The Time Has Come for the Democratic Party to Reunite. Here Is How They Should Do It.
I should begin by stating that I am unabashedly a die-hard Bernie Sanders supporter. Multiple campaign bumper stickers adorn the back of my car. His name is often sprawled across my chest. I have spent many a Saturday morning phone banking in his honor, and nothing recently has been more joyful than the discussions I’ve had with undecided voters in Nevada and Iowa, whom after having an impassioned and respectful conversation, decided that they too felt the Bern because of something I was able to articulate. I may have even terrified Robert Reich, with whom I am lucky to share a regular breakfast spot, when I held back tears while introducing myself and telling him how thankful I was for his brilliant voice of reason and genius mind thus far in the election cycle.
I am a fairly young, purple haired, sometimes vegan, Birkenstock wearing, Berkeley raised, left of left socialist and third-wave feminist who has spent the majority of my adult career working with, and educating low-income and homeless youth. So it really should come as no surprise that Bernie Sanders is the candidate who best represents my views, and who most clearly describes an America I would feel proud to live in. Even so, he is not the perfect candidate for me. We disagree on gun control, and my thoughts on how to best make higher education a debt free experience while keeping the integrity of our public universities as top tier research institutions are a bit more complex than his completely free stance, but his views easily mirror my own more closely than Hillary Clinton’s. He is the more progressive candidate. I trust his record and his authenticity. I choose him to speak for me.
So it is with great sorrow that I have to admit to myself that he will not be the Democratic candidate for president. It makes me cringe to even have to type this, but it is the truth. Which means the time has come to reunite the party, to stop pitting Sanders against Clinton, and to unify ourselves against what is a truly horrifying set of Republican contenders for President. We must not be a fractured Party come election day.
Sanders faced an extreme uphill battle from the beginning, and he has done better than any single poll predicted that he could. Unlike any other candidate for president, his campaign has not accepted money from a super PAC. His funds are solely sourced from single contributors organized through his grassroots campaign. He has raised more money than anyone thought possible, and from more donors than any single candidate for president ever has. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (current DNC chair and former co-chair of Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2008) created a primary debate schedule that intentionally kept every candidate who was not already established (aka, everyone but Clinton) out of the limelight for as long as possible. Sanders did not get anything even considered close to equal press coverage until the primary elections actually began.
His success thus far is a testament to his consistent message and his progressive views which appeal so deeply to the youth demographic. His heart is in line with where the future of the Democratic Party is headed. He beat the odds (and the polls) by most likely winning the popular vote in Iowa, even though Clinton narrowly won the delegate count in that state, basically splitting the convention votes that were up for grabs. In New Hampshire Sanders easily won the popular vote and almost every demographic created. But because of the already committed superdelgates from that state, Clinton took home just as many of possible delegate votes.
And then yesterday we saw the outcome in Nevada. Sanders, again, won the youth vote, and made huge gains in winning over non-white voters, which has perhaps been his biggest struggle to date. But he was not able to best Clinton, and he needed to if he were to prove he could realisitically be the Democratic nominee. If he continues to run I have no doubt he will continue to close the gap on non-white voters, and will continue to make each state race a tight one. But putting up a solid fight against Hillary Clinton is not actually enough to win in the current state of how the Democratic primary elections function.
This is why it’s that time again in the election cycle when we must discuss superdelegates. To quote the New York Times:
“Superdelegates are party bigwigs — 712 Democratic leaders, legislators, governors and the like. They can vote for any candidate at the nominating convention, regardless of whether that candidate won the popular vote. These unpledged delegates make up 30 percent of the 2,382 delegates whose votes are needed to win the nomination, and could thus make all the difference.”
At the moment roughly 80% of those superdelegates have publicly pledged their support towards Clinton, with the number privately being likely closer to 90% (which makes for roughly 27% of the delegates already being clenched by Clinton). Neither Clinton nor Obama had this level of pledged superdelegate support in 2008 during the primaries, which is why this race is so different. However Clinton’s superdelegate support is not surprising, as she is the establishment candidate, and has spent much more time with these superdelegates personally working to earn their vote. It alone could not win her the nomination, but coupled with the fact that she is still polled as the favorite in most states that have yet to cast their vote, and the fact that Sanders mission to close the non-white voter gap will realistically be a slow and steady journey, the delegate count will simply not add up for him in time. He just couldn’t rally the necessary votes in Nevada, and it’s a good reason to believe he will sadly not be able to secure the nomination as the Democratic candidate for president.
But this is not the end of the world, nor the end of the journey for a Sanders supporter. The good news is that this reality eliminates a few possible scenarios that were quite worrisome. The first being a third party run by Michael Bloomberg if Sanders looked as if he could be the eventual nominee. Bloomberg’s centrist views would have split the Democratic vote (which truthfully, in a general election, is far more traditionally centrist than left these days), and only if the Republican vote were to also split would Sanders have stood a chance. This also means Elizabeth Warren will hold her senate seat for at least 2 more years, during which I firmly believe the Democrats will take back control (the blocking of a Scalia replacement almost ensures this) and she will make historical strides for herself during that time.
I should note that if Sanders could have won the Democratic nomination, then it would have been Warren’s civic duty to serve as Vice President. The uncomfortable truth that Bernie supporters often shy away from regards his age. The presidency is perhaps the most stressful job there is, and stress is not conductive to overall health. Bodies are just not as invincible as most minds. There is no doubt he could have served in great health as President for four years, but it would have become a major issue in a re-election campaign. So he would have needed a VP who shared his progressive goals (and could rally his base), especially when it came to his views on big banks, and who was younger, yet still experienced and popular enough to win an election in four years on their own if needed. The only person with those qualifications is Elizabeth Warren. I have had no doubt in my mind since 2008 that she would one day be President, and I am still firmly (and rationally) attached that goal. But it would have been a blow to lose her from the Senate, even if it would have been for the greater good in the long run.
So now the question not only becomes how does Hillary Clinton get Bernie supporters out on election day (because to win as a Democrat you must have high voter turnout), but how does she inspire them to genuinely want her as their president? I do not believe the answer lies in many of the names that have been tossed around as her potential running mate (namely, Julian Castro, who was tapped for this job back in 2012 when he was the keynote speaker at the DNC. Cory Booker is doing a pretty great job going after this title as well, but he is wholly too inexperienced for the position and it will show). The answer is of course, Bernie Sanders himself.
Let’s be progressive! Let’s do something that has never done before. Let’s commit to making Bernie the Vice President, but for only four years. I firmly believe that together as a team, Hillary and Bernie can create an administration that is greater than the sum of their individual selves. In four years, let’s re-evaluate. Together Clinton and Sanders can pick a new and younger Vice President. The only Party going backwards is the Republican one, and in four years the climate will allow for an even more progressive Democratic VP option. That candidate will have four years to prove themselves as a worthy candidate for President in 2024. I find this possibility endlessly exciting. While many names pop into my head (Cory Booker, Gavin Newsom, Kamala Harris, and Alan Grayson to name a few), there is only one with a glittery heart around her name, and that is of course, the one and only Elizabeth Warren. In 2020 we could have not one, but two women in the White House. Theoretically, we could have a female serving as President of the United States for the next sixteen years this way.
If Hillary and Bernie were to combine their campaigns now, with her name being at the top of the ticket, she would almost instantly win back the youth vote. She needs to concede electoral reform and Wall Street regulation to someone with a better record, and that record belongs to Bernie. Let Bernie stand up for her the way he does for all who are disenfranchised. Let him stand up for her the way he does for all women. Let Bernie be the angry feminist Hillary is worried about appearing to be. Let Bernie bring the much-needed authenticity in rhetoric that her carefully constructed image hasn’t allowed for. Let Bernie be the voice of fearless peace in the face of her stance on war and the military. Let Bernie make her campaign and presidency as progressive as the future of the Democratic Party wants it to be. This is the kind of power that is needed to secure a Democrat as the next President of the United States.
As I see it, the Republican Party now has two possible future candidates. There is Trump, the xenophobic fascist who draws eerily similar lines to Hitler in his views and his rabid base support, and there is Rubio, the establishment robot who is too meek to take Trump on by himself. His only option is to pull a Regan and pick his VP immediately. And if he wants to take on Trump for a possible primary victory, or even a brokered convention, then he needs to pick Kasich, the “moderate” who hasn’t run a negative campaign and who was endorsed by the New York Times.
Cruz, like Huckabee and Santorum before him, is only still in the race because the first Republican primaries take place in the most evangelical of states. He thinks a cool option for gay people is death; his children visibly recoil whenever he attempts to touch them, and not a single member of Congress that he has worked with has agreed to endorse him. All who know him hate him, and I believe America is actually above voting for that kind of president. Oh, and Carson? He forgot he was running for president, so he went out for a walk to see if he could find some of those ancient grain silos, but then he forgot how to walk, and he hasn’t come back for weeks now. Jesus and his inner circle are quite worried because he doesn’t understand the concept of laundry, and he’s probably given himself boils or some other biblical plague by now. Fucking neurosurgeons.
There is absolutely no rule (only tradition) about when a vice presidential candidate can be tied to a presidential candidate. If we’ve learned anything this election season, it’s that all rules and traditions are not only off the table, but are thrown to into a dilapidated building that is then promptly burned to the ground. So it’s time that we as Democrats narrow down our option to one ticket, giving our base as much time as possible to get fired up and ready to enthusiastically rock the vote on Election Day. Let’s show the Republicans that unlike them, our party can evolve without breaking itself. Let’s be progressive. Let’s win the White House!
(Thank you to my dear friend Kathryn for the conversation that inspired this post.)