Bernie Or Bust Voters Are Focused On The Past When They Need To Look To The Future
One day into the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, the Bernie or Bust crowd had already, unsurprisingly, stirred up trouble. All night, #NeverHillary attendees booed speakers left and right, booing even Bernie Sanders himself when he endorsed Hillary Clinton in his speech. Sanders even had to text delegates reminders to be respectful and not Bern the place down (which, FYI, most candidates don’t have to do). But Sanders and another speaker, actress, comedian, and passionate Bernie supporter, Sarah Silverman, exposed a pretty yuuge flaw in the Bernie or Bust movement: that it’s selfish, impulsive, and undermines the future to fixate on the past.
In his usual style, Sanders offered the most simple and straightforward of thanks to all his supporters and then wasted no time painting an apocalyptic, yet deeply accurate, picture of exactly what a Donald Trump presidency would look like: anti-choice SCOTUS nominees, ignoring climate change in favor of oil companies, a starvation wage, and, ultimately, the legitimization of bigotry by putting a man who has run on insult after insult toward minorities and women in the highest position in the land. Sanders emphasized the importance of considering the future and fighting for a better, more inclusive one, whether under him or Hillary Clinton — a point Bernie or Bust supporters ignore as they harp on and on about mistakes of Clinton’s past, channeling momentary rage, frustration, and disappointment into one impulsive opposition vote.
It was a direct, pointed message to white, financially well-off, male Bernie Bros, who might love Sanders and resent Clinton so much they can freely and selfishly troll the system and not have to face the same consequences as female and minority Americans under a Trump administration.
Sanders noted the platform created by him and Clinton is “the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party.” But what does this matter if we elect Trump all because the Bernie or Bust crowd can’t get over how Clinton used to oppose gay marriage or voted for the Iraq War or formerly accepted money from private prisons? All terrible things, yes, but irrelevant when the Democratic platform and its $15 minimum wage, expansion of social security, 21st century Glass-Steagall Act, and paths toward universal healthcare and tuition-free public college would never see the light of day under Trump.
And if you think Clinton and the Democratic Party are just making these promises, now, to win over Sanders supporters and have zero intentions of following through, Sanders sees you. “Our job now is to see that platform implemented by a Democratic Senate, a Democratic House, and a Hillary Clinton presidency – and I am going to do everything I can to make that happen,” he said (emphasis added by me) in his Monday speech.
Politicians are constantly put on blast for making promises merely to appeal to voters and then not following through, but at least when it comes to presidential candidates, it’s worth noting breaking campaign promises is very, very rarely a problem. Even if unsuccessful, candidates will always, at the very least, put in substantial effort to see their campaign promises realized.
Clinton is now promising a domestic platform, one that she’s statistically likely to follow through on, that is nearly identical to Sanders’ — in fact, I defy literally any Bernie or Bust voter to point out any substantial difference between Clinton’s current platform and Sanders’, or elaborate on any beef they have with her that is unrelated to the past.
Don’t get me wrong, a lot of frankly terrible policies Clinton has advocated for or voted in favor of are worth calling out and taking into consideration. In many cases, when called out by protesters, she’s acknowledged some of her past decisions were, indeed, mistakes, but failed to provide adequate answers. Just a few examples, off the top of my head, of policies she still struggles to apologize for or rationalize:
- Her advocacy in the 1990s for a “welfare reform” bill that disproportionately affected poor minority women and nearly doubled the number of people living on $2 a day
- Her interventionist foreign policy, which helped decimate Middle Eastern populations and instigate regime changes in Latin America, while secretary of state, to advance U.S. financial interests
- Her support for “tough-on-crime” measures that disproportionately trapped people of color in mass incarceration, while profiting from private prisons
- Her position in the 2000s on the board of Walmart while it waged war on labor unions
- Her opposition to increasing the minimum wage for Haitian factory workers to $5 a day while she was secretary of state
Yes, it’s important to continue to demand answers for Clinton’s track record. But merely judging someone for past mistakes and not taking into account how they respond to being pushed — sometimes gently, sometimes aggressively (as Clinton has been by the Sanders camp) —to be the best possible version of themselves.
In Clinton’s case, while it could easily be argued that her concessions to Sanders are really just blatant pandering to win over those darned stubborn socialists, or that she won’t actually fight for these tuition-free public college and public health proposals to be implemented while in office, here’s a couple things to think about. Whatever your personal opinions of Clinton, and in spite of all of the undeniably shady things she’s done in the past, she is a public servant in a nice little system known as democracy, and as Sarah Silverman pointed out last night, “the beauty of democracy” is its roots in listening to the will of the people and adopting it in your policies, which Clinton undeniably did for Sanders’ supporters.
So you could go on calling Clinton’s policy changes “pandering” all you like, but, would you rather she didn’t change her policies and adopt a more progressive platform? Would you rather her not be receptive to the values and demands of Sanders’ supporters and just ignore and shut them out of the dialogue?
Ultimately, why is it so hard to believe that, in communicating and working with Sanders, Clinton is able to see the reason and necessity in his economic goals? The vast majority of economists found Sanders’ tax plan would raise trillions, while also saving the average American thousands in terms of benefits from healthcare and access to public education. Why is it so crazy that she sees how the present, hugely unequal distribution of wealth is literally going to screw over all of us, herself included, at the rate it’s growing and wants to do something about it? That she believes people working 40 hours a week and still starving is a human rights issue? That investing in health and education is not only the humane, but the economically efficient thing to do?
Case in point: objectively speaking, Sanders’ policies really would spur economic growth and benefit all of us by addressing vast inequality. Clinton is highly intelligent and capable, and it’s not difficult for me to believe that she understands this. Realistically, she’d probably like to see the economy grow under her as president, so why is it so hard to believe she’d take on Sanders’ economic plans, if for no other reason than that?
Bernie or Bust supporters’ refusal to support Clinton stems from her past, and it’s time to look instead at what she’s advocating for now and all that the future could potentially hold, for better or for much, much worse under Trump. At a Tuesday breakfast, Sanders couldn’t have said it better when he told his stubborn supporters: “It’s easy to boo, but it is harder to look your kids in the face who would be living under a Donald Trump presidency.” From his very first speech officially endorsing Clinton earlier this month, Sanders has made it clear he has no more interest in talking about the past, and is ready “to focus on the future,” which “will be shaped more by what happens on Nov. 8 in voting booths across our nation than by any other event in the world.”
I voted for the first time for Bernie Sanders in June after a year of devotedly following his every move, seizing every opportunity to write about him, *ugly sobbing* as I binge-watched every video I could find of him from the ’90s or early 2000s passionately advocating for all the beautiful, progressive causes he’s still fighting for today, and reading every op-ed by him on gay rights, civil rights, women’s rights, and economic justice from the ’60s and ’70s. He has a beautiful history of struggle and progressiveness that Clinton’s lifetime of economic privilege and noted centrism can’t exactly match.
I feel the pain of fellow Sanders supporters, and agree with Vice President Joe Biden, who told CNN on Tuesday, “We have to show a little class and let them be frustrated for a while. It’s OK.”
But for the political revolution to truly live on, we have to remember the single, most important principle of Sanders’ campaign, which is that, as he said Monday night, “We become stronger when black and white, Latino, Asian-American, Native American – all of us – stand together,” unite, and work to create a future to believe in. And I defy any Bernie or Bust voter to explain to me how we could achieve “a future to believe in” under a President Trump.