Stop Calling for Bernie to Quit – It Could Backfire
Guest Post by Reed Martin
As the Democratic Primary winds down and we’re near the end of the election, the calls for Bernie Sanders to drop out to unify the party are strong. But this isn’t 2008, where the ideological differences between Obama and Clinton were minimal, and it was a question of who could run a better campaign and who would be a better leader. Bernie’s “political revolution” goes much deeper.
Calling on Bernie to quit, and getting angry with #BernieOrBust supporters, is ultimately the wrong way to unify Democrats.
Bernie’s not looking for personal favors
In 2008, Hillary Clinton dropped out as it became clear she likely would not secure the nomination at the convention. Typically, dropping out and endorsing your opponent is a delicate dance that occurs between the candidates and the party, often negotiating opportunities that exist for them within the others’ administration. For Hillary, that came as the Secretary of State, a position she was certainly qualified to fill.
Bernie is likely not looking for personal favors of that sort. He’s looking for ideological concessions and commitments to pursue a more people- and planet-first vision for the future of our nation.
Bernie dropping out and endorsing Hillary might have a hugely negative impact on political engagement.
Bernie has done far more than run a primary campaign, he’s ignited a political movement. He’s engaged millions of people to show up and fight for social, economic, racial, and environmental justice. He’s brought millions of new voters into the political process. He’s caught the attention of politicians and philosophers around the world. He’s helped shape the conversation about how we should be building the future of our country, and showed us that the impossible isn’t that impossible when people demand change. He’s opened people’s eyes to issues from fracking to regime change to economic inequality to powerful money and lobbyists to universal education and health as rights to criminal justice reform to american imperialism. He’s shown the depths of which powerful moneyed interests shape our politicians, our government, and our country’s future.
All of those issues go far beyond this election. Bernie ending the campaign by quickly retracting, endorsing Hillary, and moving on could absolutely backfire, stranding millions of supporters of his political revolution, leaving them disenfranchised, disillusioned, and giving up on politics. It could also inspire them to leave the Democratic Party, fight for change from the outside, and splinter the Democrats. While the former is the most concerning, the latter should be terrifying for the Democratic Party as well.
Calling for Bernie’s supporters to “get in line” will create a backlash
When you’ve created an ideological split in the party, you can’t tell one side that they need to get in line and support the mainstream candidate without a huge backlash.
When you’re fighting for a living wage, you don’t tell striking union workers to “get in line” behind the CEO that will give you 10 cents more per hour while raking in millions of dollars in salary — and not expect a backlash.
When you’re fighting for our planet’s climate and a ban on fracking, you can’t tell that person to “get in line” and fight for a leader who has actively promoted increasing fracking — and not expect a backlash.
When you’re fighting against the corrupting influence of money in politics, you can’t tell that person to “get in line” behind a candidate that has openly accepted large sums of money from corporate interests — and not expect a backlash.
This is why we have a convention
All of this comes down to the Democratic National Convention, which was designed for this exact scenario. When no candidate receives the requisite number of pledged delegates, which is the case in this election, a contested convention is exactly how you work to unify the party. And that unification doesn’t come through simple scare tactics like diverting attention to Donald Trump. That unification comes through compromise and concessions — on both sides.
While a Trump presidency would be terrible, he’s also being used as a fear tactic to get us to stop fighting for real change. There’s far more at stake than just Donald Trump; let’s not distract ourselves from making forward progress by focusing only on fear.
Supporters of Bernie’s political revolution need to have the opportunity to show up and fight for their vision at the convention and help shape the future of the Democratic Party. Will the DNC support a commitment to ban fracking? A commitment to campaign finance reform? A nationwide $15 minimum wage? Universal education? A tax on carbon?
There are important commitments that must be addressed in order to gain the support and trust of Bernie supporters in the fall. Those of us who believe in a more democratic nation, regardless of candidate, should support the effort to push the party to take a stronger stance on progressive issues. It’s also the only way Democrats can hope to truly unify the party.
Reed Martin is a former candidate for Mayor and founder of Grand San Francisco. You can read more about Reed and what he believes Here.