It’s no secret that I’m a “yuuuge” Bernie Sanders supporter; I’ve written several articles for The Catalyst about his policies and positions, and most of my Facebook friends likely resent me as one of those five-posts-a-day supporters that Larry David called out in a recent SNL sketch.
Lately, however, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in several of the dozen or so Bernie Sanders support pages and groups I follow on Facebook. In the last few weeks of primaries, a number of memes have been circulating around pledging support to Sanders and only Sanders—some even shared by friends of mine. These posts claim that they will never cast a vote for Hillary Clinton, even if she wins the Democratic nomination in November. This article is written mostly as a plea to my fellow Bernie supporters considering taking such a position to reconsider the consequences of denying Clinton a shot at the general election.
Articles posted by some of these pro-Sanders Facebook pages have long included arguments against voting for Clinton in addition to the hundreds promoting the senator from Vermont. These articles are hard not to share; sometimes it feels more effective to provide reasons to oppose one candidate than reasons to support the other in our desperate bids to win over our voting-age Facebook friends. But despite favoring one candidate’s politics over the other’s within our party, we are united in opposition to the madmen vying for the Republican nomination. Ultimately, the only way to oppose the GOP in November will be by exercising our rights as citizens of a democratic country and voting for the chosen Democratic nominee.
Yet this Democratic primary has become almost as ideologically charged as the general election is sure to be. Attacks by both candidates’ supporters have become increasingly pointed, even vicious. It’s growing harder to see ourselves as on the same side.
Articles like “Could Hillary Clinton be Worse than Trump?” (CounterPunch, 2016) and “I won’t vote for Clinton and will encourage Sanders to run a third party bid for president” (The News Hub, 2016) have started to crop up around the Internet, with frightening implications. The subtitle of the latter article is, “I don’t care that Donald Trump might become president. I will not compromise my principles…and neither should you,” which I hope frightens you as much as it does me. Donald Trump is an irresponsible bigot who intentionally and consistently incites violence among his supporters, even promising to pay their legal bills if they get charged with assault. A Trump administration will make life in the United States intolerable for anyone who is not a straight, white, Christian male, and both Trump’s character and his foreign policy will likely earn us few friends in the international arena.
The article’s author, a white male named Calvin Wolf, writes, “If Bernie Sanders does not win the Democratic presidential nomination, I will demand that he run as an independent candidate. […] If he refuses to run as an independent, I will write him in…and I am far from alone” (The News Hub). He continues, “I know, I know: ‘What about Donald Trump?!’ Guess what? I don’t care. Let him win. Let him be the 45th president of the United States” (The News Hub). And true to his word, Wolf isn’t alone; an article published by Salon in January suggested allowing the Republican party to win the next four years, since 2020, as a census year, will be an even more important election than 2016. And if you think these opinions belong only to a handful of left-wing journalists, you’ll be disappointed; a January poll by Mercury Analytics found that 20 percent of Democrats surveyed would rather vote for Trump in the general election than Clinton (The Hill, 2016).
Of course, not everyone is willing to go so far as to actually cast their vote for Trump, but many more will do so by proxy, by writing in Bernie Sanders’ name on their ballot in November. While some may see this as an act of resistance to the DNC establishment, in reality, they risk handing the White House straight to the GOP. And while it may not trouble the handful of educated white men advocating such a compromise, this kind of sacrifice for the sake of principle is a privilege that belongs to few. Calvin Wolf will never fear for his life if Trump’s violent supporters rise victorious, nor will he be targeted for his religion or gender or the color of his skin. Voting in opposition to Clinton may seem like the right thing to do for someone who will never personally experience the consequences of her loss, but not everyone is so lucky.
Let’s not forget—lest we imagine that Bernie could win as a write-in candidate—what happened during the general election in the year 2000.
Ralph Nader ran as a third-party on the Green ticket, in much the same way that many of Sanders’ supporters would like to see him run if he loses the nomination. Many analysts have claimed that without Nader on the ballot, Al Gore would have won both New Hampshire and Florida, securing a Democratic victory over George W. Bush. Nader himself justified his campaign by claiming that Gore and Bush would be equally bad for the United States. Pointing at Al Gore’s less-than-perfect environmental record, Nader saw fit to run a third party campaign which divided the liberal base and cost the Democrats the election.
Bernie Sanders has no such illusions. He has publicly stated that “on her worst day, Hillary Clinton will be an infinitely better candidate and president than the Republican candidate on his best day” (Salon, 2016). Sanders will not run a third party campaign. He knows how important it is to keep Donald Trump out of the White House. While Al Gore lost the 2000 election by a small margin, with Nader taking home only 2.74 percent of the total popular vote, Sanders has a much wider base of support that could utterly cripple the Democrats’ chance of winning the election. Writing him in will cut the Democratic voting base in half, leaving no candidate strong enough to oppose Trump. A similar phenomenon actually explains Trumps success within the GOP: the division of support for the other Republican candidates has prevented any single one from becoming powerful enough to overcome him.
It’s hard to see Sanders and Clinton on the same team given how ideologically charged the race has become, despite repeated statements by the candidates themselves in recognition of their common goals. But even if you disagree with Clinton’s politics, as I do on many levels, please recognize that she will do much less damage to the people, government, and economy of this country than any of the Republican candidates. Letting Trump win is a privilege held by few, and to those few I say: if you truly believe in social justice, you will not let principle elect one of the most outspoken bigots the country has seen this century. I cannot imagine an act Bernie Sanders would oppose more: condoning the sacrifice of the oppressed in his own name. We must act in the best interests of the people we claim to be fighting for.
If you still would like to avoid seeing Hillary Clinton in the White House, then good, we agree. The primaries aren’t over yet, and Clinton hasn’t won. If you want Sanders to win the election, then join his campaign, phone-bank, or travel to the states where the next primaries will be held. There is so much we can still do to increase his chances of winning the Democratic nomination. But in the end, if Hillary Clinton prevails, don’t let your vote secure a Republican victory and cost so many Americans their freedom and security.