Even as Bernie Sanders himself has endorsed Hillary Clinton and said he will do everything within his power to aid her electoral efforts, many of his supporters remain insistent that they will never, never vote for Clinton.
This week at the Democratic National Convention, the#NeverHillary crowd interrupted, chanted, and booed over a number of speakers, including Sanders himself. Facebook and other social media have seen their own, less-televised versions of Hillary bashing.
Bernie-or-busters claim they’ll vote for third-party candidates like Jill Stein or Gary Johnston — or that they’ll simply stay home on Election Day altogether.
First, it’s important to note that the #NeverHillary cohort has possibly received more attention than its numbers merit. Though you may not guess it based on the media buzz, 9 out of 10 Sanders supporters say they’ll vote for Clinton.
That fact notwithstanding, Bernie-or-bust has certainly made its discontent heard. But what exactly are they trying to accomplish?
Will insisting on Clinton’s imperfections change the outcome of the Democratic Presidential Primary?
Will it bring the Democratic Party further to the left?
Will it bring progressive change to America?
Let’s consider what will actually accomplish the progressive goals.
The race for Democratic presidential nominee is over. The result cannot be changed. We need to shift our attention to the thousands of races across the country where we still have the chance to elect progressives. This is true not only of the House and Senate, but also for countless state and local elections.
Focusing on electing Sanders — or anyone — to the White House was never enough. His political revolution relied upon us educating ourselves to vote not only in exciting, national races, but also in less glamorous elections.
Instead of remaining laser focused on our qualms with Clinton — which will not evaporate if we simply complain loudly and consistently enough — we should focus on electing a progressive Congress that will pull Clinton and the country to the left.
We should also focus on electing progressives to town councils, state legislatures, school boards, etc. National-level politicians usually do not emerge from thin air. State and local politics are the breeding ground of national politicians and of national political movements.
Some people will dismiss this (and the argument to vote for Clinton) entirely, saying they don’t want to “choose between the lesser of two evils.” I truly mean this out of concern, not of condescension: saying that this election is “choosing between the lesser of two evils” is intellectually lazy and morally immature.
Clinton is certainly less than perfect. From a leftist perspective, it seems fair to assume that under her leadership, the system will be maintained more than it will be improved.
But Donald Trump is a threat not only to the United States’ security, but also to the values of inclusiveness, justice, love, and progressivism itself.
Choosing between Trump and Clinton is not choosing between two evils. It’s choosing between taking an enormous leap backward or a baby step forward.
Clinton has the Mothers of the Movement on stage at the DNC. Trump has encouraged his supporters to violently intimidate, beat up, and eject Black Lives Matter protesters from his rallies. These are hardly two sides of the same coin.
I understand that many Sanders supporters feel angry. I’m angry as well. But we cannot allow our anger to blind us to the battles that lie ahead.
Furthermore, saying that the election was “stolen” from us obscures a very real challenge that progressives have yet to solve: we still haven’t convinced most Americans that they should care about and support a progressive agenda.
Almost 4 million more voters cast a ballot for Clinton than for Sanders. And not even 30 million people voted in the Democratic Primary in the first place — out of approximately 235 million Americans of voting age.
Yes, the Sanders campaign faced obstacles from the political establishment, but some of the blame must also fall on us. Ignoring this face is a disservice to progressivism; we must learn how to convince and energize more of the American public.
If Sanders himself is able to step back and realize that the best way to achieve our goals is to elect Clinton to the White House, surely we can all pause for a moment and consider doing the same.
Sanders’ decision is not a sellout. It’s the decision of a strategic political mind knowing how to best bring the change he wants to see to the country he so loves. The man is no political neophyte (and he’s certainly not prone to “selling out”), so perhaps we should make time for introspection as well.
Yes, Clinton is imperfect. But at some point we need to step back and focus on battles we can win.
Progressivism isn’t about proving your moral purity. It’s about achieving change.
This means sometimes swallowing the bitter pill. It means accepting that change may not come immediately, but continuing to fight — but selectively and intelligently — nonetheless.
The problems facing the United States are complicated. It should come as no surprise that the solutions are as well.