By now you have seen it all and are tired of being told what to do. You’ve been cajoled, pressured, guilted, even threatened to say that you’ll vote for Hillary Clinton should Bernie Sanders lose the nomination. And you are tired of it.
You’ve stated all the reasons Hillary is not your candidate: from her centrist politics, hawkish foreign policy and support of the crime bill to the Honduras fiasco and Wall Street influence, etc. It’s hard to understand that despite these obvious “flaws,” she’s still up by 3 million votes, made up of key and diverse demographics, in key states, and has a 96% chance of winning the California primary, even with a new poll saying the California race is suddenly close. Others are saying she’ll lock it up way before that in New Jersey, of all places.
Now you are hearing a chorus of former Bernie champions, respected men like Robert Reich, who gave you all the math of how Bernie might win, and even Hillary hater and funny man Bill Maher, warning you that at some point, not voting for Hillary will aid Donald Trump.
“WTF?” you must be thinking, “How are you going to tell me how evil this person is, that she’s not reflective of my values, and then say I have to vote for her for ‘the good of the country?’”
You, and many Bernie supporters like you, may want to reply with a defiant NO and maybe a well-placed finger.
OK. I get it. And I’m not here to try to convince you to simply abandon your current beliefs. I’m here to talk to you as an adult, and as someone who respects why you have chosen your position. Full disclosure, I am a Hillary supporter. But I am also a progressive, and I support those who want to see positive change and promote equity and justice in the system. So let’s discuss.
You already know the facts that I believe we can all objectively agree on:
- Hillary will most likely win the Democratic nomination.
- This will be a very close race vs. Trump in the general election
- Should Bernie go third party, he will still not win, but split the left for an easier victory for Trump.
- By all account, Trump would turn the country into chaos.
How we got to this point is almost irrelevant now, but let’s look at the two scenarios under which there isn’t support from Bernie supporters.
Trump wins, and the GOP falls in line because, hey, a win’s a win.
He would control Supreme Court nominations (at least two) and have influence over tax cuts and social services. Perhaps more importantly (and this is NOT to fear-monger), his presidency will give America’s underbelly of racism and xenophobia the air cover it’s been looking for to show itself in a way not seen in decades. Political historians are weary that Trump is actually a significant turning point in American democracy. Even if it’s only for one term, the damage to this country will not be easily undone in the next four, or eight years. Remember: it took Obama almost his entire presidency to recover the country from President Bush’s economic failure.
Hillary wins anyway without Bernie’s support.
Let’s say Hillary gets the vote from her Democrats AND moderate, center-right Republicans like Laura Bush, who recently gave her a tacit endorsement. The world does not slip into chaos, but Hillary inches her way back to the center, ignoring her previous moves to the left, and the progressive movement is further marginalized within the party. Maybe that means an emergence of a third party, but for all intents and purposes… nothing changes.
And that’s the frustration among Bernie supporters, isn’t it? That Hillary’s centrist policies will win the day, and nothing will change, and the only thing that will shake up the system enough is to let Trump win? Some anticipate shrugging off a Trump presidency, hoping he’s such a disaster he’ll only last four years, simply satisfied that they helped stopped Hillary from the top spot. Some see it as a cleansing fire in a forest, to make way for a new one to emerge from the embers (never mind all the lives that perish in the process of such a “cleanse”). Besides, the left will battle Trump for what’s right and be joined by moderates who will battle to save women’s rights, labor rights, immigration reform, social justice reform, the dwindling middle class, etc.
I’m tired just imagining the battle the lies ahead. So let me get to the point. And it’s a singular, simple one.
For Bernie Sanders supporters, the best chance of moving forward with progressive change to “the system” is to help Hillary win should she become the nominee.
Not because she’s going to be the harbinger of change in Bernie’s place, but because YOU ARE going to be that harbinger of change.
You are going to pressure Hillary to move further left, to fulfill her promise of healthcare for all and a higher minimum wage, to dismantle the private prison complex and enact justice reform.
You will be the ones to get immigration reform, and hold her feet to the fire on Citizens United to get money out of the political system.
And you’ll be successful at it because Hillary is maybe 80% of the way there, 93% if you compare senatorial voting records with Sanders.
You’ll pressure her on timelines and which priorities to go after first, and you’ll need to still protest and hold rallies and write op-eds and crowd the streets, but you’ll have someone in the White House who can be moved by that energy to get closer to where you are.
Hillary may not be your candidate, but she is not your enemy.
Make no mistake, there is an enemy. The alternative to pushing Hillary left, and protesting for justice in front of a sympathetic (if not always agreeing) White House, is having these battles under a Trump regime. Under a regime where a man attacks judges for ruling against him, media for questioning him, says he can ban entire religions, and has no real understanding of constitutional rights. If the protests at Trump rallies are any indication, under a Trump presidency are bound to turn violent. That scenario will be bad for us all. It sets the clock back decades, instead of helping to push it forward.
Every year we hear our President tell us the “State of Our Union is Strong.” Can we really expect to hear that in the coming years under a Trump presidency without wincing?
Without a concerted effort on the left (and left-center) to elect the Democratic nominee, Trump can win. It’s very clearly a possibility. And that’s a scenario that makes our fight harder. But let me be clear: that doesn’t mean you have to “swallow Hillary.”
In fact, I encourage you to be loud, to protest, and cajole, guilt, and pressure her to hear your concerns, because your biggest asset right now is that “flaw” Hillary has been criticized for having: she can be swayed. She has proven that under the right pressure, she can go left, but without that pressure, the money and support will keep her center. So pressure away.
There is no pressuring Trump. We can protest Trump. We can write nasty things about him until we’re blue in the face. He’s not going to budge. He’s a demagogue. And what that means is that in order to fight for progressive beliefs, we will have to take to the streets like we haven’t in a generation. The amount of mobilization necessary to make a difference will be exponentially more (and cost more and have more risks to it) to fight under a Trump regime than a Hillary presidency. Remember, if he wins, it’ll be with a majority of votes from people who support him, and will defend him and his policies. Are we to go head to head with half of America as well? Only our own level of stubbornness and short-sightedness can determine which scenario we’ll have to work under.
Also, beware of the people encouraging you to not vote, or to “give the country the president they deserve: Trump.” Question their motives. One thing proven in this election cycle is that Trump’s entertainment value lifts all boats, including for those who oppose him. There are some out there who, if they can’t elect their candidate, would be satisfied keeping Trump the center of attention for as long as possible because it benefits them, creating a sort of “opposition industry,” and there is money and fame to be found there.
For some in the chattering classes (and bloggering classes), the struggle to remain relevant is difficult. A Democratic win that’s not Bernie would render those who cheered hardest for him a bit passé. Under a Trump regime, some of these folk will be elevated to resistance status, and it would keep them front and center in the conversation well past the election. A Trump presidency will fill their speaking engagements and up their click rates. It’ll make them guest TV commentators and leaders of rallies nationwide. There’s motivation to maintain the current discourse and keep the crowds angry (and watching and clicking) for as long as possible.
There are still others whose motives are more insidious. They crave the actual physical fight. They want to see citizens at each other’s throats. They want to see blood in the streets. We see them showing themselves even now, inciting chaos when there are peaceful protests. We talk about being manipulated by certain parties for their benefit over our own: that concept happens on multiple levels. And if there is one thing we can agree on, is no one likes to feel manipulated.
You won’t be abandoning your principles by voting for Hillary should she win the eventual nomination. No one expects Bernie’s movement to go home and hide: many of us are counting on your continued energy to remind the government of the people they swore to represent. You can keep working hard to provide a real opportunity to change the system in this decade.
It’s the beginning of the movement, not the end. I’m sure Bernie’s eventual concession speech (and endorsement) will include some form of this call for support.
I’m not trying to tell you Hillary will be Bernie in the White House. She won’t be (and that’s OK). But Hillary is the person most likely to hear your message and respond, whereas Trump will keep us screaming in the streets, if he doesn’t let loose the hounds and hoses first.
So, will we unite to fight for progress under Clinton, or must we be forced fight for survival under Trump?
Born in the Bronx, New York and currently a New Jersey resident, Miguel has written multiple entertainment reviews and political opinion pieces for online publications including CNN.com, HLN.com, the Huffington Post, Llero.net and The Father Life, an online magazine for dads. You can follow him @miguad98.