We’ve all heard the slams on Bernie supporters lately—slams of an increasingly personal nature. That many of them are sexist or crypto-sexists. That they’re supporting a candidate so weak that he would surely succumb to independents and Republicans during the general election. Bernie supporters are naïve about how politics works, and about how finance works, and about foreign policy. Bernie supporters are too idealistic about power in general, and life, and their candidate can’t win. Also that Bernie himself is a hypocrite, and Bernie supporters overlook that.
There’s a lot of resentment about Sanders supporters, but there are personal attacks coming from Sanders supporters, too. And I totally get it. I’d be frustrated, as a Hillary supporter, seeing my candidate get challenged on things. I mean as a Bernie supporter, I’m frustrated that people support Hillary, a candidate that, to my thinking, is deeply flawed (moreso than Bernie or, of course, I’d support Hillary instead). We all know, rationally, that democracy is about presenting voters with choices and then allowing them to thrash out (verbally! Verbally!) their preferences for moral and actual leadership.
But there is one thing I’d like to bring up… one small matter that seems to have been overlooked by the wave of understandable pro-Hillary support, and equally understandable sentiment directed against Bernie supporters. Especially on this Super Tuesday That is this undeniable fact: Clinton supporters owe Bernie and his supporters big. Huge! Because without Bernie in the race, there wouldn’t be a Democratic primary this year.
I’ll let that sink in. A presidential election in a year without any incumbent, and one of the two parties basically fails to hold a primary (with all due respect to the other brief Democratic primary candidates, whose names I remember largely because of a Saturday Night Live sketch). And not the party one would think—not the conservative, authoritarian/reactionary leaning Republican party. Nope—the well-educated, modern, progressive Democratic party. The party of gun control, and secularism, and gender equality. The party of democracy, and generosity, and human rights. Of representation for minority voters—and, for that matter, for voters in general. This party, apparently, would have been pretty okay with holding a sham election analogous to those seen in Iran or Soviet Russia, wherein a centralized party appoints a candidate without consulting its population, and everyone can vote for the approved candidate or register their dissatisfaction by not voting, and that’s the election.
That’s how things were shaping up before Bernie became popular. While the Republicans have continued their frothy, disgraceful public descent into overdue obsolescence, Democrats have, for the most part, remained silent while they walk through the most heavily-managed Democratic primary I have ever witnessed in my time as an adult.
So if you like Hillary for president? I don’t dispute your right to embrace the candidate of your choosing. I won’t condescendingly and pretentiously point out that democracy depends on multiple viable candidates. I certainly won’t stand in the way of your support for a brilliant technocrat whose interested in coalitions may have undermined the primary system on which our democracy depends, nor will I point out that the same technocrat stood by with a straight face while the DNC thoughtlessly (not, I believe, maliciously, or I would not be able to align myself in good conscience with the Democratic party in any capacity) rigged the primaries in order to get the candidate with the most friends selected. I won’t remind you, either, that this is basically how China selects its political leadership. I don’t think Clinton supporters are evil, or bad, nor do I believe that Clinton is evil or bad—simply that everyone’s judgment seems clouded about the role of cause and effect, and the long-term cost to the DNC of making decisions that transparently subvert democratic mechanisms in the party I believe best represents and defends democracy, the only party with which I affiliated myself until recently revoking my registration in a sad and pointless gesture of protest. In a year when Trump is the Republican frontrunner! I pledge to remain silent about this, as I will about the looming national tragedy the DNC’s actions nearly contrived: an election without real choices.
In exchange for my silence (I have a price, like everyone else), the next time you see a Sanders supporter, do the right thing. Shake their hand, pat them on the shoulder, give them the thanks they’re owed. Right now, they’re the best thing about the Democratic primary. Without Bernie, you’d essentially be living in a de facto authoritarian system: an election without viable choices.
As to why many Hillary supporters seem comfortable with that scenario, and really appear to resent Sanders running at all—resent any opposition, hypothetical or real—that’s a question best left to their conscience.