An Open Letter to Bernie Sanders and his Campaign
I’ve supported you in the past. Signed your petitions. Donated to your causes. I’ve been Feeling the Bern for longer than many of your current supporters have been voting. I support more of your policy proposals than Clinton’s. But I’m not going to vote for you tomorrow. I’m going to vote against you. I’m voting for Hillary, but I’m also voting against you. Care to know why?
For my entire lifetime, the Republican party has been consistently anti-science and proudly anti-intellectual. I’ve watched as they’ve steadily drummed out anyone with an semblance of expertise or with a desire for informed debate. It should’ve been obvious that only one party was sitting at the grown-ups table when it took a united Democratic Congress and White House to cram Bob Dole’s health plan through stiff opposition. Now it’s culminated in the circus sideshow known as Donald Trump.
Yes, the Democratic party has its problems. Corruption and cynicism do exist, but it’s ultimately a place where people with differing viewpoints could battle it out and come to a compromise that’s typically based on evidence.
But your supporters have displayed an utter disdain for facts that I haven’t seen since … well, since the Republican debates. And, far from the integrity you’ve shown over the last three decades, you’ve spent the last three months not disavowing them, but fanning the flames.
“Disenfranchisement” … Vote fraud in Arizona … Really? I know some of your supporters might have been unaware of the numerous news stories about voter ID laws, but you know better. You know very well that the Democratic “establishment,” for all its flaws, has been fighting against that sort of thing tooth and nail for quite some time. “Super-delegates” … Conveniently leaving out the bit that you’re down by 23% even without them? “Southern Democrats Don’t Count as Much.” You’re really going to let your campaign say that? Really???
It’s one thing to encourage your supporters. You do still have a shot at winning. And there is a strong argument for reforming the Democratic party’s primary system. (Caucuses aren’t exactly pure democracy, either, but you’re winning those, so shhhh) There is a universe in which a candidate wins the popular vote, but gets shot down by party elites, but we’re not living in that universe. You’re not being cheated, you’re just. not. getting. the. votes.
Financial and campaign finance reform. I’m putting these together because you love to. There is a legitimate debate about whether the best way to prevent the next crisis is “bust up the banks and put bankers in jail” or “increased capital controls pertaining to item number XIV in subsection B of paragraph 47…” Most of the experts, including the liberal ones, agree with Hillary. They’re not all taking bribes. You’ve hit her so hard with this, I’d bet that most of your supporters don’t even remember that Citizens United … was over a movie attacking her.
Her vote for the Iraq war disqualifies her from being president. “Disqualifies?” Really? I was always against the war in Iraq. But the vast majority of Americans supported it. They were wrong, but they weren’t all monsters. The demand for purity isn’t a sign of integrity, it’s … puritanical. There are 320 million people in this country; we can’t all go around believing that anyone who disagrees with us on one or two issues is our enemy. Some on the left let themselves believe in 2000 that the Democrats and Republicans were just two sides of the same coin. I’d like to think that we’ve learned our lesson.
Thus far, I’ve only been talking about you and your official campaign. I haven’t even mentioned your more outlandish supporters, including the ones who doctor images of Pentagon documents or have even gone as far to accuse Hillary of being the architect of 9/11. You didn’t make those accusations, but, if you’re to be the leader of a movement, you have to take a certain responsibility for what it does and says, especially when it’s just taking your words to their logical conclusions. Sometimes integrity isn’t just about what you’re saying, but what you’re allowing others to say for you, and about what you’re not saying. The ends do not justify the means, especially when the ends are supposed to be “integrity” and “fairness”.
I’d expect these lines of attacks on Hillary from the Republicans (after all, I’ve seen 20 years’ worth of them), but not from a Democrat. You’re right to take on the Democratic establishment — it’s got a lot of problems — but right now your movement has devolved and is endangering one of the things that sets it apart from the Republican party: the ability for grown-ups to civilly disagree, and make evidence-based policy decisions. A lot of people out there think you’re just the left-wing version of Donald Trump. Prove them wrong.