Clippings: ‘Same great taste’ for election cycle

As someone who is usually up and productive by 8:30 on the weekends, I detest brunch. I find it a habit of sloth, and no amount of mimosas or feta and spinach omelets will change my conviction.
That said, circumstances can direct me to compromise, and when I made a weekend trip to New York City last month, I found myself in a vegan café in Greenwich Village, waiting on an order of cheese-free macaroni and cheese. My discomfort was amplified when the conversation turned to the presidential election. Since this was New York, bastion of bleeding-heart liberal-dom, most of the discussion was lighthearted banter about the Republican clown car making its way around the country.
However, I noted the obvious tones of skepticism and disdain toward the senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders. They didn’t like his ideas, his supporters and even thought his hair (his hair!) to be suspect. Sure, they all identified solidly on the left of the political spectrum, but a socialist? I just don’t know, was the prevailing opinion. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton, appointed darling of the Democratic Party, got a free pass given her experience as first lady, senator, secretary of state and champion philanthropist.
While my initial impulse was to order a bloody Mary with the instructions to hold the tomato juice, my better judgment invited a few moments of contemplation.
The foliage on the political landscape is at its peak. Election season is a time of high drama and the theatrics have been thrown into sharp relief. In one corner, Republicans are screaming about making America great again by regulating uteruses (not guns), reducing Tehran to a glass parking lot and letting the invisible hand of the free market bring us all into a brighter tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the Clinton camp has provided me with exactly what I expected and I’m forced to admit there’s nothing wrong with that. The Democratic frontrunner performs consistently, is graceful under pressure and her apparatchiks have appropriately positioned her as a sequel to the Obama administration. Something similar to the marketing quip, “New look, same great taste.”
On both sides, candidates claim to talk about the issues of deep importance, the issues Americans really care about. But for the record, here’s a partial list of my priorities:
I am upset that the 500 largest American companies hold more than $2.1 trillion in tax-free havens overseas to avoid paying $650 billion that might go to work for the taxpayers who have bailed them out.
I am concerned about a system of extrajudicial assassination via drone as a means of foreign policy, which has only seen dramatic expansion during this current president’s administration.
I am angered that a woman’s access to vital medical care can depend not on a conversation between her and her doctor, but one between her employer and his priest.
I am outraged that a standard of care for treating a life-threatening parasitic infection can be allowed to increase from $13.50 per tablet to $750 overnight.
I am frustrated by the irreversible harm done to the environment and the efforts of the fossil fuel industry to cover their tracks through campaign contributions and lobbying efforts. 
I don’t care for a recap of how stances on gun control, abortion or same-sex marriage have gracefully “evolved” over years to align with public opinion the same way I do not care to sit through a screed about a deep and passionate love for Jesus.
I’m tired of the millions of dollars in speaking fees, book royalties, Super PAC donations and the rhetorical gymnastics needed to justify it all.
Call me cynical, but from my window, I see the Clintons the same way I see the Bush league and every other political dynasty: full of self-righteousness, rank with entitlement and burgeoning with wealth. The rest are carnival barkers and bomb-throwers hawking rose-hued fantasies of Reagan or stoking the fires of xenophobic fear and loathing.
I’ve been following Bernie’s progress since his days in Congress to his position as serious Democratic contender, and who knows, maybe his bid will be for naught. But until he bows out, I can appreciate a candidate willing to point out the issues disgruntled folks like me care about. And until Anderson Cooper broaches these subjects at the next glad-handing Democratic debate, I’m surprised that people my age would suggest throwing myself behind someone who represents the very continuation of these trends.
To quote a favorite movie, I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.
I was thinking this when my order arrived, a steaming plate of noodles baked in a soy-derived sauce meant to mimic the taste and texture of cheddar cheese. My companions suddenly turned their attention to me, the only Vermonter at the table.
“So what do you think, Evan?”
I took a bite, chewed and smiled.
“Same great taste,” I said. 

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