Our Democracy stuck in Sepsis: A guide for Clinton supporters to understand the ‘Bernie or Bust’ rationale

Bernie Sanders at his Chicago State University rally, February 26, 2016 — Photo by Kai-Duc Luong

Let’s try to understand each other

There is an ocean of misunderstanding between the seemingly ‘unified against Trump’ Clinton supporters and a bastion of Sanders supporters called ‘Bernie or busters’ who refuse to fall in line and vote for Clinton come Tuesday November 8, 2016.

This divide has been exacerbated by news outlets which then spread onto social media. It has caused many feathers to be ruffled among normally friendly faces and posts on Facebook or the comment sections of news articles and opinion pieces covering this current highly unpredictable US election.

I’m writing this opinion piece as an attempt to help Clinton supporters understand the rationale behind the ‘Bernie or busters’ thought process, and bring the two left-leaning camps to, at the very least, understand each other as opposed to bashing one another (and I admit I have sometimes fallen into that trap or been on the receiving end of it).

Many Sanders supporters believe that our democracy is no longer functioning as intended while Clinton supporters, some currently aseptic to the system’s inherent flaws though acknowledging some of them, tolerate or even appreciate the way things are depending on how well they are doing economically. Below, I believe, is the perspective of many of the ‘Bernie or bust’ Sanders supporters as I have come to observe them on social media and through conversations with some of them and as I admit being one among them.

I am trying not to use too many inflammatory terms in my attempt at mediation and keeping it civil, also setting aside the most controversial themes around Hillary Clinton — such as the curious death of a democratic staffer working on voter outreach whom Wikileaks suggested was murdered, or the concerns about Hillary’s health and as such fitness for the presidency, or even the legitimate questions on the Clinton Foundation dealings with the State Department during Hillary’s tenure over donor favors such as the Uranium One wholesale of US uranium to Russia (even though 2/3rd of the electorate agrees that Clinton as Secretary of State was influenced by her foundation donors)— so as not to ruffle more feathers.

Our Septic democracy

We live in perilous and feverish times. Democracy has been complacently yet lethally infected with pathogenic corporate agents now paralyzing every tissue and organ that structure its core from the branches of government to our voting booths to the fourth estate.

A heart attack is looming upon our ailing democracy stuck in sepsis — a life-threatening condition that arises when the body’s response to infection injures its own tissues and organs. Some prefer to refer to the ailing democratic condition as a cancer though I find sepsis more discerning and it is a condition I’ve termed.

Opposing insurgent forces are actively working to re-animate our democracy with rivaling shock therapies, while the reigning powers are contempt with controlling the comatose corrupt status quo.

The Causes and Symptoms

The four-decade long, morally depleted, global neoliberal agenda pushed by elites and corporations wedded in unfettered cronyism has reached its breaking-point for our western democracies: It has failed to deliver on its promise of sustaining, let alone enhancing, the lives of the vast majority of its constituency.

In America, this resulted in having a constituency now plagued with unparalleled inequality (as in the top 0.1% of our US population owns more than 90% of the population), economic insecurity (as exemplified by the record high number of people outside of the US labor force especially those between 25 and 54) and geopolitical instability (as sadly revealed by the 6-Trillion-dollar US taxpayer funded ongoing wars in the Middle East, resulting in endless terrorists attacks around the world, and the largest migrant refugee crisis since the Vietnam era), mass state surveillance, policing and for profit incarceration. While the rigged system shrugs along favoring the rich and powerful and endangers our planet’s very own subsistence — all in the name of short-term profit — many have remained complacently numbed on a glutinous diet of hyper-real and mindless entertainment, pop culture, and credit card debt.

Yet the injured, untamed, rebellious beastly core has not surrendered its last breath, and the masses are now awakening and desperately roaring back at their elites, asking for a more just system.

In Europe and America, the rise of derisively labeled “populist” movements from the progressive left (Podemos in Spain, Syriza in Greece, Movimento 5 Stelle in Italy, Bernie Sanders in the US) and the extremist right (Le Front National in France, Brexit in England, Trump in the US) is a direct symptom of such anger and discontent at the establishment and their forsaking of our democracies with the visible hand of a complicit corporately-owned media.

Though opposing aisles of these movements advocate for radically different social, racial and environmental reforms, they reciprocally jab at the economic and moral injuries to our democracy that the establishment refuses to address in meaningful terms: Unfair corporate rules and trade agreements at the expense of workers and the environment, the deceitful bailout of the financial industry and the wholesale abandonment of those scammed by those very entities, interventionists war profiteering breeding terrorism, legalized corruption and cronyism accepted as necessary evils.

Democracy around the western hemisphere hasn’t ailed this much since the Great Depression and the rise of fascism leading up to World War II. Some even posit that it is a tempestuously seasonal cycle that modern empires seem doomed to repeat every three or four generations as historians and economists Strauss and Howe laid out in their book The Fourth Turning, a study of Anglo-American history since the Renaissance.

In the US, after Bernie Sanders lost the hotly contested Democratic primaries where he garnered 45% of the votes against all odds (the most successful Democratic insurgent campaign in four decades), endorsed and nominated by acclamation Hillary Clinton as the party’s nominee for president at the Democratic National Convention on July 26, 2016, many elites and Clinton supporters thought that Bernie Sanders’ coalition would quietly fall in line with the Democratic party. They thought that they would embrace their last survivor as the fear of a Donald Trump in the White House would no doubt trump it all.

Clinton’s Wrong Diagnosis and Sanders’ Wrongful Treatment

During her acceptance speech, Clinton went on to quote Sanders’ role model, president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, using the New Dealer’s most famous line: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Clinton’s appropriation of FDR’s quote is emblematic of her deeper problem with the contingency of Sanders supporters who refuse to fold and vote for her, and depending on which poll you look at currently stands anywhere between 10%, 37% and 45% of Bernie’s supporters. The latter two higher percentages being the more current & probably more accurate ones.

Clinton supporters diagnosed FDR’s quote as “Let’s not fall for all the fear-mongering, fascism and bigotry Trump spews out of his egotistic megalomaniacal fouled mouth and let’s believe in our greater selves!”, while Sanders supporters booed Hillary’s lip service & re-appropriation as “We will not be blackmailed to vote for Clinton by the sole fear of Trump while Clinton’s campaign systemically schemed with the DNC, state parties and corporate media to suppress and silence our votes.”

My point to Clinton supporters is that a sizeable segment of the Sanders electorate currently refuses to be extorted and guilt tripped into pledging their votes for the very campaign which has suppressed their votes & voices through unethical means — means that many question legitimately, perceived as corrupt and deceitful — caving in to a corporate media narrative they distrust.

Many well-intended patriotic citizens have poured their hard-earned money (at times skipping meals, at times against their own self-interests) in the hundreds of millions of dollars, time in the millions of man hours phone-banking and canvassing, and greater souls for the greater good of a more just society and less corrupt system into Bernie’s campaign as small time donors and volunteers, in unprecedented numbers.

This kind of passion, fervor and selfless conscience exhibited for a campaign railing against corruption, deception and inequality cannot be tamed with an oligarch such as Clinton who has a track record that is antithetical to their aspirations.

The evidence is overwhelming for many Sanders supporters: her acceptance of money from special interests for 30-min speeches in the tens of million of dollars, her acceptance of large corporate and foreign donations from authoritarian regimes in the billions of dollars for her dubious foundation in exchange for US government contracts during her tenure as Secretary of State, her open lies under oath, to the public and apparent impunity about her home-brew private email server(s) following the FBI and Inspector General investigations, and her constant flip-flopping on issues where the wind blows.

The fundraising contrast couldn’t be starker as Clinton’s campaign raked in hundreds of millions of dollars from maxed-out wealthy donors, large corporations, special interests and the DNC’s own stiffing of state parties where 99% of the funds collected via state parties were directly funneled into the Hillary Victory Fund presidential Super-PAC, subsequently unable to channel the generosity of small contributors as Sanders did.

The Clinton camp would tell Bernie’s supporters “Hillary’s current all time low favorability and trustworthiness is in large part due to the Sanders supporters constant bashing of their candidate on social media!”

Have both campaign smeared and hurt one another during the primaries? Yes. This is presidential politics after all.

However, the Clinton campaign was way more aggressive and effective at silencing the most successful small-donor based insurgent campaign in the history of America with the help of the corporate media, her Super-PAC sponsored “Correct the record” social media efforts, and the collusion of the DNC and local state parties which were supposed to be impartial as evidenced by the Wikileaks DNC leaks.

This is why I felt compelled to write this post, to defend the voices of those disenfranchised, those who did not have their voices heard, and can only now express it on social media and alternative outlets much to the outrage of anxious Clinton supporters. I defend the voices of the very people who do not have the backing of the powerful, the rich and the influential.

As a result of the media and DNC silence, our only outlets are social media commenting, alternative sources and peaceful civil disobedience and Thank god they still exist! The alternative would be akin to a drift toward McCarthyism or a soft totalitarian system with one single accepted ideological view, which some admit is already in place with the taming of our fourth estate to corporate interests.

A losing strategy: The Trump Guilt Trip & Pragmatism call

My friend Clinton supporter whom I dearly respect would then ask “Well, by voting third party, aren’t you basically throwing your vote away for the Donald?”

To which I would argue that extremism breeds and “fans its flame” (to reuse Jill Stein words) when there is no more dissenting voice left, which scarily seems to be case for Hillary Clinton when it comes to the mainstream media. Let’s remember that Clinton hasn’t held a single press conference in 2016 (This seems to have been finally remedied on August 6, 2016 though the media was merely present to cheer on their “dear leader” with friendly questions). Let’s not forget that she didn’t bear any reprimand for her abuse of a private email server as Secretary of State.

The deeper problem that needs to be remedied is that the Clinton camp has failed to accept the root causes of the voters discontent (corruption and cronyism in an unfettered global neoliberal capitalist model) and reverse course despite acknowledging some of the anger rhetorically - as exemplified in their doing the exact opposite when it comes to their actions with their business as usual maneuverings, triangulating and taking ever more money from corporate America & Wall Street.

Many upper-middle class Clinton supporters who have benefited greatly from that system, or have been able to maintain a comfortable standard of living, will call for pragmatism to replace idealism as they accept corruption as a necessary evil. However, for the vast majority of Americans struggling to make ends meet living paycheck-to-paycheck with stagnant or declining wages, working for companies where the workforce is disposable, the pragmatic solution isn’t to continue with the status-quo, or defeating bigotry by condoning generalized corruption, as they see their living standards degrade further behind, as our middle & poor classes crumble and the gap between the upper-middle class top 15–20% and those 80% left behind grows ever wider.

So, the divide between Clinton voters and Sanders voters can also be looked at from the vantage point of a tale of two classes: the top 20% vs. the bottom 80%.

Compromising for the greater good is the solution for greater prosperity. This should go both ways. And the pressure is on the Clinton camp to fully address those concerns in action, and not just lip service.

The path to victory: Sanders style small donors, Ranked choice voting and Open debates

If the Clinton campaign were to renege its big-donor contributions and go full small-donor from now on to the end of the election in November, she will get the backing of many progressives because they will see that she has had a change of heart.

If both Republicans and Democrats were to allow ranked choice voting as argued by Jill Stein, which can be done with “the stroke of a pen” in the words of the green party candidate, the whole argument against Third party candidacies would be moot as the voters would be able to have a first and second choice votes. If their first choice comes last on election day, their vote automatically goes to their second choice. To be clear and it’s worth repeating as the myth endures among “the pragmatist”: Gore lost to Bush in 2000 for many reasons other than Nader — Chiefly over 200,000 registered Florida democrats voted for Bush instead of Gore, other progressive third parties garnered more than the measly 537 votes separating the two candidates (Socialists, Workers World, etc) in Florida. Also Gore lost his home state of Tennessee unable to garner enough enthusiasm with his poor choice of VP running mate among other things.

Unfortunately, the building and growth of Third parties in the US are mainly reliant on presidential runs for exposure every four years. The current duopoly in place and “winner-takes-all” electoral system do not allow for many Third party candidates to compete successfully at the local and state level. So the argument for growing a Third party from the bottom-up with representatives in Congress & Senate first is near-impossible today unless that Third party seizes on presidential elections to garner more than 5% of the electoral vote for equal ballot access across 50 states and federal funding. Sanders has been the most successful independent Congressman and Senator in recent history, and he had to caucus with the Democratic party most of his career. He still intends to do so within that party building a “brand-new” congress filled with progressive Democrats who reflect his values. The fear for many progressives is that, once elected into office, history has shown that these officials are coerced and swallowed into adopting the current corrupt model: business as usual Third-way politics created by the Clintons. Many Sanders sympathizers have pledged to help elect Sanders surrogates into Congress from within the Democratic party, yet at the same time, they have also planned for their plan-B of building from the outside by backing Jill Stein as their presidential vote. It is the right strategic move if you want to hold the Democrats accountable.

Finally regarding the path to victory, the icing on the cake would be that if Clinton were able to strike a deal with Stein in allowing her to partake in the presidential debates in exchange for not having a Stein ballot in the ten or so battleground states as well, then I think the Democrats would be invincible. That would assume that Clinton and Trump allow Johnson to do so as well, but my suspicion is that Trump would accept the entrance of Johnson and Stein in the debates as current four-way polls tend to be more beneficial to the GOP candidate. So again, it is up to Clinton to show that she means what she says.

This three-point plan is most likely wishful thinking as time is running out, but should be pondered over and acknowledged nevertheless.

Point one is feasible immediately though highly unlikely. Point two is up to the two major parties, yet given the current gravy train duopoly with lobbyists and major donors, it is also a high-bar to climb. Point three is easily feasible though the Commission on Presidential Debates seemed to have ruled against it for now. It is absurd that US presidential debates require an average of 15% national polling, and are subsequently closed to candidates able to garner a non-negligible slice of the electorate (e.g. parties with 5% and upward polling), whereas primaries allow for all two-party sanctioned candidates to partake in, even those polling near zero. It may be in Stein & Johnson’s best interest to build an alliance in the coming month to get access to the debates, but that doesn’t seem to be in the two third parties agenda.

The disingenuous and authoritarian Clinton way will not work

Unfortunately, instead of taking a step back and reflecting on the current mood, Hillary Clinton is going full steam ahead, even taking on three times more hedge fund contributions than even Obama did during his election campaigns while she says at the same time that she will reign in on these very shadow banks.

Clinton will be the candidate who will take upward of $1.5 Billion in Super-PAC and big donor money this election alone (way more than any other campaign in history) as the Koch brothers sit out from helping her GOP opponent as they not-so-secretly prefer a Clinton presidency.

The media is not helping either as most ex-Sanders supporters can see through the manipulation and the collusion with the Clinton machine.

So yes, a sizeable portion of progressives are not buying it (including Bill Clinton’s former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich though he said he will vote for her), and therefore want to pressure her for accountability.

And so “to correct the record”, Clinton’s record low favorability is her own making as argued above.

The whole Trump blackmailing of progressives into a guilt trip extortion fest is not going to coerce enough supporters, independents and progressives alike, to vote for Clinton for now. They see in her the very things Trump has said except in a more politically correct, more covert and disingenuous way. Blame it on her record as first lady, senator and secretary of state. They tell themselves “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” as opposed to voting for the lesser of two evils as currently presented.

The sexism argument or right-wing conspiracy bullying will not work either as it hasn’t swayed voters sentiment until now, and only further fanned the flames of her dislikeability… “Voting for a woman just because she is a woman” or “you will go to a special place in hell if not” appears to many as sexism while many of the progressive left and party insiders have decried her campaign tactics, and now the Obama branch of the Democrats are using Schultz as the fall-gal while Debbie goes to HVF-town. Plus now that many ex-Sanders supporters are leaning for Stein, the woman argument no longer works.

Clinton needs to convince people through her actions that she is willing to rebuke her track record for the greater good of our country and defeat Donald Trump.

The very hiring of her 2008 campaign co-chair, now fallen DNC chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz (in whatever honorary form) the minute she stepped down as DNC chair into her campaign as honorary chair will not help. Even Elizabeth Warren condemns that move. Many believe Debbie will now consolidate her DNC practice with the Hillary Victory Fund for the general election. Many believe Schultz will get a cabinet position if Clinton is elected.

The suspicious choice of Tim Kaine — the former DNC Chair who stepped down in 2011 for Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a pro-TPP, pro-Fracking Wall St friend — as Vice Presidential running mate all the while dangling the idea of a Warren VP possibility, didn’t help either.

The silencing of Bernie Sanders delegates, wall fencing of activists with little mainstream media coverage and last-minute removal of Sanders surrogate Nina Turner during the DNC convention only worsened the already raucous mood.

A mainstream media with no more dissenting voices

The controlled takeover of progressive opinions in outlets such as Dailykos where the founder Markos Moulitsas’ voiced support for Clinton early on in the election cycle while his audience was overwhelmingly pro-Sanders at the start of the primaries, and the website’s total surrender to the Hillary Victory Fund banning any dissenting voice to the Clinton narrative since March 15, 2016 (right at the start of the second half of the primaries) is a move that many Sanders supporters liken to tactics found in authoritarian regimes.

Smear articles on Dailykos such as “Twelve Reasons NOT to Vote for Jill Stein & Ajamu Baraka” will only strengthen the resolve of former Sanders supporters not to vote for Clinton. Articles like these are so misguided and disingenuous with false equivalencies that it boggles my mind that intelligent Clinton supporters would fall for it. This article calls Stein a “fraud” because her top contributors, per FEC available data, work in companies such as AON or IBM, but this article fails to say that the top contributions are actual donors maxed out at the $2700 FEC limit which dramatically pales in comparison to the Hillary Victory Fund’s funneling of millions of dollars from corporate and media moguls or authoritarian regimes into her campaign via state parties or Super PAC bypassing the FEC limit. It posits that Bernie supporters should be a herd of sheep who must follow their leader or sheep-dog, even when they no longer agree with their leader’s moves. It takes the most anti-science stance by unilaterally stating that science should not be questioned with regards to WiFi usage consequences while still clearly being a relatively young technology (adopted by mainstream laptops since around 1999-2001), which reminds me of a period before the Renaissance when there was only one way to look at science — There are no conclusive extensive medical research over a long enough period of time on WiFi usage alas and so the reasonable scientific stance is “to be determined” as opposed to blankly state that it is safe beyond any doubt. It questions the assertion that Stein said that vaccines have done a great deal of good yet can be improved. Medicine is not an exact science, and to assert the contrary is fallacious. The Affordable Care Act has been anything but affordable for many people who do not get their coverage with a company sponsored plan, which is about half of the US population including the self-employed, small businesses, many part-time and temp workers. Yes, it has helped some of the poorest get coverage for little to no-cost but it has in large part transferred the cost to that middle-class who do not get coverage via a company as well as inflated GDP consequently. The Affordable Care Act is in essence a government imposed program of privately run corporate insurance with monopolies within each state. So, no it is far from being a good solution, and has increased the cost of premiums many folds, as well as co-pays and deductibles for millions of middle-class Americans. The article also decries Stein for being a spoiler yet belittles her as being meaningless.

No amount of planted articles and opinion pieces in the New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Daily Beast, Dailykos, MSNBC, CNN or Politico fawning over Hillary Clinton appearing as top stories on our daily news feeds will help the Clinton cause. It will only make things worse, exasperate non-Clinton supporters even more, as we feel like current mainstream news entities are just an extension branch of the Hillary Victory Fund, and as we flock to alternative media sources such as TYT, Counterpunch, the Real News, Common Dreams, RT, ‘Bernie or Bust’ support groups and activist bloggers on Facebook.

Imagine what it will be like if and when Hillary Clinton becomes president? The media would present one single voice controlled for the government, sponsored by the corporations, in support of the elites.

I suppose that many Americans (except for hardcore Clinton & Obama apologists) already feel it is the case with Obama currently, and so Clinton would be an extension of that paradigm except that Clinton is a true oligarch with very deep direct ties to big donors and corporations, as well as foreign authoritarian governments. We already know of the deep revolving door between Google and the Obama Administration and now the Clinton campaign via The Groundwork entity.

I totally respect anyone’s well articulated point-of-view and I am just stating mine. All camps have their merits as long as they are well-articulated.

A petrifying binary choice that didn’t have to be

Just to be clear, I do not want a Trump presidency, but I also do not want a Clinton president as currently presented as her presidency will only further exacerbate extremist factions of the electorate to a point of no return as in what happened prior to the last world war.

For all of Trump’s foul mouthed non-sense, being the billionaire puppet-master that he was and still is, Trump actually states some cold hard truths about the nature of our rigged system and ailing democracy without actually providing any reasonable or sensible remedies to it.

It is a terrible year and petrifying binary choice, it didn’t have to be this way — there were many other better options sadly (Bernie Sanders always polled better against Trump in double digits while Clinton seems to always weaken as the election moves along), but the media & DNC made it this way.

For Trump, he had $2 Billion in free media coverage while many think the media and left establishment wanted him to win. Bill Clinton was very supportive of his candidacy as in “being the buffoon Trump is, he who would not stand a chance against my wife!” kind of thinking, and so the media thought as well probably while making ever more revenue ads out of his every moves and tweets.

On the other side, the DNC and super-delegates wanted her nominee to be Clinton even before her candidacy as evidenced by the DNC leaks and this turned out to backfire. The media gave Clinton about $1 Billion of free media coverage. Her all-time-low approval ratings further tanked over drip by drip revelations about the FBI investigation of her private email servers and the media, DNC party, and Hillary campaign collusion.

It is the way it is now… we have to chose between two candidates with all time high dislikes. What Donald Trump has said cannot be deemed worse than what Hillary Clinton has already done.

Rightfully so, many Sanders former campaign staffers have recently urged Sanders to reconsider his endorsement and run a third party campaign but I don’t think it will fly because Sanders is too honorable a man of his words… So no worries Clinton supporters… unless she really tanks in the upcoming weeks in the polls after bigger Wikileaks perhaps and gets replaced with another candidate who in all likeliness will not be Sanders as he just switched back to being an Independent after the Democratic convention.

So in conclusion, Trump wins if Clinton lets him win. It’s up to her. I’m not comfortable with either candidate alas… no more no less.

Obviously I’m setting aside the potential for election irregularities and voter suppression from both major parties come election day. The Democrats might have an edge on that front this year given the outcome of the primaries. But Clinton supporters will boo me for wearing a tin-foil hat, while some maybe secretly hope that is the case.

I’m also setting aside the many missteps from Donald Trump who seems to do everything he can to lose the support of his party and get the media’s ire while rallying Clinton supporters against him, supporters who depending on how close polls are will rage at the progressives who haven’t fallen in line yet, or simply relish bashing the GOP nominee and dismiss the Bernie or Busters, inconsequential third party voters.

So, right now, all one can say is that Trump is doing everything he can to let Clinton win already as opposed to actually targeting Clinton on her Achilles heel (the emails and the foundation dealings) instead suggesting second amendment advocates might take action against preventing a Clinton presidency (although one should point out that Clinton suggested the same thing could happen to Obama during the 2008 campaign), or clumsily naming Obama and Clinton as co-founders of ISIS as opposed to holding them accountable for indeed emboldening ISIS as a result of the president and secretary of state’s intervention in Libya.

Both current nominees are terrible choices to me. So I will vote for the Green Party’s nominee Jill Stein (whose platform and fundraising model closely match that of Sanders with a few small exceptions) in the meantime unless Clinton has a real big change of heart by rebuking her current strategy, adopting Sander’s beliefs in a small donors funded campaign from now on, enabling meaningful third parties to exist while striking a deal with Stein for opening the debates. By doing so, she would consequently show she means what she says however highly unlikely that probably is.

By not endorsing Clinton, the Sanders supporters unwilling to be blackmailed, the ‘Bernie or busters’, however way you want to call them, are putting the kind of healthy pressure needed in an ailing democracy which has for too long been infected and subverted by a privileged few and their corporate entities sole interests which are akin to pathogenic agents who do not represent their constituency’s best interests.

This is the kind of sane pressure put by people who feel empowered to have that only kind of voice left. This is the very essence of democracy and thank god it still exists!

Three months is an eternity in presidential politics, let’s see what happens between now and November…