Bernie Sanders is the grandfatherly hippie from a generation that is stealing Facebook from the young and dancing to the Beach Boys at 50 year high school reunions. Why does Bernie resonate with young voters? Perhaps grandparents are easier to relate to than parents, and are thought to be more “themselves”, more real, more authentic, than their career chasing money-jaded baby-boomer parents. This helps explain how the oldest man in the Presidential race appeals to the youngest voters.
Most of us long for the authentic, the real McCoy, the bona fide, just as we are repulsed by the deceitful, the veiled, the mala fide. In the movie, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Everett, after escaping prison, discovers that his wife is planning to marry another man, because according to his wife, Penny, he is not bona fide, and to accelerate the demise of his reign as paterfamilias, she tells the children their Daddy was hit by a train.
Ulysses Everett McGill: Why are you tellin’ our gals that I was hit by a train?
Penny: Lots of respectable people have been hit by trains. Judge Hoover over in Cookville was hit by a train. What was I gonna tell them, that you got sent to the penal farm and I divorced you from shame?
Ulysses Everett McGill: Uh, I take your point. But it does put me in an awkward position, vis-à-vis my progeny.
Bona fide is not as easy as it sounds and is difficult to find in public figures who intentionally conceal their devils while displaying their angels. In another scene from the movie, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the wandering protagonists, Everett, Pete, and Delmar, stumbled upon an African-American guitar player by the name of Tommy Johnson, who explained to them what the Devil looks like.
Pete: I’ve always wondered, what’s the devil look like?
Ulysses Everett McGill: Well, there are all manner of lesser imps and demons, Pete, but the great Satan hisself is red and scaly with a bifurcated tail, and he carries a hay fork.
Tommy Johnson: Oh, no. No, sir. He’s white, as white as you folks, with empty eyes and a big hollow voice.
According to Tommy Johnson, Satan could be Rush Limbaugh, Michael Moore, or a Presidential Candidate.
Being true, original, authentic, or real, sounds easy enough, but it isn’t. My brother Greg once reminded me while I was complaining that I couldn’t find anything original to write, that everything has already been written, so don’t waste your breath trying to write something new. Just do it again, but say it in your own words.
Understanding that there is nothing new or original helps assuage my guilt because I confess to sometimes stealing stories. Sub-creation is what I do. I take what is already created and rewrite it…I’m a bona fide creative plagiarist.
Presidential candidates, like writers, are creative plagiarists. They take what is already created and rewrite it for good or evil. Politicians take the great Constitutional ideas of our forefathers, Jefferson, Washington, Lincoln, and sprinkle in the good sense of Martin Luther King, Jesus, and their favorite Supreme Court Justices, or they re-write the ideas of Machiavelli, Adam Smith, and Walt Disney, while stirring in some Scripture for good measure, “Anyone who refuses to work should not eat.” 2 Thessalonians 3:10, or, “All the people had everything in common, sharing their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” Acts 2:42
To pick on Bernie Sanders as an example, he isn’t saying or proposing anything new. He’s been saying these things for many years. He simply stuck around long enough for an electoral cluster of young voters with no political memory to sprout like winter wheat in the greenhouse gases of polarizing politics. “He (Bernie Sanders) doesn’t seem to have ulterior motives,” said Alison Sanderlin, a 26 year old who works in a photo lab and believes the GOP message has fallen flat.
Today, our country’s youngest block of voters are searching for their own truth, their own verity, their own authentic voting souls. I remember a recent conversation with my son, Brandon, who is a 23 year old meteorologist from Norman, Oklahoma. We were watching television and had a brief political conversation. He asked me who I was voting for in the Presidential Election and I asked him the same question. I didn’t fully reveal my hand, but simply said, “Not Trump.” He said, “I’ll probably vote for Bernie Sanders.”
That was a revealing moment for me as a white middle-aged male with socially compassionate, fiscally conservative, and bureaucratically libertarian leanings. I’m not sure if that makes me liberal, conservative or whig, but I do sense the deep alienation that exists between the young in this country and the entrenched.
Exit polls in New Hampshire and Iowa confirm that Millennials from the age of 18-29 prefer Mr. Sanders by 84% to 16% over his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. WSJ page A6 Tuesday February 16, 2016
So I’m wondering, among the candidates, who appears to be ulterior in their motivation? Or to say it backwards, who are the overt, the revealed, the fully disclosed? Hillary, Ted, Marco, Donald, Jeb, Bernie? In other words, are we able to discern underlying or private motives behind a candidacy? Isn’t politics in it’s very nature a blending of the overt and the covert, the hidden and the revealed, the undisclosed and the divulged? Are the Millennials saying that Donald Trump isn’t bona fide? How dare they! Perhaps the Donald sold his soul to the Devil like Tommy Johnson.
Ulysses Everett McGill: What’d the devil give you for your soul, Tommy (Donald)?
Tommy (the Donald) Johnson: Well, he taught me to play this here guitar real good and to evade the real question by ruthlessly attacking mealy-minded political opponents.
Delmar O’Donnell: Oh son, for that you sold your everlasting soul?
Tommy (the Donald) Johnson: Well, I wasn’t usin’ it.
John Della Volpe, who as director of polling at the Harvard Institute of Politics has been surveying millennials since 2000, says young voters generally seem less interested in politicians resumes than in their candor. “Young people are really less interested in past accomplishments and more interested in today and the future,” he says. “They look for candidates who are focusing emotion, talking about the moment, being authentic.” Janet Hook WSJ Tuesday February 16, 2016 Millennials Unsettle Race
Authenticity seems to be what my children, all three now in their mid-twenties, listen and respond to. Socrates would have called this verity. Policies and philosophies matter, but only if they are sustained by truth. The bona fide, the real, the authentic, is something to consider when you enter the polling place next November. Otherwise, you might discover that you’ve been hit by a train, like Ulysses Everett McGill, and placed in an awkward position, vis-à-vis your progeny. I’m not sure for whom I shall cast my vote. I’m just suggesting that we heed the words of Abraham Lincoln who said, “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have.”