As we contemplate the future of the Democratic party, we have to make sure we take the right lessons away from 2016. Democrats should focus on expansion of voting rights to expand our electorate, not compromise the soul of the party to appease WWC.
Bernie’s “Revolution” is personality driven, not ideologically based. It was never about the issues, so it makes no sense to cater to his “revolutionaries” and their professed ideology. We must continue to prioritize racial and social justice rather than pivoting to economic populism in a futile attempt to court WWC. We lost WWC by ~70k, four precincts in three states. Meanwhile in Wisconsin alone, ~300k were blocked by strict #VoterID requirements.
Voter Suppression Works
I’d like to address a cherished, oft-cited talking point: that Democrats lost ~1000 legislative seats over the past…
(Now, a disclaimer: If you still love Bernie but voted for Hillary in the general because you care about Democratic issues, thank you. None of this is directed at you. I’m talking about #BernieorBust #NeverHillary #StillSanders #DemExit etc. Anyone intent on destroying or taking over the Democratic party.)
People say we should “Move on” from the primary but that’s bullshit. We don’t have to sit quietly by like good little girls and allow Berners to continue attacking Hillary, our Democratic values, and our own good name. We should stand up to Bernie’s bullies. We should stand up for our nominee, our party, and especially for each other.
I read somewhere that we have to bring strong arguments to online discussions, even with bots and bad faith actors, because persuadable people are paying attention. It’s hard, and it requires thick skin, because when Berners can’t refute your argument, their standard MO is to attack you personally.
We needn’t take the bait. We don’t have to justify ourselves, to them or to anyone. We are entitled to express our opinions. It isn’t personal. It’s not really even about us at all. They’re just projecting their frustration & resentment onto convenient targets. As Mark Twain said, it is much easier to fool someone than it is to convince them they’ve been fooled.
Bernie’s platform isn’t what brought them to the “Revolution” and all that holds them together now is anarchism & Hillary Hate. Sure, they can recite a laundry list of issues Hillary is WRONG on, but their knowledge is about an inch deep. They’ve basically memorized anti-Hillary talking points that Bernie lifted straight from the GOP playbook. These issues weren’t even on their radar until someone told them they should care.
They rant about TPP, but can’t really explain what it does that’s so bad. (NAFTA on STEROIDS, dude!) All they know is Hillary supported a previous version when she worked in the Obama Administration, so it MUST be evil.
If you engage with them on TPP, they just roll to Wall Street, and so on. They don’t have any kind of nuanced understanding of how trade deals are put together or the 2008 banking crisis or any of their other go-to bits. It doesn’t take long to realize Berners aren’t concerned with actual policy at all, it’s something deeper, more elemental.
For many, Bernie was their political awakening, an intoxicating time when you’re first feel called to public service, when you believe passionately, naively, that your chosen candidate can change the world, and needs your help to do it.
For many Gen Xers, it was Bill Clinton. But our Camelot wasn’t like this. Bernie’s devotees are more like what you’d see from of Ron Paul supporters- vicious, externally focused, and nihilistic.
Berners followed his rallies like Phish shows. They got tattoos of his hairline. They #FeltTheBern with kindred spirits from coast to coast. Bernie had their trust and their hearts and their devotion. A true leader would have used his power for good.
Instead, Bernie manipulated them, deluded them about his primary prospects, exploited them for his own personal gratification & ego. Bernie misled them about the feasibility of his policy agenda, its workability both in theory and in context of the legislative process. There’s no way he could have gotten any of his outlandish agenda through a GOP Congress. In May 2016 he even admitted to the NY Daily News that he had no plan. His entire strategy was based on wishful thinking.
Those of us who tried to point this out were labeled “neoliberal,” “not progressive,” “cynical,” and later “condescending.” (I’ll circle back to this.)
For what it’s worth, it’s okay to be unfamiliar with how government works. It’s complicated. But Bernie is a United States Senator. He knows better.
Bernie let his flock believe he could “sweep in” a new Democratic Congress, as if he didn’t know full well that the map is gerrymandered until 2022 (and in light of recent developments, maybe even longer than that.)
Bernie led them on about his chances in the primary, pretending he could still win long after he was mathematically eliminated. He hyped his “momentum,” crowd sizes, late-deciding voters, undeclared Superdelegates, all things that don’t win you the nomination. The only thing that matters is delegate math.
As an aside, Berners will take offense when you refer to the point at which Hillary became the “presumptive nominee.” They claim we’re saying she deserved the nomination from the beginning, which isn’t true. (See also “It’s her turn.”) In reality the designation is a mathematical calculation based on returns and hard data. Hillary became the presumptive nominee after Pennsylvania. (We all know the race was functionally over after South Carolina, but that’s another essay, and not one I should write.)
Bernie’s campaign employed questionable rhetoric to devalue our base because of when they vote and where they live. His followers extolled his success in caucuses- the only count where Bernie wasn’t a loser, and the least democratic thing we do.
The debate over Superdelegates is a prime example. Bernie railed against them, irrefutable proof that the system is rigged… Until it dawned on everyone that flipping Supers was Bernie’s only shot. (Remember, they don’t actually vote until July!)
Bernie groused that too many Supers decided on Hillary before he got in the race. But they could have switched at any time. Several CBC members switched from Hillary to Obama after Super Tuesday in 2008, but not one Superdelegate switched to Bernie. And it’s perfectly appropriate that Supers set the stage for the primary by getting out in front for Hillary. They are the leadership of the party.
And seriously, the idea that 600 Democratic officials might switch their allegiance to Bernie, presumably waiting to rise up en masse at the Convention to fuck over Hillary Clinton, was preposterous. Self-serving delusional revenge fantasy.
And no, not because she’s so “powerful” and “scary” and “vengeful.” It’s because they’re Democratic officials, and she’s a Democrat. The only motivation for waiting would be to participate in a cruel spectacle designed to humiliate her. No one has any reason or desire to do that. Most people don’t irrationally hate Hillary like Berners do. Most people like her.
And keeping something like that a secret? Please…
Bernie held forth that the primary was “rigged” against him, and that somehow Hillary and DWS were complicit. He never explained how the DNC had any influence on state and local election law. As always, he let imaginations run wild.
In New York, they’re somehow responsible for strict state party registration laws, which are actually designed to discourage transient voting. It’s perfectly reasonable in a state like New York to pass laws protecting their residents from undue influence by interlopers. (Also reflects Berner doctrine that they should be able to tell other states what to do. See also Term Limits.)
And no one mentioned that many New Yorkers had their registrations switched to Independent to make voting easier after Hurricane Sandy. Many never bothered to switch their registrations back, but that’s not a “purge.” Also it’s the campaign’s responsibility to make sure their supporters meet registration deadlines, not the Party’s.
In Arizona, they claim the DNC somehow influenced decisions by local GOP officials to close polling locations in heavily Democratic areas. Also for some reason they closed polling locations in precincts that heavily favored Hillary. They dispute this of course. It’s an article of faith among Berners, based on nothing, that every single person stuck in line in Maricopa County would have voted for Bernie.
No one explained to them that in 2013 SCOTUS ruled in Shelby County v. Holder to gut the Voting Rights Act. This eliminated the preclearance provision that was our best defense against GOP efforts to disenfranchise minority voters. Within a month, 33 states passed sweeping voter suppression laws targeting African Americans that affect ALL Democrats. Without preclearance we have to rely on the courts, and only AFTER we lose an election do we have standing.
Any Democrat in 2016 would have underperformed Obama, including Obama, because there were far fewer Democrats eligible to vote. I was in Wisconsin for Obama in 2012. That operation turned out an unheard of 87% in Milwaukee. I often wonder how many of the citizens we activated weren’t allowed to vote this year.
Championing voting rights makes a lot more sense than courting WWC with economic populism while abandoning our base. Bernie’s most toxic legacy has been convincing “white progressives” that they are the Democratic base. Our base is actually women of color.
Bernie convinced his followers that if they kept sending him their $27, it would put him over the top and he could triumph at the Convention. They dug deep, tithed monthly, and treated it as an investment plan that would eventually pay off for them in the form of free college. I know people who actually went without so they could send Bernie more money. They now say they wished they’d listened to me.
Berners fervently believed their cause was so righteous, it couldn’t possibly fail on its merits, thus there had to be foul play involved. And since their cause cé·lè·bre was Bernie himself, not his platform, soon his much vaunted Revolution degenerated to a single focus, stopping Hillary at all cost.
For over a year, Bernie ran around the country questioning Hillary’s integrity, attacking her character, insinuating rampant corruption with nothing to back up his charges.
All while his campaign was fostering a culture openly dismissive of minorities, intolerant of dissent, and fluent in 30-year-old GOP anti-Hillary talking points. Bernie even called the former United States Senator, First Lady, and Secretary of State “unqualified” for the presidency.
Someone once called Bernie’s campaign a Hillary Indictment Cargo Cult. I had to google Cargo Cult — Apt metaphors FTW! I wish I could remember who said it. Does anyone know?
Bernie cast Hillary as the antagonist who usurped his rightful place as the nominee thru nefarious means. Sure, Bernie grudgingly endorsed her two months after her nomination, but he never walked back his smears. Слово не воробей, вылетит-не поймаешь
On the trail, Bernie merely pointed out that Hillary would be better on the ISSUES, and that he knew they would do what’s right for the country. And for Berners it was never about the issues. They believe Hillary cheated Bernie out of the presidency and they just couldn’t stand the thought of her getting it.
So they allied themselves with Stein or Johnson, or even Trump, all with policy agendas in complete opposition to Bernie’s. Or they stayed home, smugly self-satisfied that “both parties are the same” and they were teaching us a lesson.
We pleaded with them. We tried to appeal to them, explaining over and over what was at stake. And this made them mad. They felt condescended to, because we kept telling them things they already knew. We were advocating on issues, thinking it mattered, thinking if we could just make them understand, they’d see the light.
But it’s not about issues for them so nothing got through. They felt talked down to because we were explaining basic concepts to them. I don’t blame them, I’d hate that too! But they weren’t being honest about why they refused to vote for her, so no one could find common ground.
After the election Bernie announced his book tour because of course he did. What’s better than a book tour to continue the grift and exploit crushing disappointment brought about by unrealistic expectations built on false promises? And they’ll keep sending him money they can’t spare, clinging to the embers of a “Revolution” fueled only by moral superiority and vengeance.
In conclusion, below is a list of issues that should have mattered to anyone calling themselves “Progressive,” causes now set back decades.
Bernie or Bust? We got Bust.