The night of the Iowa Caucus, standing in the registration line, I watched my 22 year-old son come in from the cold. Black boots, knit cap pointed, black jacket, beard. My hipster boy. I had barraged him in the middle of his college studies with Hillary things – speeches, articles, truths – and wasn’t sure he had read them, or he had decided to caucus for. His younger brother was full frontal Bernie – the whole cliché supporter – 20 years-old, second year in college at the University of Minnesota. Theater major. He had always been my political partner – we campaigned for Gore, protested Bush, his first President in person was Bill Clinton. He even hugged Howard Dean during a press conference. This is the son who fell to his knees when he was four upon seeing the congressional floor on a tour of the State Capitol. Needless to say we hadn’t been to any church all that much, but he wasn’t confused. He loved politics that much. It awed him.
It had awed me, too, entering elementary school during the Nixon administration. We Minneapolis Kenwood kids were all democrats because all of our parents were democrats so we’d chant at recess, “McGovern McGovern he’s our man, Nixon belongs in the garbage can!” Once Watergate hit, we’d write “Impeach Nixon!” all over our neighborhood. So he got the bug from me. Truth. Democrat. Lies. Republican. Wasn’t that hard. Just black and white, easy peasy.
I knew I was losing political grip on my boys when they both jumped the Hillary ship to cling to Obama eight years ago. I was somewhat mad. No, I was really pissed off. I had been campaigning my ass off for her, after all. Hey, kids, we have a really good woman here! Um, operative word – WOMAN. But they liked Obama and they were right. He’s been a smart and diligent president, low key, high and hard worker, funny as hell and when he sings Al Green you get all funny in the knees. Can’t say that about Bernie. Or Hillary for that matter. I will give you that.
They are really smart sons, mine are. IB diplomas, global awareness. Cole at the Caucus just graduated Magna Cum Laude. They had their own minds. Which was bothering me. Smart and independent thinkers, raised by a feminist, should be a no brainer this time around.
“But Hillary is paid to speak to Wall Street. Millions of dollars! She has no idea how the rest of us live,” Sam spouted back at me during one of our phone battles.
“First of all, kid, Hillary was born poor, just like Bill. Whatever they have now, they worked their asses off for.” Perhaps asses wasn’t the best word choice – but I went on. “And the money she gets from these banks goes to other democratic campaigns, to Bill’s charity. To other charities. Plus,” my voice rose as it always does here at this point. My son who has had it so hard in life. “You are a white man in college, well known in the theater communities – you have a future. You and Susan Sarandon will be just fine no matter who is president.”
“Don’t say white privilege again.”
“Don’t you believe Bernie is the party of white privilege?”
“No! Of course not. People are tired of big banks and college tuition and not having access to universal health care.”
“Pretty sure most of his supporters bank with these big banks and have healthcare.”
“Why do you say that?” He’s mad. Incredulous. Like this is our first rodeo.
“Because they are all white and beat Hillary at income brackets from $50,000 to $150,000.”
“Where are you getting these statistics? The Enquirer?”
“Ha Ha. No, I am looking at the Wall Street Journal demographics.”
“Well you can’t believe the Wall Street Journal. They lie.”
“Pretty sure they can’t really do that and get away with it, Sam. Plus how do you think he will be able to offer free tuition to college to millions? How?”
“He’ll make Wall Street pay for it.”
“How? What are his plans for that?”
Silence. Gotcha – my little spawn. “He is going to break the too big to break banks down.”
“And you do realize that your father is paying your tuition by working at one of these banks, right? That’s not white privilege?”
“Wells Fargo isn’t a big bank.”
And there you go – a slice of our past arguments because we don’t argue anymore. We simply have stopped talking.
But I had thought I had a chance with Cole. My Magna Cum Hipster – my artistic, brilliant minded golden boy. (The moniker ripped from Sam the first time he said Bernie while his pupils spun counter clockwise.)
I watched Cole look for us and in those few seconds chose to ignore him. Let him do his own thing, because, after all, that what America is supposed to be about, right? Mothers cutting the political apron strings, letting their offspring decide important things like presidents all on their own. I would ignore him to the point it was so obvious he might feel bad and hop the couple of rows from Bernie’s people to ours. Because motherhood beats America every time.
I saw him see us from the corner of my eye as I stood straight looking at the crazy mess of hair on the woman in front of me. She had Bernie stickers all over her Bernie tee-shirt. Go figure. I wanted to wack her over the head. Because when your state goes first, you have had enough of the other side by Caucus time.
“Hey, Mom.” It was Cole, the son I was unsure of. He was in my ear. I pursed my lips.
“Did you get your Bernie sticker?”
“I am here to caucus for Hillary, Mom.”
He could have told me he had just been elected president himself and I wouldn’t have been any prouder. I actually screeched. And then cried. People stared. I didn’t care. My cool college student white son used his smart smart brain and refused to fall into the Bernie La La Land of pandering like all of his peers. He was his own man. He told me he researched and read and made the decision that Hillary Clinton had the most experience and was best suited to lead our country.
“Besides, she rocks.”
“Yes, she does. Yes, she does.” And I wept.