Per Bernie Sanders, the 2016 Democratic Convention in Philadelphia could get “messy.” Hmmm. What an eerily appropriate adjective for this year’s presidential campaign. At the same time, what a radically inappropriate adjective for the work that needs to be accomplished by the Democratic Party, by our government, by our country.
As a word, “messy” underscores the disconnect between American politics today and the national and global challenges that need to be addressed.
Messy is what babies are: dirty diapers, spilled milk, projectile vomiting. Messy is what adolescents are: waking up every morning confused about their identity and acting out hormonal surges. Most grown-ups aren’t messy. They clean up after the babies and the adolescents — and themselves.
The challenges we face today aren’t messy; they’re profound: Hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing war and ruin, daily suicide bombing attacks across the globe, the constant threat of terrorism, continued warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, relentless, multifaceted strife in Syria, instability throughout the Middle East, dysfunction within and surrounding Israel, hard-line posturing in Russia and China, hunger in American cities and African countries, a crazy child at the helm in North Korea, the obvious destabilizing effect of income inequality in the U.S. and Europe, racism, sexism, gun violence, nuclear power grabs, and, oh, let’s just throw in the challenges of public education writ large.
“Messy” doesn’t begin to describe it. Instead, “messy” takes us to the lowest common denominator in politics and makes a mockery of the electoral process, as if we have school boys vying for office rather than qualified grown-ups.
Sander’s “messy” also implies a threat — (Wait! Are there two male bullies in the arena?!!) — that if he doesn’t get his way, something, say distasteful, or even violent could happen in Philadelphia because, well, he whines, the system is rigged and Life isn’t Fair. Finish the sentence: . . . and he doesn’t know what to do about it, or about his anger, or about the anger he’s fueled with his so-called movement. This is the unchecked emotion of the adolescent, not the mature judgment of a responsible adult. And if he truly doesn’t know what to do about it, or lacks the will to do anything about it then, let’s be clear here, this is not the leader fit to take on our country’s challenges. Further, “messy” doesn’t begin to describe what might happen to us, to our governance, to our international relations, to our freedoms, if by his antics, Bernie Sanders makes things “messy” enough to allow for the election of Donald Trump.