What to say instead of “Bernie’s not a Democrat”

Sally Albright
Jan 9, 2018 · 4 min read

When we say “Bernie isn’t a Democrat” or “Berners aren’t Democrats” we know what we mean but we can be interpreted by outsiders as petty and territorial. It might be better if we point out that “they don’t want what the party wants” and “they don’t share our Democratic values.”

Because it isn’t about making them cry uncle and signing the piece of paper they are indignant about having to sign. It’s pure stubbornness on their part, but it’s very telling. If they truly cared about issues, they wouldn’t stand on ceremony, they’d roll up their sleeves and get to work helping us fight fascism.

Their refusal to join the party is not the problem, but it’s a reflection of the problem — Bernie, and Berners, don’t want what we want. Berners want to make our elected officials and candidates walk the plank over ideological litmus tests. We want to win elections with candidates that reflect their localities. Bernie want Democrats to “stop talking about race & gender so much” because it makes certain white people uncomfortable. That’s not what real Democrats want.

Everyone keeps saying we need to find common ground, to compromise, but there’s nothing to compromise on. We agree on policy- where we disagree is how to get there. We’d ALL like to overturn Citizens United and “get money out of politics” but it would be sheer lunacy to stop fundraising while GOP continues to pursue every available dollar allowable by law. And then some.

And we can’t hold open primaries with an incumbent president, because all the Republicans would vote in ours to skew our results. This is what happened in West Virginia, their primary came after Trump became the presumptive nominee so WVGOP organized and sent their people to vote for Bernie in our open primary. Exit polls showed that Bernie voters who intended to vote for Trump in the fall were twice Bernie’s margin of victory. (And before you get excited, Bernouts, remember: It might not be Bernie they’re helping next time.)

Those seem to be the three sticking points separating Berners from real Democrats — policy litmus tests, fundraising limits, and “Don’t make us join the party.”

(Well, they do talk a lot about “rigging” and “purges” and “who closed the polling locations in Maricopa County,” but let them endlessly relitigate the primary among themselves. It’s important that we don’t get bogged down in their delusions. Be firm: It’s not about Hillary and it’s not about 2016.)

We know what this is really about - that generational-defining insatiable thirst for validation - and that’s something they’re never going to get.

But as for compromise, there isn’t anything to compromise on. The fundamental conflict is over chasing WWC or prioritizing civil rights. You can’t do both and Bernie knows this, that’s why he presses on even when he gets called out for racial insensitivity. Racial insensitivity is his brand, and his entire message is a dog whistle.

Well-meaning white people pretending we can have it both ways are a large part of the problem. “Believing the best in people” only reinforces the status quo and perpetuates structural inequality.

Protecting civil rights is either your guiding philosophy or else it’s just another negotiation point. That is a major difference between Bernie’s movement and real Democrats, and it’s an insurmountable one.

So when we say Bernie isn’t a Democrat, it’s not about the registration status, it’s about what we want for the future of our country. Bernie doesn’t want what Democrats want, and we don’t want what Bernie wants.

Let them be all obstinate about “signing a piece of paper” they think is some kind of blood oath, because that works in our favor. If “Crazy Bernie” and Linda Sarsour aren’t Democrats, our candidates don’t have to answer for them or any charges of “radical socialism.” And in most competitive Congressional districts our candidates will only benefit from a bunch of loons running around squawking that Democrats are soft on socialism.

So we all know what we mean when we say “Bernie is not a Democrat,” but let’s try to make it more clear: “Bernie chooses not to be a Democrat because he doesn’t share our values.”

The Democratic party is not a clique and we are not the cool kids. Everyone is welcome to join our fight. But if your goal is to move the party away from civil rights and social justice, you can pursue that goal from the outside looking in.


sal·ly (‘sa-lE) def. 1. To Rush Forward; to Leap and Dance 2. A Sudden Outburst; a Witticism; a Quip 3. A Venture Off the Beaten Path

Sally Albright

Written by

Comms Strategist, Organizer, Voter Advocate, Rock&Roll Girl. Unprofessional Writer. Don’t be alarmed if I mistake you for a hat. Mailing List: sallyalbright.com



sal·ly (‘sa-lE) def. 1. To Rush Forward; to Leap and Dance 2. A Sudden Outburst; a Witticism; a Quip 3. A Venture Off the Beaten Path

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