Bernie's DNC Speech A Much Better Call For Unity Than 'Suck It Up Or Start Your Own Party!'
Like many people who supported Bernie Sanders during the primary, the release of the DNC emails on Friday made me feel pretty gross. Like many people who were hoping that Clinton would choose a Vice President that would at least be a gesture towards the progressive left and people of color, signaling that she'd been listening, I felt pretty disappointed. Because yes, the Tim Kaine pick felt more like a "Don't worry! Here's a moderate white guy!" gesture. I bristled at the whole not wanting to "push the historic nature of her candidacy by adding another woman or a minority to the ticket" thing.
All of this gross-feeling-ness was compounded by the fact that Clinton supporters -- yes, Clinton supporters -- many of whom know me well and also know that I have hardly been a "Bernie Bro" throughout this election, and have in fact written several things criticizing the whole "Bernie or Bust" thing, were absolutely freaking horrible to me and other Bernie supporters. Their pleas for party unity included such sentiments as:
-- SUCK. IT. UP.
-- This is the way politics works. He should have known that going in. SORRY. (FWIW, he did know that going in, that was a large part of the point of his candidacy in the first place.)
-- I'm so tired of you PURISTS! You're spoiled brats!
-- Of course they supported Clinton! She's been a Democrat forever, he just stepped in a few months ago so he could run for President!
-- He should have built up a third party and THEN run for President, instead of coming in and trying to change OUR party (from people who have been complaining about Ralph Nader for the past decade-and-a-half, no less)
-- This is OUR party, and we don't need you people coming around and trying to change it.
And, the classics!
-- Obviously you love Donald Trump and want him to be President!
-- Julian Assange is an accused rapist. If you are mad about the things in this email leak, YOU THINK RAPE IS AWESOME.
I had one Clinton supporter friend, just one, say that she could understand why supporters felt upset, that she thought going after him for his religion was messed up too. I needed to hear, right then, "Yes! We don't like this stuff either! We want us to be better and fairer also!" -- so, almost immediately, my skin unbristled. (Yr Editrix was the second Clinton supporter on that front -- she listed the religion story as "Must cover this bullshit.") Not for long though, because about ten minutes later I was again accused of LOVING DONALD TRUMP AND PROBABLY ALSO RAPE. Seriously, no matter how many times I explicitly stated I was still going to vote for Clinton, people responded by accusing me of planning to refuse to vote. Which got very, very annoying.
I am telling you about how this made me feel, because I want you to know how many Bernie supporters are feeling right now. So that we can all work together to understand each other a little more, and kick Donald Trump's ass in this election.
Exactly nothing said by my Clinton supporter friends made me feel good about voting for Clinton, and in fact did just the opposite. To the point where I was actually nervous it might cause many of my fellow Bernie supporters to say "fuck it" and stay home on election day out of spite. Most Bernie supporters have jumped happily on the Clinton bandwagon; only a small percentage have definitely bolted forever, and it would be nice to offer a hand to those who are wondering whether to ride along. I will, however, tell you what made me absolutely sure I'm now with her: it was Bernie's speech at the convention Monday:
Though initially many Clinton supporters on social media were angry that he didn't immediately get to "AND HILLARY CLINTON IS WONDERFUL AND PERFECT AND I ENDORSE HER" right off the bat, he actually did it the right way. By easing into it, acknowledging his supporters, and acknowledging their frustration and disappointment, his endorsement of her was stronger and far more convincing than it would have been had he just jumped up on there and yelled "Hillary 4 Prez! Woohoo!" Maybe less satisfying for Clinton supporters, but that was not who he was speaking to, and that's not who he needed to speak to.
He spoke about how Clinton would address the things they were most concerned about, from student debt and the price of college, overturning Citizens United, climate change, a public option for health care, criminal justice reform, breaking up the banks and mass incarceration. He spoke about how he had influenced the platform to bring many of those issues to the forefront:
It is no secret that Hillary Clinton and I disagree on a number of issues. That’s what this campaign has been about. That’s what democracy is about. But I am happy to tell you that at the Democratic Platform Committee there was a significant coming together between the two campaigns and we produced, by far, the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party. Among many other strong provisions, the Democratic Party now calls for breaking up the major financial institutions on Wall Street and the passage of a 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act. It also calls for strong opposition to job-killing free trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Our job now is to see that platform implemented by a Democratic Senate, a Democratic House and a Hillary Clinton presidency – and I am going to do everything I can to make that happen.
Bernie did not just talk about how everyone needs to unify now and get in line OR ELSE, he addressed the issues on which we are actually unified. He addressed the concerns of his supporters, and assured them that those issues would be addressed in a Clinton presidency. Trust me -- as a Bernie supporter -- that did a lot more for me than "SUCK IT UP, BERNIE BROS" has.
Will his speech or the speech of other Bernie supporters convince everyone? Probably not! But hey, there were the Hillary-supporting PUMAs in the 2008 election too. There will always be those people. There will always be loud assholes acting like jerks. Most Bernie supporters, however, are not those people! Pretty much every person I know who voted for Bernie in the primary is planning to vote for Clinton in the general.
Additionally, Keith Ellison, who introduced him, did a very good job, I thought, of explaining that "not voting is not a protest, it's a surrender." That is true! Sure, we're idealists, but let's not be idealists to the point of thinking that if the DNC loses they will suddenly go "Oh hey! Next time, if we want to win, we should move to the left!" That has never happened, and it never will. As much as they blamed Nader for losing the 2000 election (which I still maintain is bullshit, personally), it certainly didn't make the party say "Oh hey! We've gotta do more to bring in those progressive votes that are going to third parties!" -- it made them go even more moderate, hoping to steal votes from more moderate Republicans. If you're going to protest, you've gotta do it effectively, and allowing Donald Trump to be president and screw up the Supreme Court for decades to come is not effective. The lesson we all need to learn here, in both camps, is that "what feels good in the moment" is not always the most effective way of getting shit done.
I understand where Clinton supporters are frustrated, I understand they were annoyed with the minority of Bernie supporters in the audience who were chanting during people's speeches or annoying them on Twitter. I get that you are annoyed at people "coming into your party" and telling you what to do, although I'd rather see everyone try and keep them around because VOTES are pretty awesome. I understand they are terrified of a Donald Trump presidency, because I am too! I sure as hell don't want Donald Trump to be president, which is why I worry about the party pandering to a middle that isn't there anymore and alienating Bernie supporters rather than trying to bring them in! All I -- and most other people who supported Bernie in the primary -- am asking is that you understand where we are frustrated, too. It goes a long way, believe it or not. That's what unity is about, not just demanding that people "get in line."
Rebecca is probably gonna be mad about me getting too earnest again -- but let me just say that I will do my absolute best to be #StillWithBernie by talking to my fellow Bernie Bots and making them see that letting Trump be president out of spite is not going to accomplish anything good. All I ask in return is that Clinton supporters do the same to wrangle in their people who are alienating us, and be cool with us when we are clearly trying our best to mediate things between the two camps. BE LIKE BERNIE, EVERYONE, OK?
Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse