we need the kind of public spectacle that comes from contested conventions, not runaway candidates.
If Hillary pulls away too quickly the conversation will fade. If Bernie catches up it'll soar. What we need is a horse race and it doesn't matter who crosses the finish line first. What matters is what the horserace illuminates.
Hillary? Bernie? Let's hope it's a tie.
The author founded the dating advice site, callmemaybe.us