Bernie or Bust, Not an Excuse to Not Vote
June 16, 2016
With the Democratic primary coming to a close, it has become established that Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton is the presumptive nominee, leading by both pledged delegates and unpledged so-called “superdelegates.” While progressive populist Bernie Sanders has said that he will do anything to prevent a Trump presidency, he also has not been shy of criticizing many aspects of Clinton’s hawkish, wall-street flavored past. Many, cognizant of these shortcomings, have become fairly vocal in voicing their refusal to vote for Hillary Clinton in November’s general election, often taking on the slogan “Bernie or Bust.” Since then, the media has been quite critical of the perceived message of the movement, claiming that it displays a sense of privilege that is comfortable with the possibility of Donald Trump becoming President of the United States.
I have not the slightest interest in subscribing to this belief, knowing full well that many Bernie supporters ardently believe in fighting the very political establishment that Hillary Clinton represents, and it is worth noting that many were politically apathetic before Sanders reignited the flame of the people.
As a politically entrenched millennial and former assistant organizer for the Bernie Sanders campaign, I feel fairly qualified to delineate that there are essentially three types of Bernie or Bust subgroups.
First, there are those who say that they will never support Hillary Clinton but may ultimately yield if given the right concessions such as a promise to not appoint Wall Street enthusiasts or corporate lobbyists to Secretary of the Treasury or any cabinet positions.
Next comes the most prevalent group of Bernie or Bust individuals — the #neverclinton folks, who, in line with the self-explanatory hashtag, will never vote for Hillary Clinton. From walking pro-Bernie marches, to hosting canvasses week after week, to scavenging the internet for credible opinions, there is a consistent trend that I have seen within this strain of Bernie or Bust; these are hyper informed individuals who refuse to vote for Secretary Clinton because they are more familiar with questionable facets of her character than their own two feet.
The aforementioned groups deserve far more respect than one might assume. These are individuals discontent with the very thought of having to choose between a tax-evading mogul, who engages in fascist rhetoric and has not the slightest bit of experience in government or policy and a disingenuous candidate who is under FBI investigation.
Some may not be fond of this position, but this class of Bernie or Bust is also politically educated enough to know that voting is a privilege worth using.
This leaves us with the final group, who have willingly chosen to interpret the slogan as an excuse to abstain from the general election entirely. Not only is this beyond willfully ignorant, it is also extraordinarily ironic.
The ignorance and selfishness that a voter, who is esteemed with the privilege to participate in a democracy that determines eventful outcomes on many levels, displays when failing to vote is an exuberance of privilege and insulting to all of those who cannot vote.
\In De Anza alone, there are thousands of students who do not possess this right but instead must sit idly by without the ability to have a say in the institutions that control their lives. On election day, there are ballot measures, congressmen, state senators and assemblymen, mayors, party leaders, city council members, and many other elections.
A loyalty to a faction of liberalism and specifically to Bernie Sanders should not come at the cost of abstaining altogether. When Senator Sanders began his campaign, it was all too prevalent from day one that there was a slim chance that he would ever be able to be the Democratic nominee.
Supporters found hope and inspiration in him, not because of his chances of winning, but because he represented a wave of populism that was once seen with then Senator Obama but quickly vanished as the Obama ‘08 grassroots network disappeared into an irrecoverable abyss.
The very message of “not me, us” lies emblazoned in a fundamental belief that there is not one elected official who can possibly undo the degree of corporate greed, wealth inequality, and campaign finance corruption in this country, but that we must all come together and retake the country through a peaceful but democratic “political revolution.”
I hope that my fellow Bernie Sanders followers are able to see the unbelievable irony that arises if they willingly choose to stay home on election day. If you think that Hillary Clinton, the media, or the political establishment is selfish for signaling the death knell of a historic movement, then perhaps you should take a hard look at what made the movement, and how exactly you are helping to keep its lasting legacy alive while simultaneously failing to live up to its most basic message of retaking a participatory democracy.