As a writer, I never expected to fall in love with the 2016 election. As recently as 6 or 7 months ago, I fully expected that America was on a collision course with dueling oligarchic dynasties — Bush 3 vs. Clinton 2 — in a race where the (not unimportant) differences would be overshadowed by their similarities, including the fact that Wall Street would be happy with either one in the Oval Office.
Then a gruff, 74-year-old grandfather showed up to change everything. Like a lot of progressive-minded folks, I’d grown more aware in recent years of Sen. Bernie Sanders, and his cast-out-the-money-changers rants against income inequality, corporate greed, and billionaire influence in American politics. But I thought his entrance in the 2016 race was basically a protest move, nothing more. Then came the crowds, and the enthusiasm, which led to more crowds and more enthusiasm, which led to a surge in the polls, especially in New Hampshire and Iowa.
The Sanders surge stirred something within my 56-plus-year-old soul. When I was 9 years old and watched cops assaulting hippies in the streets of Chicago in 1968 — my first true political memory — I knew instinctively that I was on the side of the hippies. And I was sure — in my pre-pre-adolescent naivety — that someone from this surge of Baby Boomers in the American streets would one day lead this nation into an Age of Aquarius, a new era that would advance civil rights and personal freedom while putting the kibosh on foolish wars like Vietnam. But someday never came. The two Baby Boomer presidents turned out to be a Young Republican Yale cheerleader (Bush 2) and a didn’t-inhale, middle-of-the-road triangulator (Clinton 1). The dream went unfulfilled — until Sanders arrived at the end of his 50-plus year odyssey — tousled grey hair, slightly stooped, voice grown hoarse.