Thursday, July 28, 2016

Why the Bernie or Bust Movement Gets it Wrong

It is easy to understand the frustration of the politically disenfranchised, however, supporters of the Bernie or Bust initiative are a danger because they feed into the raging inferno of disaffected Americans. However inauthentic, this narrative has been hijacked by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. This is the narrative that enabled him to become the GOP's presidential nominee. Feeding this beast at this point will only embolden those who employ the politics of division and empower those who preach hate.

Eradicating manipulation from politics is important, but for thinking people, ensuring that Trump does not become the commander and chief must be the first order of business. Although Bernie's supporters have legitimate grievances, their failure to oppose Trump is a far greater threat to America's future than the misdeeds of the DNC Chair.

Make no mistake about it, a Trump victory would be a catastrophe. It would be an economic and foreign policy disaster. As Trump explained in his RNC speech, if he wins, he would push us past climate tipping points from which we will not be able to recover. For millions it will be a very personal tragedy. Consider the pleas for those who will die if Trump succeeds in repealing Obamacare.

Bernie supporters don't seem to get it, they walked from Washington, D.C. to Philadelphia to protest Hilary's nomination. At the start of the Democratic National Convention on Monday delegates had to run a gauntlet of angry Bernie Sanders supporters. They screamed insults and vowed that they will not vote for Hillary. Once inside some California delegates were shouting "Lock her up!" a phrase from last week's RNC circus.  Some maintain they will not under any circumstance vote for Hilary others have even threatened to vote for Trump. 

"We're not going to vote for the demon named Hillary because you are threatening us with the devil named Trump," said a Bernie or Bust supporter. If the DNC does not meet their demands, the Bernie or Bust people have promised to organize a massive effort to de-register voters from the party. They could not be more misguided. Bernie's platform is much closer to Hilary's than the Trump's.  If this thinking rules on voting day it will be a Pyrrhic victory.

Borrowing from the term from the UK vote to "Brexit" the European Union, some are calling their withdrawal a "DemExit." This is an appropriate analogy as we now know that the Brexit vote will be costly, and no one will feel the pinch more than people in the UK.  Like those who supported the Brexit vote, the Bernie or Bust campaigners will only fully realize the harm they have done when it is too late.

They obviously aren't listening to their leader anymore. Bernie has been clear, he not only endorsed Hilary he has said point blank on his Twitter feed: "Those who voted for me will not support Trump who has made bigotry and divisiveness the cornerstone of his campaign." Bernie himself was booed by his fans on Monday morning, after telling a crowd, "We must vote for Hillary Clinton."

The Democrats are playing right into the Republican's hands and bolstering Trump's populist narrative. It is important to note that when it comes to corruption, Trump is the last person who will actually do something about it. For him it is a campaign slogan, he has done nothing in his life to suggest that he will do anything about corruption if he wins the White House.

Bernie Sanders is indeed a man for our times and his revolutionary campaign should be lauded for contributing the arch of American politics. His leadership on climate and the environment are a godsend. Everyone who rallied behind Bernie and helped to make his ideals part of the Democratic dialogue are to be heralded as a noble part of a great democratic tradition. However inflexible absolutism is an anathema to democracy and spells disaster for the future of America and the world..

No matter how you feel about Hilary, there really is no alternative at this point. As Bernie said in his DNC speech: "By all objective measures, Hillary Clinton must become the next president of the United States. The choice is not even close."

Many aspects of politics are reprehensible and reforms are long overdue. However, the childish tantrums being thrown by Bernie's supporters are a threat to America and the world. Their petulance may help the Republican party's chief buffoon to become commander and chief.

The inherent weakness of Trump's campaign, the absence of real solutions and the politics of fear and division will not be enough to win him a seat in the oval office. To win the presidency he will need help from Democrats. He will need them to sow division and he will need them to stay home on election day. Sadly, wittingly or unwittingly this is a role that the Bernie or Bust people seemed more than happy to play.

As explained by Jackrabbit Pollack, a Bernie supporter and volunteer, "the single-minded, Sanders-or-nothing approach is problematic." 

In at least one respect there is no difference between Trump and the Bernie or Bust camp. Both are defined by close minded absolutism when it comes to supporting their choice for President. Both groups stalwartly refuse to compromise and they wear their opposition like a badge of honor as though it were something to be proud of. Both groups represent what is fundamentally broken not just in politics but in American society.

The system of checks and balances created by the founding fathers are what makes the US democracy great. Compromise is part of the bargain in the American political system. When compromise fails so too does the system that has served the country so well. We have seen how this strategy of obstructionism from elected officials in the Republican party has made it impossible to pass legislation. 

Republican obstructionism is a cancer, and now that cancer appears to be spreading to the Democrats. The Republican party has been hijacked by extremists and Trump is but a byproduct of their dysfunction. The system will completely breakdown if Democrats succumb to the same sort of extremism on the other side.

The first step to fixing America's democracy involves a shift away from the kind of radical polarization we are currently seeing.

Political pragmatism calls us to choose between the candidates we have not the ones we ideally hope for. Life is always about choosing the better of evils perhaps even more so in the world of politics.

The DNC has the most progressive platform in the party's history particularly when it comes to combating climate change. Conversely the RNC has adapted a platform chocked full of hate that will augur destruction on a planetary scale.

At the DNC comic Sarah Silverman, herself a Bernie supporter, succinctly summed it all up when she said, “To the Bernie or bust people, you’re being ridiculous.”  While she said she would be voting for Hilary she also said she continues to be “inspired and moved to action by the ideals set forth by Bernie, who will never stop fighting for us.”

Others realize what is at stake and they have vowed to support Hilary while pushing for change. Actors Danny Glover, Shailene Woodley and Susan Sarandon joined more than 1,000 people for a climate rally, vowing to keep fighting for environmental issues.

Although the Bernie or Bust people are getting a lot of press, the Washington Post reported on a Pew survey which indicates that 90 percent of Bernie supporters will ultimately back Hilary. However, the optics are not great from some of these people. As reported by Rolling Stone, one of Bernie supporter said, I will vote for Hilary, "because I am terrified of Trump; I did my dissertation on Italy, and the similarities to Mussolini are just too much." She then proceeded to scream anti-Hilary slogans at delegates who were on the way into the DNC.

People in the Bernie or Bust movement seem prepared to cut their nose to spite their face. Once the chickens come home to roost they may rue their decision but by then it will be too late.

Bernie used reason and common sense to arrive at a policy platform that resonated with Americans from coast to coast. We must use the same approach to persuade well intentioned folks who are reluctant to support Hilary.

The nomination of Hilary has shattered a glass ceiling, her victory as the first women ever to be nominated to be the President of the United States should be celebrated even if she was not your first choice.

We do not have the luxury of being able to sulk, we simply do not have the time. As Elizabeth Warren said, “When we turn on each other, bankers can run our economy for Wall Street, oil companies can fight off clean energy, and giant corporations can ship the last good jobs overseas.”

The petulance of the Bernie or Bust movement is unconscionable. All thinking people need to rally around the idea that Hilary is our last best hope to save us from a nightmare that includes unbridled environmental destruction and runaway climate change.

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