Hugh Brownstone will be attending the protests around the convention. Hugh is a screenwriter and blogger. He lives in Willistown, Chester County, with his fiancé, her son and a dog. He is the father of two grown daughters, one living in Denver, and the other living in Seattle.
DocJess: You ran to be a delegate, what was that like?
Hugh Brownstone: It was eye-opening, hard, arcane, rewarding. I didn’t know that every candidate at every level seeking office has to gather a certain number of signatures to be placed on a ballot, incumbent or not. We went door-to-door, we hosted petition signing events, we made phone calls – all in just three weeks (we needed 250 legitimate signatures and ended up with more than 500). I – we, because we were a small team — learned that each registered voter had to sign his or her name and address exactly as they appear on their voter registration, they had to be registered by a certain date, and each petition had to be properly notarized. With all of that, it was lovely to chat with people living just a block or two away who I’d never met before. It was especially rewarding to meet like-minded people, many through the Bernie campaign itself. In the end, it didn’t feel like it was me running for delegate so much as “we.”
DJ: What made you want to be a Sanders delegate?
HB: I’d never heard of Bernie Sanders before he announced his candidacy. Watching him announce was like hearing the Beatles for the first time: I knew I was witness to something extraordinary. I did my research and realized Bernie is a once-in-a-lifetime politician, precisely who we need at this moment. After that, running for delegate became simply the next step in a series of opportunities to say “yes,” another action I could take so that years from now I wouldn’t turn around and say “I knew what was happening, but didn’t do enough.”
I’d gone door to door for Hillary in 2008, and then phone-banked for Obama that same year. I’d always voted, but that was the sum total of my political involvement. 2016 is different. I wanted to show up and be counted. You know the saying “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing?” I didn’t want to be a good man doing nothing. I didn’t want to be part of the problem, so I had to be part of the solution. It wasn’t really about being a delegate. I just wanted to do everything I could to support Bernie
DJ: You say that you supported Hillary Clinton in 2008, what changed?
HB: I changed. The world changed. I’m not sure if she did or didn’t.
Back in ’08, I was convinced she was more qualified than Obama. But now I also know the distance from being a one-percenter to being on Medicaid, having lived both lives. Her apparently evolving positions on LGBQT rights, the TPP, minimum wage, and the waging of war without sufficient planning for peace are examples of being a follower, not a leader. And you can’t look at Hillary and say her husband’s track record is no indication of her own positions – she’s on record about them. Bill’s signing into law NAFTA, CAFTA, the repeal of Glass-Steagall, and his role in accelerating the privatization of the prison industry by passing the 1994 Violent Crime Control Act have led to demonstrably terrible results. The influence of his politics on hers (she continues to assert, for example that Dodd-Frank is sufficient when she knows better) is not what we need.
What I now believe is that she is the most qualified candidate to operate the levers of establishment power and play the current game. That’s not what we need. I think too many of her decisions and positions are calculations rather than convictions. I don’t think speaking truth to power on behalf of the people she purports to represent is high on her list.
DJ: So how to did you come to support Bernie Sanders?
Bernie Sanders is so clear, so consistent, and so right about so many things: the political process, our current version of capitalism, the current state of our press. His positions on that process, on income inequality, healthcare for all, the cost of education, the quality of our infrastructure, and the impact of the trade agreements on American workers resonated especially for me. I don’t agree with everything he says nor how he says it, but it’s pretty darned close.
DJ: Will you vote for Hillary in the fall if she’s the candidate?
HB: I will. But I want to be precise about this. It’s not about voting for Hillary. With Bernie throwing his support behind her, I no longer have the option of voting for him. I will vote for the Democratic nominee as the alternative to Trump.
I promised my daughters – they were very vocal about this, even as they were both for Bernie — that I’d vote “Clinton” if I had to. What makes it easier for me is the knowledge that if no candidate in the general election receives a majority of the votes – much more likely in a three-way race – the House elects the president. Given who controls the House, I refuse to contribute to that scenario and with it the choice for the next several Supreme Court justices.
DJ: So you’ll be at the protests?
HB: Yes. If Clinton is elected, she and the establishment she represents need to recognize that they don’t have a mandate to continue business as usual. They need to earn the trust of voters irrespective of political party affiliation, and that will be based on what they do, not what they say.
We have an opportunity to hold the largest, most peaceful and considered protest in recent history. We have the opportunity to channel righteous anger into righteous behavior. We don’t need to yell. We just have to show up.
DJ: Do you have political plans past this election?
HB: The 2016 election cycle for candidates down-ballot from the president is already lost (I hadn’t even heard of the term “down ballot” until I got involved because of Bernie). But mid-term elections are only two years away, and every one of the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 33 of the 100 seats of the U.S. Senate will be up for grabs. I used to think you had to be a little bit crazy to be a politician; now I think you have to be a little bit crazy to leave politics to the people who are already there. We need to retake the government from those who only serve themselves, those who use the politics of division, obfuscation and fear to keep us down. “Of the people, by the people and for the people,” remember?
There are millions of us who do, and I plan to stay part of the solution.
I owe that to my children.