I don’t buy the “Bernie or Bust” tantrum.
I offer the following as someone who has been a Bernie Sanders fanatic since meeting him back in 2006, and working in proximity to his Senate campaign that same year. Bernie is the candidate I most wanted to win the 2016 Democratic nomination, which is the same thing millions of other zealous supporters hoped for.
Here is the paradox about the “Bernie or Bust” phenomenon I am having the most trouble wrapping my mind around:
If one trusted Bernie to be the best candidate for President—a job defined by difficult and pressure-laden decisions—then how does that same person not trust his decision to endorse Hillary Clinton? He had a choice to endorse Jill Stein, or to endorse nobody at all, but the man who was trusted by many to be the candidate who would save us from a broken system endorsed Hilary Clinton and many supporters have cried foul. Literally the only decision he made of consequence on his road to the White House is one a substantial block of his voters could not get behind.
I’ve heard people say that maybe the DNC has something on him. I’ve heard that the pressure to make such decisions is so incredibly difficult, and that explains his faux pas.
Then it’s a damn good thing, so susceptible to pressure, Sanders didn’t become president, right?
Or maybe, as I believe he did, Sanders made the decision of sound heart and mind because Clinton isn’t perfect, but Trump win would be catastrophic. Despite their differences of approach, I believe Sanders made the only rational choice by endorsing Clinton. On this issue, I am in the Noam Chomsky camp:
“In the primaries, I would prefer Bernie Sanders. If Clinton is nominated and it comes to a choice between Clinton and Trump, in a swing state, a state where it’s going to matter which way you vote, I would vote against Trump, and by elementary arithmetic, that means you hold your nose and you vote Democrat. I don’t think there’s any other rational choice.”
On voting for other candidates, Chomsky says:
“Abstaining from voting or, say, voting for, say, a candidate you prefer, a minority candidate, just amounts to a vote for Donald Trump, which I think is a devastating prospect, for reasons I’ve already mentioned. So—but meanwhile, do the important things.”
None of this is to suggest that Sanders has adhered to Clinton’s politics, or become some tool of the DNC, or a puppet, or sold out, or whatever, but that faced having lost the candidacy he had to make a decision that was ideologically imperfect as a means of keeping the momentum of his progress going. He made great gains by way of exciting everyday people about civic engagement, and his impact on platform articulation is unbelievably laudable. He has committed to keep that movement rolling beyond Election Day and I believe we will be better for that.
An America in which Trump gets to select judges is not one in which I would like for Sanders to continue his fight for multi-pronged reform. It’s not one that would be beneficial to most of us. Of course I say all this in solidarity because as a white man it’s not my uterus or forced deportation on the line. A future in which a militant nationalist favored in some states by literally zero percent of people of color—who advocates for mass deportation and wall construction and every other disgusting approach—might be great for recruiting future activists to reform the system, man... but also one that sets back progress by decades. It strikes me that Sanders has done that math and has decided accordingly.
It will be convenient for some to wipe their hands clean of the decision by writing Sanders in or voting for a third party candidate. “Don’t look at me! I didn’t vote for any of them… It’s all one party anyway! ” A course of action motivated in some by a lack of willingness to realize that the fight didn’t end when Sanders didn’t get the nomination; it changed. It pivoted. It offers the rhetorical excuse for some to sit out this ongoing and ever-changing fight ahead. For that fight, and those serious about continuing to fight it, we need to consider retaining existing progress so that tomorrow’s battle for reforms of the two party system—of the DNC itself, of how we vote and of campaign finance, of military and police reform, of anti-racism work and preservation of reproductive rights, the battle against climate catastrophe and on and on and on—can take place on a somewhat amenable battleground. That does not happen in Trump’s future. No Facebook argument about ideological purity will stop this from being the reality.
PHOTO CREDIT: The great Troy Bennett