Last night my husband and friends voted in the California primary in what was dubbed this year “Super Tuesday IV” of the U.S. presidential election, then we watched the returns with friends. (I don’t get to vote but my naturalization process should be complete in time to vote in the November elections.)
Early in the evening I started seeing acrimonious posts on social media between friends who supported Bernie Sanders and friends who supported Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic Party nomination. Some are saying “It’s over, Mr. Sanders, get behind the presumptive nominee;” which really means “STFU Bernie supporters, support my candidate.” The latter answer with “Our candidate said he was in until the national convention in July, he’s not going to fold now,” which really means “No you STFU, I’ll support who I want to.”
I understand both sides and they both have good points, but I find the bickering infuriating. Besides, the votes and in the candidates have announced their decisions — social media rants are not going to change that. So I’m going to tell you what to do too, and it involves reaching out to your candidate instead of antagonizing your friends.
Note that I am delighted that Sanders decided to run and I think he’s done a great job. Even if we all always though Clinton would get the nomination, it would have been disastrous for her to run unopposed, and without pressure from the more progressive portion of the Democratic base. She would have just coasted, waiting to see who emerged on the Republican side, and all the pressure, all the money, all the voices she would have heard would have been from the most hidebound elements. She would never have mobilized the voters that Sanders reached. And she would have had zero momentum today.
Instead, Sanders’ pressure has allowed the debate to move to more liberal ground, he has injected enthusiasm, hope, energy, idealism, all sorely needed by the Democratic Party which has allowed itself to be dragged right of centre by decades of push-and-pull from Republicans, Tea Partyers, Libertarians, Nativists, Dominionists, Deniers, and other Neo Know Nothing flag bearers.
Please take the time to admire how unlike the Republican candidates trading slurs, Clinton and Sanders remained courteous, articulate, and debated substantive issues even when debating. Bask in the refreshing, presidential quality of the Democratic candidates (including Martin O’Malley.) Think about the gulf that separates them from the clown car that was the Republican array of candidates, and the frightening arrogance, ignorance, incompetence, bluster, racism, misogyny and oafishness of presumptive nominee Donald Trump. It’s like arguing whether to have black beans or refried beans with dinner (but you wanted mashed potatoes!) while the other counter is offering dog turds.
Even if your candidate fails to get the nomination, do you think that spells the end of the fight? Obviously not, and Clinton certainly has come back from defeat in 2008. And even if your candidate grabbed the presidency in November, do you think that would be the end of the fight? No, as Barack Obama discovered when he took office. It’s only the first day of a harder fight, and you the supporters must be heard constantly for your candidate to have power to help you, even from the Oval Office.
So stop haranguing your allies and instead talk to your candidate about what you want them to do in the months ahead. Here are my suggestions of messages, and useful contact info:
Dear Senator Sanders,
I want to thank you for your campaign, which has changed the nature of the debate to include more of us. Hillary Clinton is now the presumptive Democratic nominee; but in her June 7 speech at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the influence of your campaign could be heard, in the appeals to marginalized groups and the calls for unity.
You have given a voice to the disenfranchised, you have forced the Democratic party establishment to stop and listen, you have injected facts, values, and substantive discussion. And we all know that the job will take a long time still before it is done. You have given us decades already, but I urge you to continue fighting for justice. Your representation on our behalf will be crucial long after July and the Democratic National Convention, and we need you to continue helping us organize, helping us articulate the issues that matter, helping us be heard.
Thank you for fighting the good fight.
Dear Ms. Clinton,
Congratulations on becoming the presumptive Democratic nominee to the presidency, and for an excellent speech last night. I appreciate that you reached out to those of us that are too often pushed away from the conversation, let alone cut from access to political power.
I am glad that you recognize that times are in fact changing and that minorities of all kinds are going to be more and more important constituencies. Indeed, the United States are become a plurality, where no single group will have the numbers to hold all the power.
In this spirit, I urge you to seek not only the votes of Sanders supporters, but their message, their issues and concerns, as well as their passion for justice and change. You have been criticized at times for being part of “the establishment.” While that is a sign of your experience and extensive knowledge of the American political power structure, I believe that you also care about change and making a difference; I remember your efforts to bring health care reform to the United States through several initiatives, your dedication to women’s and gay rights, your support of veterans.
Don’t let us languish after November, waiting for another Sanders to come along. We are here, and we want to a place at the table; represent us, give us your voice and we will give you ours.