An Open Letter to Bill Clinton, from a Former Neighbor and Bernie Sanders Supporter

Dear President Clinton:

We used to be neighbors, though I doubt you would remember me.  I used to live just down the street from you on F & 19th.  I often took evening strolls by your government housing quarters on Pennsylvania Avenue, and waved.  Every once in a while, a sniper atop the White House would wave back.

Although we never met, I stood by you—as any faithful neighbor should.  Boy, did folks toss some big ole cabbages and tomatoes at your place in the day.  Thank God those rose bushes were far enough back to protect them from a good TP-ing.

Of course, you probably won’t remember my neighborly loyalty, either.  But surely you remember things like Whitewater, Troopergate, Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky, Vince Foster, and Juanita Broaddrick.

Devoted liberal that I was—I now refer to myself as “progressive,” by the way—I defended you in subway stations, in billiard halls, in mall food courts, in tobacco shops.  When others accused you of playing politics with Operation Infinite Reach and Operation Desert Fox, I came to your defense.  You were my President, and I your devoted voter.  (Meanwhile, of course, our military was slaying innocent lives.  I am now ashamed I ever supported a person’s political existence at the expense of innocent lives.)

But what the heck, those were the gay 90s.  We had a balanced budget.  Everywhere we looked there was growth, growth, growth.  Glass-Steagall-Schteagall.  No matter how one defines “is,” after the Reagan and Bush years, it was good to support a Democratic President.  I even once came to your defense in Kramerbooks, of all places.

Yet, despite my years of ardent support, this past week and with a toss of the wrist, you threw me and millions of others, Slick Willie willy-nilly-style, under the Tea Party bus.

That hurt.  Seriously.  O-U-C-H.  Here were your words this past President’s Day (congratulations, by the by) in Palm Beach County, Florida:

It’s not altogether mysterious that there are a lot of people that say, well, the Republican Party rewarded the Tea Party.  Just tell people what they want to hear, move them to the right and we’ll be rewarded–except they didn’t get anything done.  Then, that’s going on now in our party.

Although I supported your Presidency and voted twice for Barack Obama, whom you once labeled a “fairytale” candidate—don’t deny it—I have decided to put all my political eggs in the Bernie Sanders Presidential Basket.

Why?  Precisely because I no longer just “hear what I want to hear.”  Because now, and for the rest of my voting days, I intend to vote my political conscience.

Your immediate White House successor—whose name it pains me to type—forced me to seriously examine my political conscience.  An eight-year-long famine of intellect and integrity, accompanied by a plague of warmongering, can do that to a voter.  The W. Administration made me realize that for years I had been a lockstep soldier of the Center; whereas, all along, I possessed a decidedly Left Conscience.

For so long, I supported the Democratic Center because very few politicians, such as Paul Wellstone (may he rest in peace) and some outspoken independent congressman from Vermont, represented my decidedly Left Conscience political worldview.  And what were the odds that Bernie Sanders would ever run for President?

Only, it happened.  Bernie Sanders actually stepped into the ring.

I voted for Barack Obama on the condition of hope.  But hope did not come for all.  Again, the Democratic Center has held for another eight years.  And, again, the far right—this time a far right even more addlebrained than the one which pushed us into Iraq—is salivating to march our nation straight to Iran and possibly socioeconomic oblivion.  But I am not going to vote the Democratic Center in 2016.  And your spouse, a veteran statesperson, a talented politician who has indeed worked hard for the good of many, the would-be President Hillary Clinton, represents the Democratic Center.

(By the way, anyone who wants to challenge this statement about the Democratic Center should begin by dueling the great economist Thomas Piketty, who has finally spoken on the topic in Le Monde:  “Again, this new political-ideological regime was barely mitigated by the Clinton and Obama years. … Hillary Clinton, who fought to the left of Barack Obama in 2008 on topics such as health insurance, appears today as if she is defending the status quo, just another heiress of the Reagan-Clinton-Obama political regime.”)

Is the Center evil?  It depends on your point of view.  If your family gets knocked off by a drone or falls victim to the Prison Industrial Complex, I suppose you’re inclined to think the Center ain’t so grand.  The Center does build a certain kind of foundation for Civilization, albeit slowly.  Same-sex marriage and Obamacare are likely here to stay.  But MLK’s “audacious hope” won’t come to pass if Democrats march in baby step formation.

Speaking of baby steps, let’s imagine a more Democratic Center version of JFK’s famous 1962 Moon Speech:  “You know, getting to the moon is a nice goal and all, but for now, let’s just build a satellite communications system.  That itself would be quite the accomplishment.  I think we have what it takes to get that by a Republican Congress.  See how that goes for a few years.  Monkey around with some rockets—contract with a few German engineering firms.  Then, you know, take it from there.  I mean, it’s not like we’re ever going to get to the moon, people.  Seriously.  Never, ever.  But, satellites?  Satellites I can definitely see.”

Instead, President Kennedy said:

WE CHOOSE TO GO TO THE MOON.  We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.

President Clinton, the only reason 13 human-crafted satellites now orbit the planet Mars—the planet Mars!—is because President Kennedy set a goal for our nation that would propel us in our “quest for knowledge and progress” that “cannot be deterred.”

Bernie Sanders has shown voters the Progressive Moon, and declared, “We choose Civilization!  Not because building Civilization is easy, but because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone.”

Yet you compared the millions willing to accept Bernie Sanders’ challenge to the Tea Party.  Do I look and sound like an individual oblivious to history and orthography?  I invite you to read some Tea Party signs.  I know you’ve listened to the barbaric blather that comes out of the mouths of Tea Party elected officials.  Do I sound like them?

You can call me a “fairytale” dreamer, as you once labeled Obama.  But with all due respect, please do not ever again insult me and the progressive millions who stood by you through thick and thin—by calling out our progressive consciences.

Again, President Kennedy’s Moon Speech, invoking the words of William Bradford:  “All great and honourable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and must be both enterprised and overcome with answerable courages.”

This election cycle, I have decided to part ways with the Democratic Center.  It’s a natural choice:  there isn’t a single platform issue of Bernie Sanders that I haven’t already supported for years.

President Clinton, please discontinue mocking my progressive conscience.

My progressive conscience is not comparable to the Tea Party.  I once stood by your side.  Today, I stand firmly, more than ever, for building Civilization—a Civilization which is no less achievable than the Moon.  It is a challenge that Bernie Sanders, I and millions of others are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, one we intend to win.


Arik, your former neighbor

Arik Bjorn

Arik Bjorn lives in Columbia, South Carolina. He was the Democratic Party / Green Party fusion candidate for U.S. Congress in the 2nd Congressional District of South Carolina. Visit the archive for Arik’s campaign website, and check out his latest book, So I Ran for Congress. You can also follow his political activities on Twitter @Bjorn2RunSC and on Facebook. And be sure to check out more from Arik in his archives!


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