By GORDON GLANTZ
GORDONVILLE — I have this song called “Better Than Today.” I rank it high among the hundreds of thousands I have written since the early 1980s – those painful mid-teen years when girls alternated between breaking my heart or not even knowing I existed.
This one, like most since that era, has nothing to with relationships.
In terms of the lyrics, the narrator is a married man who goes wherever the low-wage work takes him, but the drill is wearing thin.
He cashes paychecks and clears as many bills as he can, only to start the process over again. He is willing to eat once a day to ration. He buys a few Christmas gifts but takes no credit, letting them still believe in Santa as he tries to shield them from life’s harsh realities.
The song ends with a “reason to celebrate.” The narrator gets a second job and he’ll be now be working 16 hours a day. Though it’s not necessarily safe, the scenario is still “better than today.”
It wreaks of Bruce Springsteen, maybe as much as any and all previous attempts to reach that Promised Land.
But it was written, sometime in 2015-2016, while cast under the spell of another influence.
That would be Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)
Yeah, that Bernie Sanders.
That angry old grandpa type spewing the virtues of Democratic Socialism – with “free this” and “free that” – who also talked about American families like those in “Better Than Today” during his campaign.
Sanders’ proposed policies – framed as unrealistic – are already battle-tested in other countries (namely in Northern Europe) that do a lot things better than we do here.
It’s not unpatriotic to say so, either.
It’s blind patriotism, the worst kind there is, to believe it’s better to go into debt because a family member gets seriously ill or because our sons and daughters seek higher education than to admit defeat to Norway or Sweden.
All that doesn’t go away with a bunch flags on Flag Day.
It’s interesting how the first question about Sanders’ proposed policies were about the realistic ways they could be paid for, and yet many of the same people – some turned off by Hillary Clinton, but not necessarily by Sanders – ultimately voted for a candidate who proclaimed that he was going to build a fantastical border wall and have the country on the other side pay for it.
Staunch Democrats tell me to get over it, refusing to let me enumerate the many ways Clinton lost the election and accuse Sanders — an independent who almost always caucuses and votes with the Democrats — of being an interloper who crashed their invitation-only party.
To my eye, Sanders held up a mirror and showed the Democratic party just how un-democratic their flawed process was – with one candidate hand-picked, with super delegates lined up like penguins, to slide through the of 57-primaries/caucuses unchallenged.
Sanders didn’t take a dime of SuperPAC money, instead pushing on with average donations of $27 (I contributed my share, and have the coffee mug and water bottle to show for it). Despite legitimately packed houses, mostly on college campuses, he got almost no coverage of his rallies from the same mainstream media that the current president labels “the enemy of the people.”
The reality is that Clinton, though clearly done dirty by the other side, was not done in by Sanders.
What is easier to believe, and what historians will hopefully acknowledge, is that his challenge should have done anything but make her the weaker candidate she proved to be in the eyes of too many.
Maybe he didn’t campaign for her as vigorously as he could have, but he still left her a GPS route to success.
Example: She should have virtually lived in some the crucial swing states won by Sanders.
Instead, she blew them off.
Polls show Sanders very well might have won the general election, and could be best equipped to do it again in 2020.
While he is not the new “kid” in town anymore, there are other higher hurdles to clear.
While Democratic Socialism really just means capitalism with a few less backs being stabbed and throats getting slit, the word “socialism” is too much of a non-starter in the swayable heartland and bible belt.
I also find it odd that some are lightning quick to point to Sanders’ age (he would be 78 if/when elected) when some of the same people doing the questioning trumpet white-haired Joe Biden, only slightly younger than Sanders but with stale ideas that Generations X, Y and Z are rejecting.
While Sanders is a secular guy, his Jewish heritage probably won’t help much, either (even though it won’t show up in polls, as few will admit it as a primary reason).
Despite the polls, I still see Sanders as a longshot and I am prepared to back the last candidate standing, just like I still backed Hillary Clinton when she limped across the finish line in front of Sanders in 2016.
We still have a lot in common on the left. We couldn’t believe our eyes watching the horror of Charlottesville unfold, and couldn’t believe our ears the way our president responded. We can’t believe we are being governed by Twitter. We can’t believe news time is taken up about payoffs to porn stars.
We can’t believe what tomorrow will bring, other than it will make us more numbed up and dumbed down than the day before, leaving the nation ripe for more of the same.
That just can’t happen.
And the first step is to declare a truce in this Sanders-Clinton spillover effect – the bad blood between moderates and progressives — and see the big picture.
Clinton was the first woman seen as a serious candidate from a major party running for president. She was neck-and-neck with Barack Obama, the first president of color, in the 2007-2008 primaries and lost in 2016 general election (despite taking the popular vote).
Sanders was the first Jewish-American to make a serious bid.
The first female vice presidential candidate was Geraldine Ferraro in 1984. The first Jewish vice presidential candidate was Joe Lieberman in 2000.
Sense a pattern, fellow liberals? All Democrats.
The party of diversity now sees an array of potential candidates from coast to coast and north to south, from fresh-faced to experienced, and from male to female.
The truth is that I’d vote for a gold fish or an amoeba – anything but a Lyme-carrying tick – to bring back sanity.
But nothing has really changed for me in the last few years.
Bernie Sanders still sits at the top my list.
Until further notice.
Until it’s better than today.
This column first appeared in The Times Herald on Jan. 6.
Lyrics to Better Than Today:
|Better Than Today
Finally got my paycheck
Coins for the laundromat
And if we can’t make it stretch
Winter just around the bend
And we’re not gonna uproot
Sometimes I hear Anna crying
Finally got my paycheck
Let’s call for my sister
Yeah, I just got that second job
And I’ll be working 16 hours