I’m from Philly. Being from Philly, I’ve always been inundated with Ben Franklin’s visage. The guy was probably the closest thing we had to an American Da Vinci, he had a hand in everything. He was the original capitalist businessman, the wacky inventor, the cunning politico. When it comes to the Founding Fathers, he still had his sins. Yet while we pick apart the legacies of Washington and Jefferson, Franklin seems the cleanest when compared to their screw ups.
I see a lot of people using his quote that our government is, “A republic, if you can keep it.” Well and good, and perfectly valid for our time. What we need to remember is that Franklin was also a stone-cold pragmatist. To me, this is nowhere better exemplified than his mission to the French. Franklin surmised the mindset of the French court and played to it. He cast himself the rustic, witty American in coonskin. He wheeled through the salons of Versailles at night like a master. While John Adams tried to batter down the court’s walls Franklin had already slipped inside their hearts and, importantly, their armories.
Two pieces of media capture this side of Franklin perfectly. In John Adams, Franklin is taken aside by Adams and asked why the opposition to Adams on a motion. “Politics is the art of the possible,” Franklin says. “The motion was carried with or without you. What did you gain by opposing it?” Later, in France, Franklin has to drag a livid John Adams away from nearly exploding at Louis XVI for spending the day sporting. When Adams fires that his forward action achieved independence in Philadelphia, Franklin fires back that, “In Philadelphia we negotiated independence!” That is an absolute truth we have buried in our history. Independence was never a promise or guarantee. It was a terrifying prospect that cost 160,000~ lives to achieve. If it had failed, it would’ve been another rebellion against Britain that only got the perpetrators hung or shot.
The other, interestingly also involving Adams, is 1776. While pithy and light as a musical, it does show Franklin’s focus. After the entire Southern delegation walks out after the harsh Molasses to Rum (Accurately pointing out that all America was complicit in the slave trade), Adams tries again to force a vote on Independence without the South. Franklin fires back at Adams that they can’t fight for Independence and fight the South on slavery. “The issue here is independence! Perhaps you've forgotten that fact, but I have not.” Franklin barks. Later, at the signing of the declaration, Franklin again speaks.
“That's probably true,but we won't hear a thing. We'll be long gone. Besides, what will posterity think we were? Demigods? We're men, no more, no less,trying to get a nation started against greater odds than a more generous God would have allowed. First things first, John. Independence. America. If we don't secure that,what difference will the rest make?”
Even if those were not Franklin’s exact words, knowing that he was an opponent of slavery after adds great context. You can even heard in the delivery of that scene the pain in Howard Da Silva’s voice. He knows what needs to be done, even if it kills him to do it. Because if it isn’t done, then nothing after matters.
Why do I mention this? Why bring up Ben now? Because it’s primary time people.
I voted for Bernie in the primary, but when he fell out I refocused for Hillary. Why? Because I saw what Trump was. We all did. Was I pissed when I found out that there was harsh gamesmanship against Bernie? (I’m trying to be somewhat polite here.) Hell yes I was. Did that make me pissed enough to split the vote? No, because politics is the art of the possible.
We all want to back the winning horse. We all want to believe that our support has a factor in a victory. I’m gonna be blunt: Sometimes your best isn’t enough. Shifting gears, remember the Simpsons episode Bart Gets an F? God I’m showing my age with this one aren’t I. Basically, Bart tries to actually pass a history test. He studies, he stops pranking Homer and Moe. He does everything right, and he still fails. Fittingly, it’s a test of American history. While the episode does have a bittersweet ending, the fact is that Bart still failed despite doing everything right.
Whoever wins the final nomination, we have to face facts. Whoever we might primary for can lose. Whoever is left is the Dem nominee. Whoever gets the nom is against straight-up fascism. We’re beyond the idea that maybe things will get better with time in office. There’s no more hemming and hawing about civility with the other side, not when the evidence is in on what they want. They’ll gladly go marching lock-step to Hell if it means they don’t have to share with anyone that doesn’t have the same melanin count as they do.
Bernie might be too left for you. Biden might be too hidebound for you. Warren’s plans might not be realistic enough for you. Those are the three front-running candidates. One of them will get the spot and we’ll need to organize for a fight. People in our own country are being primed to see us as sub-human, as an existential threat to America. Because we want people to get access to health care. Because we believe that sleeping in a bed at night shouldn’t depend on your bank account. Because we have the gall to challenge how things have “always been done”.
Like Franklin, the Dead Kennedys realized that sometimes there are bigger problems to face. One of their earliest songs was California Uber Alles, targeted at then-governor Jerry Brown. It wasn’t until Reagan that the band realized that there were bigger problems that were out there. So this last bit? It’s directed at you. Yes, you. You’ll know who you are.
Quit your bitching that you aren’t getting exactly what you want right now. We’ve got fascists running the government and trying to destroy the last fig leaves that protect us. You don’t like the candidate that eventually gets the nomination? Hell, I might not like’em either. We don’t know who that is yet. What we do know is who they’ll be up against. What they’ll be up against.
If I actually got to any of you, I’ll be thankful. If I wound up offending you, well I’ve never been very tactful. We’re about to be put up against the walls, and people are still arguing with each other on Medicare for All. The primary issue at hand people. The elections, retaking DC. Then we can beat each other silly as much as we want as long as we aren’t in Goddamn camps.
We must hang together, or it won’t just be hanging they’ll do to us separately.