Where to now, Berniecrats?
Who am I?
I’m a Bernie supporter, and I am having a very hard time justifying a vote for Hillary Clinton this election.
I donated an obscene amount of money to the Bernie campaign and to Berniecrats across the country. I paraded my affection with stickers, mugs and tee-shirts with Bernie’s logo. I engaged actively on social media to support the campaign and down ballot candidates. I canvassed for Bernie in New Hampshire.
I posted about Bernie incessantly. I wrote about him. I watched every debate, speech, town hall and address I could find. I followed his subreddit (back when it was far less toxic) and kept myself updated on every development in the campaign. Even after he’d more or less lost the election, I continued to push for him to take as many votes as he could in California.
And after he’d lost that, I engaged in tough-but-fair critique of his campaign to try understand where he went wrong with certain voter demographics.
I want this to be clear before I make my argument.
Hillary Clinton is a Rough Choice for the General
I worry about what a Hillary Clinton nomination means. There’s a litany of reasons I supported Bernie Sanders, but backgrounding my ideological alignment was optics. Bernie simply didn’t carry the baggage that Hillary Clinton did. Fair or not, Mrs. Clinton is followed day in and day out by a barrage of accusations unequaled by anyone (except, perhaps, her opponent).
To add to that, she’s a horrible campaigner. Truly awful. She failed to adapt to Barack Obama in 2008. She lost more than 40% of her installed electorate to Bernie Sanders in 2016. She doesn’t know how to fight populism, as evidenced in the latest polls and forecasts. Her idea of taking Donald Drumpf down a peg is a cliché, sardonic tweet.
She shoots herself in the foot constantly. She surrounded herself with people like David Brock, immediately alienating swathes of the liberal electorate. And her husband, once a master politician, now seems to be more hindrance than help to her political aspirations.
Add to this the very real concerns about the damage the DNC emails have done so far and the fact that Wikileaks isn’t done yet. Julian Assange — a man I rather dislike, despite the truth of the stuff he and his organization have leaked in the past — seems to have made it his personal mission to destroy Hillary Clinton. No one running for office would want him as an enemy.
This is the bed the DNC, apparently, made for itself. It is the reality Hillary Clinton primary voters wanted. Despite ample warning, including atrocious favorability ratings and too-close-for-comfort poll numbers in general election match-ups, the electorate decided she was the best option.
Alright. Keep this in mind. The reality of the situation is as follows and it’s what each and every Bernie supporter will need accept before they can decide for themselves.
Hillary Clinton, whether you think it was fair or not, has won the nomination for President of the United States of America. I don’t like it. You don’t like it. But it is the reality. Whatever Hail Mary you expected on the Democratic National Convention floor, it didn’t happen. Bernie endorsed her twice and then conceded the roll call vote.
Larry Sanders cried. Bernie Sanders nearly cried. I cried.
So what comes next for us?
I’m not here to moralize at Bernie supporters. As a Bernie supporter myself — now more of his ideas than the man himself — I know there’s nothing worse than a moral imperative argument; “Vote for her or you’re a selfish, immature idiot” doesn’t win many friends, funny enough.
But let’s put aside the presidency for the moment.
We have awoken more active young people in this election than even Barack Obama did back in 2008, by order of magnitude. Progressives are mobilized and energized in a way they’ve never been before. Add to that we have the country’s (and the world’s) attention. What we do with this momentum will be our legacy.
Things Not To Do: Berner Edition
But also don’t throw your hands up now that Bernie is officially out. The thing the Clinton campaign never understood is that there wasn’t a cult of personality around Bernie Sanders the way there is around Clinton and Drumpf. We could have swapped him out at any time for Zephyr Teachout, Nina Turner, Elizabeth Warren or John Fetterman. It was it was his ideas we flocked to.
Those issues haven’t gone anywhere.
Want to fight corruption? Go work to get Zephyr Teachout into Congress. Looking for a salt-of-the-earth progressive fighter? Get on the John Fetterman bandwagon.
Interested in working class rights? Check out Lucy Flores.
Elect a Congress that will hold Hillary’s feet to the fire. Make it impossible for the Democratic Leadership Council to maintain its neoliberal hold over where the party goes from here. We’ve pushed Hillary and the DNC to adopt a platform that incorporates more ideas than she ever would have entertained had Bernie not run.
It’s not everything, and plenty of “wins” remain tenuous at best (the TPP being the most obvious example), but #Fightfor15, Black Lives Matter and Occupy have entered the conversation. That only happened because we protested, we were loud and we forced the point. Keep it up.
To The Zealots
Do stop wearing Hillary for Prison shirts. Do stop making yourself look like Drumpf supporters and engaging in sexist diatribes. I know it’s not most of you, not even most protestors, but if you see it, you must call it out. It’s bad for everyone and distracts from real change.
And remember, Hillary Clinton is a red herring. Debbie Wasserman Shultz is a red herring. Congress. Congress. Congress.
A Note on Third Party Candidates
Read before you vote. Research. Watch videos.
I did this, and because I did, I know definitively that I will absolutely not be voting for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson.
She is a different candidate representing a different party with a different set of values.
And Gary Johnson? Listen to him talk about climate change and then get back to me.
Vote for who you want, but don’t do it blindly and don’t do it in protest.
Things Not To Do: Clinton Supporter Edition
It’s not our fault if Hillary Clinton loses.
This is perhaps most important to me.
Don’t blame Bernie supporters if Hillary Clinton loses. For all of the reasons I listed above, Hillary Clinton was an abysmal choice for the election. She comes with a lot of baggage.
But putting that argument to the side, you also can’t blame us for having a hard time coming around on the Clinton campaign. She has done everything in her power to alienate the Left because, presumably, she believes she can win without us. Every chance the Clinton campaign has had to offer an olive branch, they’ve squandered it: from the DNC favoritism leaks to choosing Tim Kaine as VP to not offering a firm reprimand of Debbie Wasserman Shultz (and instead rewarding her with an honorary chair position in the Clinton campaign).
Forget about whether you agree with me or not that Bernie supporters are or will be to blame. Maybe you don’t. Just don’t say it. It’s not going to win you any points. Keep it to yourself and simmer in silence.
Use The Privilege Argument Wisely
Many Clinton supporters, new and old, have made a good point that voting third party or not voting actively against Drumpf is a symbol of privilege. They argue only comfortably adjusted groups in America can afford to ignore the frightening reality of a Drumpf presidency.
It’s a compelling argument.
Yet often I see these same privileged white people making the argument, using marginalized groups as a shield to bully people into voting for Hillary. The LGBTQ community is not a monolith. People of color are not a monolith. Women and other oppressed genders are not a monolith. Stop assuming they are, because some of them are getting sick of it.
You can make these compelling arguments about the dangers of a Drumpf candidacy for social movements without props.
Stop Using Bad Slogans
Get rid of #ImWithHer. It’s a bad hashtag that hearkens back to a shady-at-best primary, points to a candidate rather than a movement and not-so-subtly engages in gendered reasons for voting for a candidate. #NotMeUs, #VoteTogether and #StrongerTogether are simply better choices. They contrast the most egocentric, party fracturing campaign in history with one of unity.
Be Careful with Gender
Yes, it is important that Hillary Clinton would be the first female president, just as it is already important that she’s the first female presidential nominee in one of the two major parties.
But voters should not be encouraged to vote for her because she is a woman, just as I did not support Bernie Sanders because he would have been the first Jewish president. This isn’t to diminish the historical importance of a female nominee or president, but because this line of reasoning holds no logical water.
Did Carly Fiorina being a woman at all change your opinion on whether you’d vote for her? How about Michelle Bachmann? Sarah Palin? Of course not. Ideology supersedes identity. By that same logic, no former Bernie supporter (or even Republican) should jump ship to Clinton for this reason.
This is why #ImWithHer has to go. It makes an implicit (and dangerous) claim: if you’re not with her, you’re against her, and against there being a first female president. Worse still, it puts the fact that she is a woman over the fact that she is a top .1%-er, white and absurdly privileged in more than a few ways. It is peak white feminism.
If you want to highlight the gender differences between Hillary and Drumpf, discuss relevant policies. Talk about how Drumpf has flip-flopped on choice again and again, while Hillary Clinton is more or less perfect on abortion rights. Highlight the sexual assault cases levied against Drumpf by women, including his ex-wife. Consider shouting this article about his outright misogyny from the rooftops.
You don’t need to play political tricks to show that Drumpf and his campaign is a sexist cesspool. The evidence is plentiful. Just keep hammering it home.
Don’t Make Excuses for the DNC
Yes, the DNC favored Hillary Clinton. Yes, the Democrats will need Millennials and future generations to stay relevant. So when people bring up these points, you must acknowledge them. Don’t deflect, don’t say “but the Russians,” — just engage.
Take the criticism. Have debates. Admit when you’re wrong. Move forward together.
What Am I Doing?
I’m inclined to follow the folks I put my political faith in. I just hope we don’t all get burned trying to defend whatever’s coming in the next set of email leaks.
I’m registered in a blue state, so I don’t know how I’ll be voting when it comes to the presidential ticket — blank, write-in, for Clinton/Kaine. But I will be voting, because throwing everything we’ve built away in frustration makes no sense to me. And more than that, I realize that the president’s a figurehead. They do not make laws. They do not force change. They are not legislators.
What we need is a progressive Congress to hold every neoliberal, every Democratic Leadership Council leftover, every establishment Dem accountable to the electorate. Congress has the power here. Getting people like Teachout in position is the best move Bernie supporters can make.
Whatever you do now, perhaps don’t forget the wisdom bestowed on us by perhaps the Quintessential American Family. Any time we’ve not heeded the Simpsons in the past, we’ve done so at our own peril. Think carefully, then vote. It’s between you and that booth.