Why this former Sanders supporter is with Hillary Clinton now

Like many Bernie Sanders supporters, I’m sorely disappointed that Sanders’ loss seems inevitable now. But unlike many Sanders supporters, I’m not glum or devastated by the turn of events. Hillary Clinton will win the nomination and it’s important that she wins the election. I think that Sanders should stay in the race as long as he feels it’s necessary – and I think that his promise of a contested convention is fine. He is representing the voice and votes of a lot of people. He is representing the voice and votes of a lot of people who are turned off and disgusted by party politics, that is choked with cronyism and a system that is run by special interest groups and lobbyists. He is representing the voice and votes of a lot of people who looked to him as a reset button – as a way to divorce commerce from politics.

But it wasn’t enough. Some will blame the DNC. Some will blame DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Some will blame the media. Some will blame Clinton. Some will blame Clinton supporters. There’s going to be a lot of that right now. There’s going to be a lot of finger pointing as folks try to figure out just why Bernie Sanders lost. Families and groups of friends have splintered over this issue – some insist that it’s Bernie or Bust and that a Clinton presidency is no different than a Trump presidency. Some suggest that Trump is a monster, but that Clinton is one too – and that a Trump presidency may be needed to “wake” us up. The faulty idea of “having it get so bad, that things will only get better” is wrong-headed on so many counts, but mainly because we cannot let Donald Trump wreak havoc on the most vulnerable in our society, in the misguided hope that he’ll be such a big screw up that we’ll never vote red again. It never works out that way. To his supporters, Trump’s failures will either be seen as victories or noble efforts. Despite the war in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, the economic crash and its sluggish, almost non-existent recovery, the Federal Marriage Amendment, the PATRIOT Act, and a host of other policy disasters, Republicans still insist that their party is the party that will lead us through these difficult and confusing times. I don’t think cutting our collective nose to spite our collective face will do much good.

That being said, people should vote or not vote their own feelings. I’m thrilled that there’s still excitement and passion in politics. We hear so much about apathy that’s neat that we’re talking about folks being too passionate. Now, it’s a matter of putting that passion to good use.

Bernie Sanders put up an amazing fight. I’m proud that he was in the election because he forced Clinton to talk about progressive values. Given the tenor of her 2008 campaign, I believe that the pressure Sanders’ success put on Clinton made her the pragmatic progressive she is right now. Clinton’s embrace of feminist politics is a joy to watch – and though this may sound sexist, I’m not sure if she would be so willing to embrace gender and gender equality in her campaign, had it not been for Sanders’ influence. In 2008, she all but ignored gender and feminism (I could be wrong but I’m not sure she even identified as one until this past year).

Hillary Clinton is our nominee and with any luck she’ll be our president. This isn’t a moment to dwell on grief for too long, because she made history. Being the first female candidate of a major party is very important, especially in these times when women’s rights seem to be rolling back again. Women have marginalized in all aspects of public life for too long. Having a woman as president will contradict some of those naysayers who insist that women aren’t strong enough, smart enough, or competent enough to lead.

Barack Obama was an incredible president – and he’s a tough act to follow – the toughest. It makes sense that he should pass the baton over to someone from his team (how I wish Joe Biden would’ve run). President Obama has achieved an astronomical amount of progress given how rough congress and the senate was. At every turn, fusty old white men of the GOP fought to diminish and marginalize the efforts of a black man. He faced this ugly opposition with characteristic grace and intelligence. He made me so proud of this country. Every time I see him on television or read about him, I get wistful feelings about what it’ll be like once he leaves office.

If Hillary Clinton wins, like Obama, she’ll face a hard and tough road. Like Obama, there will be those who will denigrate and undermine her efforts, only this time because she’s a woman. Just as racism was exposed (I say exposed because it was always there, but it was hidden in polite society), our culture’s ugly strain of sexism will also be exposed – we’ll hear sexualized and gendered language that will work to demean Clinton. She’ll face ageism, as well, in a society that wishes older women become invisible.

Aside from identity politics, she’ll also face a world that is increasingly more xenophobic and reactionary. A world that views the United States with a wary eye, given our foreign policy of interventionism. Clinton is a major figure in that kind of foreign policy, being its main cheerleader for four years. She’ll also face a world that is getting hotter. Cities throughout Europe are dealing with cars being submerged in flood waters. The polar icecaps are melting at such alarming rates, they resemble water falls.

But I think Clinton will be up to the challenge. She’s weathered a lot of shitstorms, and has often come out, if not victorious, then at least more knowledgeable. Her political career isn’t a series of triumphs – she’s had a lot of failures, some very high profile, most notably her ill-fated foray into healthcare reform as first lady, and her first stab at the presidency. She’s handled those moments with aplomb. She learned from her mistakes, and though she’s made more since, and she’ll make more in the future, she’s always learning.

This election is going to be weird. Donald Trump. This man is a human cartoon – an amalgam of the worst of humanity, bundled together into a messy package. His worldview is shockingly dense and narrow. His response to world affairs is reductive, simplistic, and often just plain silly. He has pandered to the basest instincts of the reactionary right – trading on misogyny, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and racism to win votes, not caring about the net effects of his work. He enjoys an unparalleled platform and media following, and instead of working hard to do good, he simply does bad. He’s the anti-Oprah.

So when the general election will start, Trump and Clinton will square off against each other. Trump will do and say anything to get his name in the papers. He’ll pull out old chestnuts like Whitewater, Monica Lewinsky, her healthcare reform debacle, along with the newer blisters on Clinton’s image: her email scandal and Benghazi. He’ll stoop to chauvinism and sexism. He’ll be crass. He’ll be disgusting. None of this takes the power of Kreskin to predict: he’s already used these tactics against Carly Fiorina and has started his assault on Clinton, too (remember his utter disgust at the fact that Clinton uses the bathroom?)

I don’t believe in party unity for party unity’s sake. I don’t want diehard Sanders supporters to support Clinton simply because we’re Democrats or because Trump is the scarier option – neither is a good endorsement of a candidate as qualified as Hillary Clinton. Instead, I hope that Hillary Clinton will work hard to prove herself to Sanders supporters – it’s not going to be easy, but the onus is on her. She owes a lot to Sanders supporters.

 

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Filed under commentary, Nonfiction, politics, Writing

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