Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Bernie: Too Big to Fail...

On June 7th, Hillary Clinton will likely win the California primary, essentially securing her the Democratic presidential nomination. For the former first lady, senator of New York, and secretary of state, this has been a surprisingly arduous political contest. I have said (and still believe) Hillary Clinton is the most qualified candidate for president; however, an impressive resume doesn’t automatically make her electable. Full disclosure, I support democratic-socialist, Senator Bernie Sanders, and believe in the political revolution his campaign has inspired. Moreover, I think Bernie Sanders stands the best chance of beating the Republican nominee - Donald Trump. Accordingly, I continue to support Sanders until he officially suspends his campaign (which I begrudgingly realize is coming soon.) So as we approach the conclusion of this energetic primary (and before directing our attention to this summer’s conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia), let’s reflect on why anyone would still support the long shot candidate from Vermont. 
     For one, Bernie Sanders has ignited a “political revolution” and backing away from any revolution, especially after becoming so invested, is not so easy. Perhaps the cynical will invariably scoff at such hyperbole, but what else to label this inspiring movement? The Sanders campaign can rightfully label itself a ‘revolution’ because Sanders has influenced and changed the minds of millions of young and newly-registered voters to actually engage in a political process that many had all but given up on. A number of Sanders’ supporters are also first-time Democrats. Thus, even if Sanders loses California, he has already won a number of delegates, captured 20 states, and raised $210 million in funds. The DNC must acknowledge that Sanders has effectively changed the game. If and when there is a transitional moment for Sanders to publicly endorse Clinton, it will need to be at the convention, or before; otherwise, a number of Sanders’ emotionally-invested and passionate supporters could become finicky with party procedure (especially, realizing their candidate is not going to win) and become further disengaged and totally turned off by politics altogether.     
     Sanders has changed the conversation, raised our consciousness, and reinvigorated the Democratic Party in exciting ways, but it is now up to his supporters and the DNC to continue carrying this enthusiasm into future movements. As Sanders reminded us at the start of this campaign, “No president can bring about the changes working families deserve.” And “No president can do what needs to be done alone.” This is important - an ongoing revolution will take millions of courageous and compassionate people to achieve, which would still be the case if Sanders has a comeback, clinches the nomination, and becomes president.
     Throughout the campaign Sanders has forced Clinton to defend her presumably progressive stance on a number of issues. Sanders has criticized Clinton’s support and ongoing relationship with Wall Street banks, inferring this makes her ill-equipped to enforce any real regulations. She has also taken contributions from fossil-fuel companies, making her equally weak on climate change. And, of course, Clinton has been unable to shake her 2002 vote authorizing the war in Iraq.  
     On the other hand, Bernie’s message has remained consistent - get money out of politics and out of the pockets of the billionaire class (i.e., the 1%). The most significant value that sets Sanders apart from any candidate is that he is not owned by the banks, nor the lobbyists who place profit before people. Sanders has not received contributions from any super pac. He should be commended and emulated for this. In fact, it would behoove Clinton and the Democratic Party, to promote and work to repeal Citizen’s United for good.   
     Most refreshing, Sanders is doing something long overdue - holding the Democratic Party and our political process itself accountable to the values it purports to uphold. There are millions hungry for a new kind of politics. But can the Democratic Party speak to those Bernie has brought into the tent and to do so in a genuine way? I hope those who have supported Senator Sanders will realize the importance of staying involved in politics. If Bernie can hold the Democrats accountable, what prevents us from continuing to hold ourselves accountable? We can carry on this political revolution. Newly-registered Democrats now have the ability to support candidates who uphold the values Senator Sanders espouses: renewable and sustainable energy alternatives, environmental justice, prison divestment, criminal justice reform, a humane and sensible immigration policy, universal healthcare, tuition-free college, etc.
     So we arrive at the question that may keep some in the Clinton camp awake at night - will Sanders suspend his campaign respectfully, encouraging his supporters to fall in line with the rest of the Democratic Party and vote Clinton? And if Sanders does this, who can say his supporters will vote Clinton? Is Clinton able to get people excited enough to get out the vote and do so with the same grassroots fervor? I doubt it. Which is why we get back to why I am still supporting Bernie - he is the only candidate who could possibly beat candidate ‘Trump-enstein’ in the general election. For instance, I have even anecdotally heard people say they would go so far as to vote Trump so as to “guarantee a revolution.” However, what these voters fail to comprehend is that politics is not a zero-sum game. Just because you’re candidate doesn’t win, shouldn’t mean you give up on everything.
     I am not ashamed for sticking with the “socialist Jew” until the bitter end. This is all part of the primary process, and part of a healthy democracy. (As we may recall, Hillary Clinton was also still in the race at this point back in 2008.) The major differences that separate Sanders from Clinton are significant and should cause us all to advocate for real reform, but these differences are not large enough to completely ignore our collective responsibility come November - to get out the vote. 
     If you’re not convinced to vote for Hillary Clinton, fine - that’s her job to do (besides, the game is not over, yet.) But please any reasons for not voting Clinton should not be because Bernie didn’t go all the way. I don’t think Clinton needs to come off as America’s best friend, just reasonable enough to run our country, which I think she is. Our ideal candidate may not be the one to run in the general election, but I am excited to see more people standing up for progressive values. I believe if we keep at it, and continue to hold ourselves accountable, our day will come. But only if we keep up the fight and stay in the game. 
    I know Bernie would.