Why Sanders and His Supporters Must Lose with Grace

By Z Ivan Miller

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont (berniesanders.com)

Like many people of college age, I have felt the Bern. In fact, seeing as the college I attend is in the home state of the senator, it’s been infectious and impossible to avoid. It lingers everywhere in Burlington, like the faint smell of weed and sweaty flannel floating on the brisk winter breeze. But I don’t mind it — it’s been fun engaging in the political process as a community. A few times a week I witness professors and students inside and outside the classroom fiercely unite in their admiration for Sanders. But to a point — even my own shameless optimism cannot overcome the strength of numbers.

Senator Bernie Sanders would need to win at an average of around 60% of every state from now to the end of the primary cycle in order to secure the nomination. That includes California, New York, and Pennsylvania,which all have a large amount of delegates and where Secretary Hillary Clinton is currently polling ahead. That’s without even including superdelegates, which she currently leads 467–26. Just a cursory look at statistic based site FiveThirtyEight reveals how far Sanders is behind. And no amount of mental gymnastics can account for his currently losing the popular vote by 2.5 million.

Senator Bernie Sanders would need to win at an average of around 60% of every state from now to the end of the primary cycle in order to secure the nomination.

A number of excuses and conspiracy theories are rampant. Some of them may have some credence, but others have come across as offensive and out of touch with the Democratic electorate. Clinton swept the South after Sanders supporters spent months saying that blacks had yet to see that he was actually better for them. When African-American’s overwhelming voted for Clinton, the narrative became that she only wins in deep-red states, which is really just another way of saying, “Don’t worry, the smart white people will still vote for Bernie.”

But he will lose. Near undoubtedly. Despite the grassroots activism and political engagement that has seeped into universities and other places across the country, pictures like the following make me skeptical of the decision making process going forward into the general election.

The one on the left ignores the different processes that govern the Republican primary system, the middle has the wrong number of total delegates, and the right ignores the fact that Clinton swept the south and is poised to take many of the other states she won in 2008.

A loss for Sanders cannot lead to the same type of ideological division currently plaguing the GOP. Is Clinton the cleanest politician to ever politic? No, certainly not, and her favorability would be the lowest for a president if elected. Scandals have seemingly been omnipresent for both Clintons, but nothing, aside from Bill’s penis, has ever stuck. It’s discouraging that when the attacks come from the GOP, even Sanders himself defended her, but as his campaign has teetered closer to the edge, many supporters have resorted to the same smear tactics as the opposition. If Clinton is the oligarchical figurehead of the devil incarnate, what happens in November when it’s her vs. Donald Trump?

Trump speaking in Iowa. (AP/Charlie Neibergall)

Trump is a danger to the modernity and future of the United States. His blatant xenophobia is a disservice to the many people in our history who have worked hard to secure everything from civil rights to citizenship. From his insult slinging on the debate stage, sexist feud with Fox News’s Megyn Kelly, and near incoherent ramblings about hand size, Trump has been anything but presidential. The man called his own daughter fuckable! His populist rhetoric may seem appealing to some. but underneath the bravado and everyman verbality, he’s an obnoxious, narcissistic, spray-tanned billionaire with no regard for the future consequences of his actions.

Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump

In a hypothetical showdown between Clinton and Trump, Clinton will most-likely win because of the limited demographics of Trump’s voters. Projections show that because of how unpopular he is with Hispanics and African-Americans, he would need to win an unprecedented amount of white voters in order to win the election. In 2012, Mitt Romney won 59 percent of whites and lost with 24 states. If Mitt Romney, who was white enough to be a leader in the Mormon church, couldn’t get enough of the white vote to win, the presidency should be firmly in Clinton’s hands.

Some advanced general election polling has Sanders beating Trump by a wider margin than Clinton. However, head-to-head polls are nearly useless prior to the actual nomination and presidential debates. No one on the Right has deemed it necessary to attack Sanders on the assumption that Clinton would be the nominee. It seems unlikely that Sanders’s favorability rating would remain so high after Trump bombards the public with evil American buzzwords words like “communism” and increasingly more articles like this start showing up. Clinton, on the other hand, has been weathering serious attacks in the public eye for the past twenty years.

Sander’s Political Revolution

Even if it’s not a complete adoption, the Sanders campaign has hopefully pushed the Democratic National Committee to reconsider what their voters hold dear. No one (I hope) is dismissing the valid critiques of the American political and social system that he has brought to the Democratic forefront. Citizens United is bad for democracy. His policies on a living wage, wealth inequality, student debt, racial justice, and more, all reverberate through a generation that is posed to be more progressive and diverse than ever before. Thank you for that, Bernie Sanders. But idealism in the face of our current dichotomized political landscape will not win many elections.

I can’t help but feel that Sanders political revolution is a top-down solution to a bottom-up problem. Electing a president is not winner-take-all. After electing President Obama to a second term in 2012, few showed up to support his administration in down-ballot races in 2014. Whether that was from apathy or a growing discontent with the administration, the end result was a Republican controlled Congress and years of gridlock that has escalated to the Senate not fulfilling its duty to even hold a hearing for a Supreme Court nominee. By not participating in the process, the radically conservative cliff got a hell of a lot closer. You cannot complain about who wins or loses if you don’t play.

Clinton and the #NeverTrump Movement

I would encourage voters to support who they most align with in the primaries. If I am wrong, and Sanders wins the nomination, I will be in the booth voting for him in the General. However, the likelihood of a Clinton nomination is near inevitable, which is why it’s worrisome that many of his supporters do not feel the same way. For some, it is Bernie or bust — general election included — a political philosophy no better than the uncompromising views presented by the Republican Congress that the very same type of supporters have been critical of.

American individualism and the self-esteem movement, though not without positive impact, have convinced a large number of people that stubbornness is a virtue and to compromise means to fail. But, like anything else, that’s only true in moderation. Stubbornness quickly turns to denial — the bane of an informed populace — and lack of compromise can lead to violence. As Jann S. Wenner, co-founder and publisher of Rolling Stone Magazine, wrote yesterday morning: “This is not the time in history for a ‘protest vote.’”

Younger people, like myself, cannot disengage from the political process because it didn’t go “our” way. Especially not now, when the choice on the other side of the isle is as vile as Donald Trump. Like it or not, idealism cannot eliminate the need for pragmatic decision making, even if the decision may appear to some as choosing between the lesser of two evils.

“This is not the time in history for a protest vote.” — Jann S. Wenner, co-founder and publisher of Rolling Stone Magazine

When Bernie Sanders chose to run as a Democrat, he gave his loyalty to the process — win or lose. He is not in danger of running out of gas yet. His campaign continues to receive large amounts of money from public donations averaging $27 a person. Like Rocky, he will try and stay on his feet until the final bell. Maybe that’s enough for a moral victory. But lasting is not winning.

Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and First Lady of the United States

If he is in fact defeated, an endorsement of Clinton will go a long way in uniting the party for the future. Hillary Clinton has the best shot at building and maintaining the shaky status quo that slowly crept positive during the eight years of Obama’s presidency. Better shaky than none at all. I can only hope that Senator Sanders and his legion of supporters feel the same way.


I’m Z Ivan Miller — writer and soon to be graduate of Champlain College’s Professional Writing department. My work has appeared in Broken Records Magazine and Broken Records Online, Auditory Spectrum, and in publications associated with Champlain College.

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