An Open Letter to Disgruntled Bernie Supporters,
I feel you.
Truly progressive candidates, particularly ones advocating a revolutionary-style system overhaul, come along very rarely. Bernie Sanders tapped into a disgruntled faction of the electorate fed up with money-driven politics. It was exciting to witness the rise of an “outsider” — he’s not even technically a Democrat — galvanize a country with his vision for a fairer America.
I attended his rally. I caucused for him. I am disappointed in his failure to secure the nomination.
I am also a pragmatist.
The 2016 election is not the proper venue to take an idealist stand against the rigged two-party system. Yes, money and power play far too great a role in our political structure. Yes, from the perspective of a true-blue liberal, Hillary Clinton is a flawed candidate. And yes, the DNC may have grossly abused its authority and violated the neutrality it was supposed to maintain. But…
I sympathize with the feeling of exhaustion brought on by years of casting defensive votes. It’s a draining sensation that makes one question the very organization of our democracy.
That said, the argument suggesting that Clinton and Trump are equally bad — submitted, to my continual astonishment, by staunch progressives — is outrageously off base. Again, I do not fail to recognize Hillary’s pitfalls, among them an offputtingly cozy relationship with big money and a failure to connect with ordinary struggling Americans.
Donald Trump, however, has run on a consistent platform of hatred, exclusion, and ignorance. He wants to build a completely unfeasible wall to keep those “rapist” Mexicans out. His response to terroristic threats is to prevent all Muslims from entering the country, a gross violation of the constitutional tenants on which America was built. He believes global warming is a nonexistent hoax. He wants to reverse abortion laws, further suggesting — and later waffling on, due to justifiable backlash — that women who would then terminate their pregnancy should be subject to “some form of punishment.” He defended Roger Ailes after a series of Fox News employees accused him of sexual harassment.
The ever-growing list of detestable comments — on things that I thought outraged progressive voters — is seemingly endless.
Yet, a sharper vitriol is aimed at Hillary Clinton. It baffles me. And I think there’s an unrecognized air of privilege surrounding this misguided ideology.
Most of the Bernie supporters who suggest they’ll sit out or vote third party this election are, it appears, liberal white males. There is a certain idealistic arrogance of liberal white males — of which I am admittedly among — that allows us the freedom to think about “systems” and “ideas” and “revolutions.” We have the luxury of sitting this one out because Trump’s bigoted policies don’t target us.
Meanwhile, as we sit on the sidelines and discuss the possibility of some Trump-induced system breakdown that will allow us to neatly start from scratch — a nonsensical pipedream, by the way — it is women, Muslims, and immigrants (and other targeted groups) who reap the day-to-day punishment.
You don’t have to love Clinton to recognize the danger posed by a Donald Trump presidency. There are real-life consequences for everyday Americans at stake, and taking your Bernie-ball and going home is a petulant failure to recognize these potentially devastating ramifications.
Lastly, if these arguments don’t persuade you, consider the importance of the Supreme Court vacancy. For the first time in a generation, an opening exists for a truly progressive court to help overturn some of the many corporate-friendly rulings of recent past — among them, Citizens United. Failing to vote for Hillary Clinton is a tacit endorsement of Donald Trump and the sure-to-be reactionary justice he would nominate; this, in turn, threatens to set back potential social progress.
I support working toward making politics more inclusive and fair. But, in 2016, a third party candidate is not going to win. Period. Do not implicitly condone Trump’s platform through your absence in the electoral process.