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16 people who shaped the 2016 election: Isaac Saul

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By Nov. 9, the votes will have been cast and counted, there will be a winner and a loser, and the country will begin a slow return to normal. Historians will have their say on the outcome, but all of us who have lived through this election will carry away indelible memories of a shocking year in American history: of a handful of ordinary people, swept up in the rush of history; of a series of moments on which the fate of the nation seemed, at least briefly, to turn; and of places on the map that became symbols of a divided nation. As we count down to Election Day, Yahoo News has identified 16 unforgettable people, moments and places.
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Isaac Saul did not actually invent the term “Berniebro” to refer to a certain strain of Sanders supporters, mostly young men making the thrilling discovery that politics can lend itself to just as much exuberance and passion, bordering on obnoxiousness, as sports or music. That distinction appears to belong to a writer for the Atlantic named Robinson Meyer, who coined the word in an essay in October 2015 and who later regretted how its meaning had shifted to imply a kind of boorish sexism directed against Hillary Clinton.

But Saul, a reporter and columnist at A Plus, was perhaps the most outspoken of the breed, the author of a widely shared Huffington Post essay in February whose mixture of defensiveness and provocation was captured by its title, “I Despise Hillary Clinton, and It Has Nothing to Do With Her Gender.”

“Even putting aside the Clinton ties to Wall Street and her embarrassingly destructive policies for poor people and the shrinking middle class, my No.1 fear … is that we’re putting in another War Hawk, someone even worse than Obama,” he wrote in a typical passage. “Her language, her willingness to speak about killing more people we have no business killing, is reprehensible to us beyond forgiving.”

Well, as of Sept. 28, he forgave her.

His second essay didn’t specifically retract the criticisms of his earlier piece but put them into the perspective of her long career, her many concrete achievements for progressive change, and a sweeping pronouncement that “Hillary Clinton is the most qualified person to ever run for president.”

“All this work, and what did Clinton get? She got an actual smug, young journalist named Isaac Saul writing about how I despised her, when I hardly knew the depth of her accomplishments, when I was clinging to the pipe dream of a Bernie Sanders presidency that may have never been in the cards, when my own father got ignored while he tried his best to talk some sense into me.”

He didn’t say what arguments his father used, but he might have been remembering 1968, when the Berniebros of the day rallied around the antiwar candidate Eugene McCarthy, to the detriment of the eventual Democratic nominee, Hubert Humphrey, a liberal stalwart for 20 years and an authentic hero of the civil-rights movement.

Issac Saul poses for a photo outside his office in New York City.
Issac Saul poses for a photo outside his office in New York City. (Photo: Gordon Donovan/Yahoo News)

“People harp on her for political expediency,” Saul told Yahoo News’ Gabby Kaufman, with the hard-won wisdom that comes from being a half year older than he was in February. “It’s odd to me. That’s her job, to represent the party.”

Of the diehard Sanders fans, he said, “I hope they recognize, and specifically my generation, [which] is as liberal and progressive as any generation has ever been. We have the most progressive platform ever in the history of the party on the ballot this year… If they are as loyal to Bernie Sanders as they claim to be, they’ll listen to him when he says we have the most progressive platform ever in the history of the party” — one, he adds, that was drafted with input from progressive idols such as Cornel West.

And someday perhaps he can tell his own kids about how he made the right choice back in 2016, avoiding a repetition of the mistakes of 1968. The winner that year, of course, was Richard Nixon. — By Jerry Adler

A previous version of this post identified Isaac Saul as a freelance writer and blogger. He is a columnist and reporter at A Plus.

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