I’ve spent a whole lot of time in my life working with and supervising volunteers. Volunteers are some of the greatest people in the world. They are enthusiastic; they are often very talented; they love what they do – which is why they do it. Did I mention that they are enthusiastic? But I hate working with volunteers. They’re so… unprofessional and … enthusiastic.
Volunteers are trained to various degrees. Some have been through rigorous programs and really know their stuff. I like to call these guys “unpaid professionals.” Many volunteers have some training, but not nearly enough for what they are expected to do. They’re like a Golden Retriever who will fetch the ball the first time but then refuse to let go of it so you can throw it again. You know, so neither one of you can do what you’re supposed to? I like to call these guys “volunteers.” And then there are the ones who watch you throw the ball and go looking for a squirrel. I call these folks as a last resort.
Fans are an altogether different breed. While there are some restraints on volunteers, fans come naked and completely unleashed. They aren’t enthusiastic, they’re crazy. They scream and yell, tear down goal posts, riot in the street, and otherwise show “support” for whomever or whatever they became fans to support. They are like puppies who just can’t find the newspaper even when you spread it wall to wall. I really, really hate fans.
So here’s Bernie Sanders, committed to not accepting money from the 1%, and trying to run a national campaign with volunteers.
And here’s me, thinking I might really like to see this man succeed.
But then I realize he’s relying on volunteers.
And I keep seeing all this stuff his fans are putting up on social media.
The national media is telling me that he can’t win – and they say it’s because he’s socialist Jew who doesn’t have minority support or appeal outside of the progressive left. If I were a conspiracy theory sort of person I might wonder if it doesn’t have more to do with the fact that most of the national media is owned by just a few old rich guys who certainly don’t want Sanders to be mentioned, let alone followed too closely.
Bernie Sanders has over a year to overcome the labels that have been plastered across his forehead and to introduce himself to the minorities who will love him. He can do that. Whether he can overcome volunteers and fans remains to be seen.
Personally, I think you are always letting yourself in for a world of hurt when you volunteer. I operate on the theory that there are only two good reasons to volunteer. The first is that there is no one else. If not you, no one. The second reason is that you know that the person who will do the job if you don’t will be a total disaster and you can’t afford disaster.
So far as I can tell, there should be no dearth of volunteers for the Sanders campaign. If the size of his rallies and the social media strength of his fans is any indication, there should be plenty of people willing to take up the volunteer mantle for Sanders. But I’m a little worried about the quality of the volunteers he’s going to get, particularly if he is drawing those volunteers from the fan base, and it would make sense that he would.
With just a little more help from the “fans” I have seen posting on Facebook and other social media, Bernie’s candidacy should be over by Iowa. If this is the volunteer pool, Bernie’s got problems.
Please don’t misunderstand. This has nothing to do with Senator Sanders, his policies, or his official campaign. But his fans are killing him.
Have I mentioned that fans are like an unleashed puppy, free to frolic and jump at you and to spread love wherever they go and to pee on your leg?
If I see one more Facebook post that says “Feel the Bern,” I’m going to say a discouraging word.
But the problem really isn’t the enthusiasm. That can be a positive thing. The problem is that it is unleashed and unbridled and that it taps into the social media norms which have been established that run counter to what the official Sanders campaign is trying to do.
At the extreme of these fan phenomena is a group who has made it clear that Bernie Sanders is the only candidate that they can support. No matter who gets the eventual Democratic nomination, these people seem to be loudly proclaiming that they will only support Bernie. So if he doesn’t get the nomination they will either write him in or just not vote. And they are not saying it softly in the background. It’s all over my FB feed.
This is suicide on two levels. The stakes in this election are too damn high for this nonsense. There are two, maybe three Supreme Court seats at stake here as well as the presidency. Anyone who claims to understand American politics today should not be talking about doing anything that increases the possibility of a Republican win in 2016.
On another level this sort of talk feeds into the idea that Sanders can’t win in the general election. If you’re a moderate thinking you might support him and see that his own fans would torpedo the Democratic candidate if it is not Sanders, why would you throw in with them to support him? Sanders has enough to overcome to get the nomination – name recognition, the socialist label, the predominantly white following to this point – he doesn’t need this.
There is another whole group of fans who don’t go quite that far, but who practice the score-one-for-my-side war of personal attack memes. They post exactly the same anti-Hillary memes as the conservatives do, stuff that is usually untrue and always personal. And then they add “Feel the Bern!” Like that makes it all better. Apparently these folks didn’t get the message from the Sanders campaign that he isn’t going negative. They haven’t managed to latch on to the idea that this isn’t about personalities, it’s about issues.
They leave themselves wide open to someone like me coming in and saying something like, “Issues hard… me like hockey!” (Yes, that’s an Arrogant Wyrms reference.)
And all of those current Hillary supporters who need to become Sanders supporters either before he gets the nomination or after he gets the nomination – and that’s ALL Hillary supporters, how are they supposed to react to these attacks by fellow Democrats?
If you really want Bernie Sanders for president, you have to stop this shit now.
I’m working on a new possibility for why one might volunteer. Maybe it isn’t just that there aren’t any people to do the job, or that the ones that do exist aren’t professional enough. Maybe there just needs to be a whole lot more volunteers to clean up after all the peeing puppies. Bring a big sponge and see you later.
Your Humble Servant,
Roger A. Shipley, The Willowbrook Curmudgeon