The idea that Bernie supporters won’t back Hillary is insulting
Let me start by saying that I proudly voted for Hillary Clinton in my state’s primary, and I’ve actively supported her throughout the campaign. But I’ve liked Bernie Sanders since well before the election began, and became a real fan during his filibuster of the 2010 Bush tax cut extension. It’s been incredibly encouraging to see someone with his message, his policy proposals, and his record do so well and inspire this kind of passion and electoral participation.
Which is why it’s been so galling to see suggestions in the media that Bernie’s supporters won’t back Hillary once she is officially the Democratic nominee. It strikes me not just as a claim not borne out in the data, but one that is pretty insulting to Bernie’s supporters.
The suggestion that Bernie’s backers won’t vote for Hillary is really a way of saying that this entire movement (and make no mistake, it is a movement) has been a facade.
It’s saying that backers of the candidate who has spoken consistently and vocally about equality and ending racial and religious discrimination would sit by while we ban all members of an entire religion.
Or that those who back the candidate with the furthest-left position on immigration in recent history (somehow finding a policy more liberal than Hillary’s) are fine with a president who wants to develop a new deportation task force to raid the homes of 12 million human people.
Or that people who voted for the candidate who calls climate change our #1 national security threat simultaneously think it doesn’t matter if we elect someone who genuinely believes climate change is a hoax made up by the Chinese and that California’s drought could be solved by turning on the water.
Or that those who have rallied against the undue influence of the billionaire class would sit home while the literal walking-squawking embodiment of the billionaire class is elected to the White House.
Now I know that there are some who say that Bernie’s voters will not sit home but will rather rally behind to Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate (the accusation that they’d vote for Trump in large numbers is a slur not worthy of examination). This is where the condescension really hits its crescendo. I understand that Bernie’s base is relatively young. But even young people remember the 2000 election and what followed. We remember the war in Iraq and the Bush tax cuts and the economic collapse and I Do Not Recall and Hurricane Katrina and Dick Freakin’ Cheney. So when talking heads say that Bernie supporters are set to rally behind a Green Party spoiler, what they’re really saying is that these young kids don’t know about Ralph Nader and can’t be bothered to study their history. It is, once again, insulting.
In fact, this whole train of thought is one long way of calling Bernie’s supporters stupid or naive.
Are we really supposed to pretend that his backers don’t know the difference between a candidate who says everyone should graduate debt-free from college and one who sets up fraudulent colleges in a money-making gambit? Or that they can’t differentiate between a potential president who negotiates Middle East ceasefires and one who wants to give Saudi Arabia nukes? That because Hillary spoke to a bunch of bankers that criminal justice doesn’t matter anymore?
I could go on, but my point is this: Bernie’s supporters are genuine and truthful when they say they back him because of his policies and his integrity, which makes the idea that they would discard those policies because they don’t like or don’t trust Hillary Clinton absolutely outrageous. And, the assertion that they would is one that wrongly assumes Bernie’s voters to be some sort of unthinking sexist zombie militia.
To be sure, I don’t think anyone anticipates Bernie’s supporters instantly “falling in line” — nor should they. With his success in this campaign, Bernie has earned validation of his policy proposals and a position of influence within his new party for years to come. His supporters have earned the power that comes with a voting bloc 11 million members deep and Hillary has a vital responsibility to demonstrate that she would be a president these voters could be proud of. The onus is on her to show these voters that she will be their president too, and Bernie’s supporters have nothing more than obligation to hear her out. They have earned that much, at very least.
But Bernie’s supporters have not earned the kind of insult by way of logical fallacy that would have them betraying their principles on personal grounds and inflicting so much harm on so many undeserving people. To preemptively accuse them of doing so is downright unfair.