The vitriol is at a fever pitch months before the first caucuses and primaries, and it’s not just the wide open GOP field causing an uproar. Whether you call them Sandernistas (a term embraced for decades by Bernie’s more left-leaning fans) or the nom du jour Berners (from the popular “Feel the Bern” slogan), supporters of progressive social democrat Bernie Sanders are some of the most active and engaged grassroots campaigners in recent history and their fervor has made the establishment quite nervous.
How nervous? Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the DNC chair and former campaign co-chair for Hillary Clinton’s failed 2008 presidential bid, had complete control over the Democratic debate process this season and went with six, a historically low number. She then scheduled them mostly on weekends, historically poor viewing times, and placed most of them right up against national holidays. When called out in some very public ways, DWS has shown her frustrations and doubled down on her desire to keep debates at a minimum in an effort to hand the nomination to the well-known establishment candidate.
One could ask why DWS is so sure that Hillary Clinton could win. After all, in the last seventy years, every newly-elected president is from the opposite party of the last one with the exception of one-term Bush 41. The odds favor the GOP in that respect, which would indicate the need for powerful Democratic debates and the nomination of the strongest candidate versus the GOP. And that’s the important issue that seems to be sailing over the heads of the Democratic establishment: The election doesn’t end with the primaries. The DNC nominee then must proceed to break the generations-long trend of switching parties by demonstrating that things are headed in the right direction and will continue to do so under the next administration.
This is where “Bernie or Bust” comes in. Many Millennials, politically active and hungry for information in the first social media-driven race to the White House (without an incumbent), have made a pledge that they will not vote for Clinton if she is the eventual nominee. The originators of the pledge, Citizens Against Plutocracy, first asked pledges to write in Sanders’ name come election day, but they’ve since added the option to vote third party (Jill Stein’s Green Party candidacy comes to mind as a viable option).
This, predictably, has the establishment fuming. They’ve already shifted left on virtually every topic to give lip service to the rising progressive tide without completely alienating their donor list, so why would these ungrateful brats continue to abandon their candidate? The party is so accustomed to compliance from consistent Boomers and apathetic Gen Xers that they are completely unprepared to handle this new progressive front riding the wave of anger at Obama’s broken promises on Gitmo and Single Payer.
Their response so far has been to lash out. Clintonites abound in social media, news media comment sections, and radio show call-ins bellowing that it would be traitorous and destructive to “functionally help the GOP” by not voting for Clinton if she becomes the nominee. Third party voters are “throwing their vote away and helping the enemy.” Write-ins are “ignoring reality and putting two conservatives on the Supreme Court bench.” The bullying is direct and intense, and while they could very well be correct about handing the nomination to the GOP by splitting the left vote, it is difficult to fathom why a progressive voter would throw their support behind Clinton.
Hillary Clinton, for all her hard work as Secretary of State, has also stood in the way of progressive values on many occasions, from opposing marriage equality to supporting free trade agreements that harm our workers, from opposing higher minimum wage to supporting Keystone XL. Of course, she has changed all these positions in her speeches now, but can we trust her to stay progressive when the competition is gone? Her husband’s record on Workfare, NAFTA, CAFTA, DOMA, and other legacies seems to indicate that a Clinton in the White House is only a few bombs away from electing a Republican, but then… Clinton is also a very aggressive war hawk, so the difference between her pre-Bernie platform and the GOP are quite fuzzy.
There is a solution in all of this, however. The fact is that various polls demonstrate in head-to-head matchups between several GOP candidates and Sanders or Clinton, Sanders outperforms Clinton virtually every time. Why is that? Anecdotally, my typical third party socialist vote and my younger conservative friends’ typical GOP votes are all going to Sanders for a variety of reasons, most of all “authenticity,” which Clinton appears to lack. Asked if they’d support Clinton, those same friends (and myself, naturally) would not. Sanders wins because his support extends beyond the establishment base… in both directions.
So instead of playing “what if” and testing the limits of establishment Democratic power, it seems that the safe option is to put Bernie in the race. He speaks to the base and expands beyond it, to moderates, to socialists, and according to his own state’s residents, even to conservatives. His appeal is beyond enough to lock up the presidency if we stop voting for the media-approved candidate and start voting our conscience.
This is perhaps the most important election in our lifetimes for hundreds of good reasons, not the least of which are two possible Supreme Court nominations. Don’t put your hopes in a moderate candidate who can and does often swing right. Nominate the progressive candidate. Nominate Bernie Sanders.