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No Change Is Not An Option

I attended my first Bernie rally yesterday in Santa Monica and was truly impressed by the size of the crowd and the intensity of the passions that ran through it. It was certainly heartwarming to see so many young people genuinely enthused about the prospect that politics might have a positive and influential role in their lives.

The atmosphere was electric on a glorious late afternoon six blocks from the ocean as a late Spring afternoon on-shore breeze cooled the crowd. Bernie, the atypical rock star of the show ascended the stage after being introduced by a spry 90-year old Dick Van Dyke and the crowd hooped and hollered on every talking point that the candidate punctuated with his Brooklyn accent.

As one who has organized many of these events over the past four decades I marveled at the stamina and vitality of a man who has been on this roller coaster political ride for nearly a year now. He appears no worse for the wear and his determination and vigor have an infectious quality as the crowd was energized even after a nearly four-hour wait.

But aside from feeling the Bern momentarily I was drawn into a discussion with several of my younger compatriots of, what else, politics. I have been educated about the millennials' quest for change by my 24-year old son and have written about the anomalous position of many in his generation with regard to their desire for change at any cost. But as the discussion turned to the inevitable question of what if Bernie does not get the nomination I came face to face with an individual who opined that he would definitely vote for Trump before casting a vote for Hillary.

I could not contain myself from engaging this individual in protracted discussion on what started out as a rational and reasonable dialogue but quickly descended into abject frustration on my part when he could not answer even the simplest question I had to offer: to wit, is no change better than negative change? As he stubbornly refused to even consider the question my worst fears once again surfaced.

How prevalent is this attitude? Is it bluster or mere frustration on the part of individuals who have a legitimate reason to be frustrated and angry by a system that is perceived to be rigged against them? Is a protest vote, especially if done with the express intent of spite, a rational and prudent way to express such anger and frustration? If things get worse because of it, what happens then?
I am a realist and jaded to a large extent by a lifetime operating within a system that offers basically two alternatives, Democrat or Republican. But there is an anti-status quo fervor that has catapulted Donald Trump to the front of the Republican pack that may catch hold with many Bernie supporters. I have been writing for many months now that it is important for Bernie to calm the fears of many that his supporters could help tip the balance into the unthinkable realm of a Trump presidency.

I have only recently been introduced to this phenomenon and must admit that it is disconcerting and downright scary. Previously I was merely concerned about kids tuning out if their candidate did not secure the nomination, but the thought that it might propel them in a direction that is 180 degrees on most issues should keep Democratic strategists up at night.

Of course there will be a countervailing pressure on the Republican side to pull Trump more to the right and whether or not these two forces effectively work to cancel one another out is speculative and too risky. At this point there is certainly a greater push for party unity on the Republican side of the aisle than on the Democratic side, which is only natural since the GOP forces have a nominee and the Democrats will most certainly have to wait until after June 7 to say the same.

I do not begrudge the Sanders campaign from fighting for every last vote and parlaying that support into maximum leverage at the convention in Philadelphia in July. But at some point, assuming that Clinton is the eventual nominee, a massive salvage operation will need to be undertaken to bring the most ardent supporters of Bernie and positive change into the meat grinder of a two candidate campaign.

Once again, change for the sake of change is not good enough. Change can carry with it negatives or positives, and positive change is always desirable. Once again where you stand depends upon where you sit. No change, or even the perception of no change that is currently viewed by many Berners as the core of the Clinton message is not good enough. So it is ironic that the Democratic convention will end up being closer to a brokered convention than its Republican counterpart.

The most important message that the Clinton campaign can promulgate at this point is that positive change is coming. No change is not an option. And the one thing that is becoming evident in this election is that we will most likely witness change one way or another.

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