Bernie Supporters, Don’t Bust
A miasma is descending upon Bernie supporters. In the days since Bernie Sanders’ official conciliation to Hillary Clinton in Philadelphia, and since it became clear that subterfuge within the Democratic Party apparatus had helped to undermine his nomination, the ‘audacious’ hope and passion of a collective voice has started to turn into vinegar. I voted for Bernie Sanders in the primaries. I am disappointed. However, I am not disheartened. We must reject our darker passions and fight on — except we must do so for — and beyond — Hillary Clinton.
The reason we must do so is encapsulated by one important question — “What did we do on the eleventh hour of Reaction?” The word is capitalized because of its significance. Donald Trump represents an attempt to reinstate Robber Baron capitalism, unbridled by the fetters of civil rights, women’s rights, and any organization of labor. And while it is true that Hillary Clinton does not represent progressivism from the perspective of most young social democrats, we can almost all agree that she also does not represent the expeditious deconstruction of over a hundred years of justice earned through the self-sacrifice, blood, sweat, and tears of past generations.
Right now — due to the nature of our political system as it currently stands — we are forced to face a dichotomy: Hillary or Trump. There is no time for a third party candidate. Case in point: Bernie Sanders. His campaign required the united effort of hundreds and thousands of cadres over a year — and still, it failed. Jill Stein does not have a year. Still more, she does not even have the cadre. Further consideration of a third party candidate at this point in time is dissociative fantasy or self-destructive stubbornness.
Here I will entertain a rejoinder: But Hillary is a liar — she is a sneak — she represents the billionaire class — she is an imperialist — she is Jim Crow on a donkey — she is an experienced political opportunist — she represents everything that I have come to despise about traditional politics in the United States, and I can never, ever bring myself to support her on principle. She is the lesser evil — but I cannot give into lesser evil politics. Most indubitably, I must vote my heart or perhaps not vote at all. Instead I will continue to protest and organize.
The problem with the proposition at the center of this line of reasoning, that it is better to abstain from the political process when the candidates do not represent one’s principles, is that it is a rationalization divorced from any empirical consideration of actually existing arrangements of resources and power. When we fight for a principle or a policy, we do so because we intend for it to become material. Advocacy for an idea is advocacy for a set of relations and structures that exist in real time and space. Thus, fighting for the principle of civil rights is fighting for an entire edifice of laws and the right of an actually existing African-American male to not be erased from public life. Fighting for women’s rights is fighting to preserve or build actual structures in 2016 that can provide access to necessary medical care. Religious freedoms — and human rights — mean that Muslims in the United States can freely travel our communal streets and buildings without fear of persecution. Yes, these are principles. More — however — they are objects, they are relations, and they are living things concerning living people. They are a manifold of laws and infrastructure. When we vote for a candidate this is really what we are voting for, not ideas alone nor people.
A vote for Hillary is not a vote for social revolution. This point is trite. But it is indeed a vote for the preservation of the flesh and blood of our principles, as imperfectly as they have been realized, where they have been realized at all. We have many more years of fight left before our society is anything close to being analogous to one that is just. However, this fight will last at least a century longer if we abstain, if not more.
Besides, the premise of this choice, that we must either vote for Hillary or give up on our movement, unlike the dichotomy we are faced with in the presidential race, is a fallacious one. Voting for Hillary and continuing the movement are not mutually exclusive actions. It is perfectly plausible — and favorable — for us to continue to build our movement for a more equitable and just United States while mobilizing individuals to vote the Democratic ticket. In fact, this is a preferable constructive dilemma in the context of our temporary defeat. We can vote for Hillary and possibly stave off the destruction of over a hundred years of progressivism while we also work to make our movement stronger.
That way, God forbid Hillary loses come November, we can still be prepared for the days to come. For — as Bernie well understood and proclaimed during his campaign — his presidency alone was never going to be sufficient for fundamental change. Only a social movement can make what seems impossible possible — and here I paraphrase Hillary Clinton, who is not quite the villain she is supposed. The behavior of all leaders is not only the function of their personal beliefs and character, but it is also a function of our own, that of congress, and that of the political economy of the world.
We cannot permit the miasma to settle. We have not yet lost. The only way we can lose is if we abstain or entertain fantasies. The only way we lose is if we let our hope ferment into vinegar. Bernie helped to awaken so many of us to a world of possibility. He helped to make us active again. He made so many of us believe that justice was possible again. Falling back into electoral alienation is a step back; it is a betrayal of his leadership.
Don’t give up. Vote Hillary. And it that fails, at least we’ll be ready when this eleventh hour ends. Perhaps then at least we will be steeled. Perhaps, then, when Trump does decide to build his wall it isn’t the Mexicans or Muslims that he ends up locking out, but rather, quite to the contrary, that it is he, Donald Trump, who realizes that all he accomplished was to lock himself in with us.
Hence, when asked the question, “What did you do upon that eleventh hour of Reaction?” I only pray that you can answer right. “I’m With Her,” that is what I hope you are able to recall when asked about your vote. And then I hope that you are able to recount everything else you did to exorcise Jim Crow from the veins of our society. Because regardless of what happens in November the fight for economic and social justice does not end.