If we stand together, if we do not let them divide us up, there is nothing we cannot accomplish.
– Bernie Sanders
If you’re a Sanders supporter to any degree, you’re probably familiar with that refrain, a rallying theme by now often chanted in chorus at Sanders events.
I believe it, which is why I’m a little vexed by what I’m seeing within the Sanders movement in just the last two weeks.
It began to emerge after New York and intensified after March 26.
While I’m also heartened to see some strong, articulate and quick opposition to this trend, I still think it needs to be raised, addressed, and nipped in the bud.
It’s a chasm that could threatens to carve Sanders’ base into two camps. It’s over something that was always there, nibbling around our edges, but has now elbowed its way closer to the center of the crowd and grabbed a bigger bullhorn.
It’s a hardening line between #BernieorBust and the “no vote for Clinton is a vote for Trump” crowd.
It’s the question “Are you going to vote for her?”
Let me be clear right up front. What I am about to say is NOT about merits or criticisms of Bernie or Bust, or whether a Clinton presidency would be as bad or worse than a Republican one. I could cover that ground, and at some point I will. Others have and will, too.
Right now, this is about the fact that IT’S NOT TIME TO MAKE THAT CHOICE YET. It’s not even time to have that conversation. And the fact that to do so is diversionary, and diversion is damaging.
I propose (and many of us are feeling this) that fussing over it incessantly, putting it front and center now, is doing harmful things to us and our movement. It’s wasting our time, and it’s creating divisiveness—when shared energy and unity has been one of our strengths.
And we need this movement. This moment offers not just the chance to elect an historic and unusually caring, pragmatic, and bold President who for the first time in most of our lives is not the lesser or two evils; it also offers the chance to keep the heat on crucial issues ignored for too long by the ruling elite and a tired, cynical electorate. Issues which, if we don’t keep them front and center now, could decimate what’s left of our hanging-in-tatters democracy, and usher us past the point of no return for a livable planet—just as surely as the most feared specter of a Republican s**tshow.
It’s important to look at this right now, while we still have time to actually do something, so that we don’t let this rift do exactly what our movement’s leader has been begging us not to let happen: divide us up.
Because that’s what they’re trying to do. And if you focus on this question right now, you’re letting them.
Many of us all along have said “It’s not time to even discuss that question. I will not answer that question. I’m focused on Bernie winning, because he still can, and that’s where I’m putting my energy.”
But something about the last few weeks—perhaps his losses in closed and likely fraud-ridden primaries—turned up the volume on the hotly contested “will you or wont you?” demand. You might have noticed people getting more up in your face about it. Where you could maybe avoid getting into that conversation before, now the wanna-knows are getting a little more strident.
Maybe you’re even one of the people who started asking that question yourself, retreating into self-doubt from your once-singleminded, energized attention on the Sanders campaign itself.
In part this is coming from the media, which took the opportunity to heap on a fresh steaming pile of “Why doesn’t he get out?” What does he want?” nonsense. (Much excellent alternative media response has been given to these tiresome, hollow, ridiculously baseless demands, as there are many solid-through-and-through reasons why he is not going to get out—including that Clinton is no more likely than Sanders at this point to have enough pledged delegates by June 14 1,2,3. And anyone who’s thinking for themselves can see that if she was winning so handily, and so confident in her general election strength, they wouldn’t still want him so badly to get out.)
In some ways this also reflects a loss of faith in a tired, vulnerable moment after a few rough weeks—the human tendency to allow creeping doubt to come whispering its seductions, even when we have felt clear and wholesome in our vision and our convictions.
But to achieve great things always requires mastering ourselves over those natural ebbs. That’s why I wrote this (with supporting pieces linked and listed). Resources to keep your spirits up and your head straight about the facts—amid the endless swirl of media-manufactured, opportunistic memes.
Momentum is still building. The math is actually not against us. A path is emerging—several, in fact, with a few scenarios 2,3 for that contested convention. We not only still have power—we have more than ever.
As Seth Abramson puts it in this thoughtful, in-depth, richly developed analysis of the potentials and scenarios:
Everything is on the table now. We can rethink super-delegates now. And closed primaries. And party registration in the first instance. We can rethink how campaigns are funded…We can rethink the value of debates versus town halls, rallies, or other public-event formats. We can rethink what it is our two major political parties are supposed to be doing — their very reason for existence. We can rethink how decisions made by the media, apparently perpetually invisible to them, are, in the view of the rest of us, a giant finger being placed on the scales of American democracy.
It’s all about perspective, context, and the big picture. And as anyone who’s ever run a long race of any kind knows, those are things you have to master.
As Sanders himself said (video) a lot can happen in an election—”unusual things happen in politics”—and we are still in it to win it. He can also do math, knows the math is tough even if not impossible, and yet he perseveres on because a contested convention is virtually a given at this point1,2,3, 4 and he likely has plans for the positive impact that could have on the political process.
Don’t forget how the media is not with us and (to put it very mildly) has never had Sanders or our interests at heart. They have employed strategy after strategy to force him out, and notably, they have failed. This is just their latest shtick—the cry about “you’re dividing the party” and “you’re going to elect a Republican.”
If you buy it, and start parroting it, you are doing their work for them.
Wouldn’t you rather work for Sanders? IF that is what you came into this movement to do—for all the crucial, credible reasons you know in your heart and your critically thinking mind—why stop now?
NOTHING HAS CHANGED. (Except where it’s gotten better.) None of the reasons to support him have changed. Moreover, this is an up-and-down process, not linear. It’s true that the last two rounds of primaries haven’t been as uplifting as, say, Michigan or Western Saturday or Wisconsin. The mounting evidence of election fraud is infuriating and can lead to a sense of helplessness. And the relentless, galling mendacity and disingenuousness of the press and the Clinton campaign, the patronizing dismissals and smug supercilious assumptions and gaslighting, can be downright exhausting. I know.
But. Perspective, people. The fact is that this point in the race we have massively more power and capital than we had one year ago when the virtually unknown Sanders was somewhere between 55-70 points down in polls and had no money or volunteers yet. THINGS ARE BETTER THAN THAT NOW. WE HAVE BUILT SOMETHING.
Look how far we’ve come! We’ve helped a once in a lifetime compassionate, courageous, principled and morally powerful candidate and leader build a nearly unprecedented (at least in the last 50-70 or so years) movement that is being lovingly and passionately championed by millions—and being fought against viciously and ruthlessly by the party elite (which means they are scared, as they should be). In rally sizes and in fundraising without Super PACs, we have already made history.
At this point, 7.4 million individual contributions, more than any candidate in American history at this point in a campaign; 1.1 million drawn to rallies, and that’s going to bloom further significantly in California alone. No Super PAC, which was considered literally “impossible” until Sanders did it.
We have built a tremendous amount of grassroots strength and capital in every sense, unleashed a herd of thundering elephants no one was talking about, awakened a lot of people who were asleep, given renewed hope and vigor to a lot of people who were cynical and had given up. We have together pulled the lids off umpteen steaming manholes of inequality, hypocrisy, and corruption—and they will not this time be unseen.
And now we must keep our eyes on big goals, big reasons. There was always an intent to win the nomination—that would be best—but also an intent to create a movement that would be durable, not just a campaign. We’ve done that, and we need to keep doing that so it gets “too big to fail”—a good kind of “too big to fail.”
Annnnnd, with Indiana and California there are still YUGE battlegrounds remaining, with excellent momentum afoot once again. So there is still no reason to get discouraged or down—not for long anyway—unless you listen to mainstream media and Clinton supporters.
When you falter in your beliefs and your conscience, and start waffling, wringing your hands nervously, talking about the middle way, straddling the fence, you lose your power. And you impact the collective, because you actually start to “divide us up.”
So stay the course. Master yourself. Use all your powers of critical thinking. See the big picture. That’s what Sanders is doing. He’s an extremely smart man who has navigated this nightmare of a system—doing copious amounts of good without falling into the morass—for decades. His optimism is warranted, buttressed not just by idealism but a lucid grasp of what he’s up against, and was from the beginning.
And with our support, he’s about to bring that lifetime of passion, principle and experience to a much bigger arena. If not the White House—still within reach in spite of the wishful insults of the opposition—then at very least a durable force for change that we can continue to leverage, so we can wrest our democracy back from the grasp of corporations and elites.
And besides all that, the accusation that we’re dividing the party is not only a simplistic notion but indeed an ironic projection.
That notion fails to acknowledge the fact that Sanders actually has united more progressives than any candidate in the race—and probably any in recent memory. Not just young ones, either. Yes, he does incredibly well with young voters and that is a great thing, not only because that kind of turnout tends to win elections but because they’re the ones who’ll inherit the planet and democracy that hangs in the balance today.
But I see the “Sanders demographic” as much richer and deeper, a function of moral and spiritual sensibility rather than any particular age or gender or race. Large numbers of independents, veterans, women, seniors, and even Republicans disgusted with their own party support Bernie.
The false “Sanders is divisive” narrative also fails to acknowledge the fact that the Democratic party is already a shambles that long ago stopped representing or resembling any definition of what it is supposed to represent, and doesn’t need us “dividing it up” to fail—because it already has. Sanders is offering a chance to build it back.
They made that “divisive” narrative up. Just like most of the other detritus that’s come out of their end for this whole cycle.
Same for the narrative that Clinton’s not “if” but “when”—and that if you don’t show your support you’re a traitor and a spoiler. (And maybe a misogynist too!)
If you’ve come this far, you can surely see that this is predictable and was inevitable given the stakes for the obscenely moneyed and ruthless 1%. You need to see that they want to prey on any doubts we have.
The fact is that “IF’ hasn’t happened yet—and it well may not, unless you help make it happen by giving up, giving in, and becoming an inadvertent mouthpiece for the MSM and Clinton campaign. Hillary becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy if you start putting your energy into this premature question—instead of into ensuring, if not a Sanders outright win, then a contested convention.
And that’s just what they want.
The best thing they could do to win at this point—all their other tactics having failed to blunt the momentum, even with the painful blows of voter suppression and election rigging—would be to create unrest and divisiveness within our revolution.
And when you give yourself to the fearmongering about how not voting for Hilary is a vote for Trump, and how people who even consider not voting for her are crazy, pouty, privileged, uncaring petulant sore losers, you play right into their strategy.
Do you think they really give a crap about “uniting the party?” Or about us at all? Remember, this is the party who promised on the night he won Wisconsin that they would crush him and “unify the party later.” They don’t want to unite the party EXCEPT when it comes time to meet their own needs, to elect their status-quo queen.
As for their fear of Trump, that too is overhyped. Of course, none of us want Trump. But is that their biggest fear? Think about it: if they REALLY cared about beating Trump so much, they knew what to do. They still know. If they wanted a progressive president instead of an R, they could have united and aligned behind the candidate who quickly became the strongest option against Rs. Who brings out independents (who now outnumber Rs and Ds combined) in droves, and the youth who we’ll need to lead the next wave (and who will inherit the mess that cronies have made of the country and planet). They’d have organized and stood behind the person who best represents and tirelessly fights for actual democracy—what democracy used to really mean.
But they didn’t. And still don’t. Why? Because they don’t care about democracy and they don’t care about beating Trump. Not enough. They care about keeping things the way they are—for the slender little shard of 1% who benefit from the ways things are. They wanted the groomed puppet to stand guard at the door of the oligarchy, something she will do exceedingly well. And they figured they could lead another herd of sleepwalkers behind another say-nothing, do-nothing Pied Piper.
Oops. Not this year.
If she can’t beat Trump, it’s on them for putting all their money—literally—on what they claimed was a sure thing but was really a wild card. They screwed up by ignoring every poll that shows who beats him handily, instead relentlessly shoving down our throats a weak candidate who very few real people (besides insider elites) actually WANT. A candidate who is almost universally distrusted, has (putting it mildly) “a likeability problem,” and has never kept a lead for the long haul. Who is dogged by controversy and scandal—that she and her own arrogance and dishonesty, not bloodthirsty Rs, created. Who, lately, cannot win a race in which independents vote. Who frequently trails Rs (or else barely leads some Rs) in polls.
THEY are perpetrating that. And they did it—still do it—for them, not for us. If they cared, they’d be—if not supporting Sanders—than at least not trying so mightily to shut him out. If they do care, they will seriously consider supporting him at a contested convention.
Meanwhile, they will use Trump Terror to scare you into voting their way. But the truth is, they are less scared of a Republican in the White House than they are of Sanders in the White House. Because he will (horrors!) shrink their insider privileges and (heaven forbid) actually return a few rights to the middle class. He will clean house starting with the Dems, and dismantle a lot of what makes life cozy and comfy for the 1%. He will break up the monopoly they have on…everything.
So heaven forbid they succeed at this blunder of a coronation, and it then fails them in the general, they will want to turn around and blame it on us. On YOU. (Never much for owning stuff, this crowd.) They are already trumping up (sorry) that narrative. Are you going to let them? And worse, HELP them?
If you really care about beating Trump, then stop screwing around trying to extract an early promise from all Berners that we’d vote for the dubious, fraught candidate who has such poor chances of beating him—and support the one who can. While there is still time. Stop wringing your hands about how you’re gonna need us for Hillary. Stop presuming and projecting. Support the one who, after wiping up Trump, would be better for the country and world besides. Trust the math and do the work.
Stay present. We’re in a PRIMARY RACE. Stop fighting the general election battle before the primaries are over.
Stop kvetching about how we have to vote for someone who doesn’t have the nomination yet, and you might have time to actually help the one you say you want. You can put that energy into helping Sanders get enough wins so that he has, if not more pledged delegates outright, the strongest position at a contested convention where the possibilities are entirely reasonable, for umpteen reasons.
And if you’re not going to get to work, for heaven’s sake stop attacking and distracting the people who are still working very hard for a challenging but reasonable path to the nomination. We’re striving for every vote and every delegate, all the way to the DNC floor, because we still see that saving our democracy from a crushing oligarchy, and saving our planet from shortsighted greed, is worth doing. And we have built enough political capital to make a dent when we get there.
If you don’t see that as so important, fine, but get out of our way. We’d prefer you come with us, but if not, stop sticking out your foot as we progress toward Philadelphia. Stop delaying us with side conversations that are not necessary, don’t help anything right now, and have no basis.
Look, if you just adore Hillary, I can’t for the life of me figure out why, and I’ve really tried, I swear I have. But if you do, there’s not much I can say to you at this point. (Except, for now, maybe this.)
But if you do not adore Clinton, or the appalling manner in which this election is being botched in state after state, then may I politely suggest you get off your behind and start phone calling to Indiana? Or canvassing, sharing information, talking to people, starting a petition demanding an investigation into widespread election fraud, or give some money—whatever your particular gifts and time allow?
Don’t fracture time/energy posting on Facebook about how we have to vote for Clinton, or how not voting or Clinton is a vote for Trump.
Oh, there’s plenty to argue there. But we’re not even there yet.
I’m not saying it’s simple or cut-and-dried either way. (I think it’s not, and it’s frequently oversimplified.) I’m not even saying which way I lean IF that unfortunate circumstance—a Clinton nom—comes to pass. I’m saying it’s not useful to have that discussion right now.
So if you’re #StillSanders, please stop running around checking with us about whether we’ll vote for Hillary “IF….” and get to work NOW.
Stop armchair-fretting the general, and do the work in service of getting every delegate you can between now and July, for the candidate that people and planet desperately need right now.
And if you’re a Berner who’s sick and tired of already being hounded with that question? Remember, we don’t owe anyone an explanation, and we don’t have to answer that question at all right now. We’re BUSY getting Bernie all the way to an historic moment in our democracy. And in my opinion, if we’re not, we should be.