What the Bernie or Bust Crowd Needs Now is Understanding, not Mockery

sad2I see some people—people I like and respect—mocking Bernie Sanders supporters on social media now that Hillary has secured the nomination. At first, I’ll admit, it gave me pause. After all, these people doing the mocking are generally highly intelligent critical thinkers. As a rule, I know them to be kind and progressive-minded. Maybe, I thought, they’re on to something. Maybe the “Bernie Bros” and “Bernie or Bust” people are ridiculous. At Bernie Sanders’ urging for party unity, I’ve grudgingly thrown my support toward Hillary Clinton. Was I a fool for holding out?

But the more I’ve thought about it, the more I realize that no, Bernie’s supporters, even the holdouts, are not ridiculous. They’re hurt. They’re angry. They’re disillusioned. They’re not “throwing a tantrum” because their guy lost, they’re frustrated and deeply disappointed because they believe their guy (my guy) was never given a fair chance in the first place.

Let’s face it, Sanders supporters have seen him minimized by the media and treated as a fringe candidate, despite rallies bursting at the seams and soaring favorability ratings. We’ve watched as exit poll numbers did not match actual poll results. We saw evidence of voting issues. We saw polls predicting that Sanders would beat Trump by a much wider margin than Clinton’s frighteningly thin one.

We believed in Bernie Sanders’ integrity. We saw that he would not take money from corporate interests and Super PACs. We pledged our support by sending an average $27 contribution and saw his publicly funded campaign raise unprecedented funds as a result.

In short, we love this guy. We worked for him. We carried banners, wore our Bernie t-shirts, made phone calls, shared his views on social media.

The people mocking Bernie supporters because “their guy lost” shouldn’t be referring to them as crybabies and sore losers. Many of Bernie’s supporters are young people, or even older adults, who’ve never been interested in politics before and finally found a candidate who moved them to action. My young adult children are an example. My 19-year-old daughter, who has shown little interest in politics before, made a point of registering to vote. She now discusses issues with her friends and follows the news. My college-age son eagerly contributed his meager funds to Bernie’s campaign, $10 at a time, and was stung by Hillary’s seemingly inevitable nomination. We shouldn’t be looking at these people and saying, “Your guy lost, so take your toys and go home!” We should be saying, “Thank you! Thank you for getting involved. Thank you for caring about what’s going on in your country. Thank you for making yourself well-informed and working for what you believe is right. Don’t give up!”

Bernie supporters are feeling lost right now. They fear the system has failed them. Do we think we’ll move our country forward by belittling them, especially while the wound is fresh? Instead, we need to reach out a hand, lift them up, and say, “Hey, you fought hard. You didn’t win this time, but you’ve made a huge impact. There’s work to be done, and your drive and spirit tells us that you’re the perfect people to do it. Let’s work together! How can we help?”

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4 thoughts on “What the Bernie or Bust Crowd Needs Now is Understanding, not Mockery

  1. I’m afraid I have lost my empathy for Bernie or Bust Bros. I understand their ideology and passion, I have been in sit-ins in the Governors office, marched in S.F., dialed phone trees, and stood in a crowd beside Joan Baez. I am passionate and care, but there comes a point when your passion is not about a greater good but rather about your own precious, indignant feelings. “Burning down the government” is unrealistic in this scenarios and refusing to vote, or voting your conscience, in this situation emperils the various at risk groups you claim to be championing. The line is crossed into self indulgence fueled by group think. I understand the vocal group at the DNC, but there comes a point where you become hooligans, not a coalition intending to move your agenda forward. You cannot gain respect if you do not offer any. Booing veterans serves what purpose? Burning the American and Israeli flags? How does this further one’s cause or bring people to your advantage? Unless your cause is actually to drive people away from the DNC and over to the RNC. Bernie may not be the nominee, but from a strategic standpoint I’m scratching my head that they’d throw away momentum with a foot in the door. I understand they feel betrayed and angry. Because of that, they see potential in Jill or Gary, or somehow in Trump, because they are “outsiders”. They want “revolution” and reform. But, is it strategically possible that either Jill or Gary will within 101 days raise funds, gain name recognition and enough support to win a majority of states, get in the White House, win over enough allies to have muscle in congress, defeat lobbies, and drive forward a new platform? With success? Maybe they believe the message of revolt is more important than a win. Their superior perspective won’t allow them to participate in promoting Washington insiders. One of the best things Bernie has that they do not is significant insider experience in the Thunderdome of Washington, which he built over a lifetime of battles. He’s a strategist, not a traitor. He chose leverage over loss. They’re too self absorbed to see a unique opportunity before them. He’s already standing inside the DNC with an enormous political and media spotlight upon him and he’s holding leverage — his supporters. They could force the DNC to implement their issues within the platform via Bernie via block vote. They could trade their vote for their agenda demands. But rather they strip him of power and momentum. He’s entered the ring, maybe not as a ruler, but as a people’s champion and key holder. They can despise Hillary all they like, but she’s prevailing, she’s an experienced knife fighter, she’s holding Washington keys, and they had the unique opportunity to force her to ally. Their new alternative candidate may share their idealism, and indeed be great, but is not holding keys to Washington. Bernie may have been thwarted from nomination, but he’s won a battle they are very much undervaluing. Corruption was exposed and he’s changed the platform. He’s become more of a heavy weight in the eyes of Washington. Abandon Bernie and they take with them the Washington leverage for which they fought. Now their issues become immaterial to power brokers because they are disrupters not players. This is the furthest within Washington progressives have reached during an election cycle, but from the outside it appears they’d rather start from scratch because they’ve come face to face with the inevitable corruption, got intimidated, and balked. Sadly, corruption is the bedrock of power. Yes, it’s depressing and everyone wants radical and immediate change, but does that happen outside of the movies? Can their alternative candidates gather the necessary arsenal in 103 days? Wouldn’t it be more prudent for someone like Jill, for instance, to ally with Bernie in a voting coalition, thus riding on success, and force further change within? Influence from within? Promoting the reforms Sanders champions has the best chance of success inside, and is destroyed if Trump is elected. These next words are someone else’s, but “Those in favor of Bernie’s revolution need to focus on articulating the agenda and electing progressive congressional candidates. Look at how powerful (and a quick rise as of 2010) the Tea Party was obstructing legislation and advancing their message. So much easier to move Sanders’ platform ahead with better congressional leaders and a favorable court. You might not be with Hillary but at least there is a better chance to make headway on overturning Citizens United; increasing minimum wage; improving access to health care and higher education; curbing Wall Street’s unethical influence; and acting on climate change. Won’t happen under Trump and a court appointed by him, especially with a congress supporting GOP and Tea Party ideas.” They can argue Clinton is Wall Street or corrupt, or it’s all rigged, but they delivered Bernie all the way to an election and the DNC, but are too weak to exert the leverage they’ve given him. The fact is politics is ugly, hands get dirty. That is evident in any history book of man. If they turn away when they encounter underhanded dealings, the very people they rail at win. They are not Bernie or Bust”, they should have his back while he’s toe to toe with them. They could take a gain over a win, organize for the long gain of a real movement, but they seem to fancy their romantic feelings of being revolutionary and prefer to disrupt. They lost me at the DNC. Actually I lost all respect when they burned Israeli flags outside the DNC, disenfranchising Jewish Americans. transforming in my eyes to racist just like Trump’s White Nationalist supporters.

  2. I somewhat disagree. A large swath of Bernie supporters supported Bernie for the VERY FACT that he called out Hillary for the warmongering,Wall Street propper, “super predator/bring them to heel” racist she is. Hillary is NO PROGRESSIVE and many Bernie Sanders supports supported Bernie for that reason.

    Then he threw his support behind the very person they rejected. I am less upset at the DNC’s now well documented cheating than I am with Bernie embracing those who cheated him,and who he rejected throughout his campaign.

  3. I understand that Bernie’s people are disappointed, they worked hard for their guy, who is a good guy. However, the “the exit polls are proof that she stole the election” reflects a widespread ignorance about exit polling. Once night I heard a whole panel of NBC news persons talk about how they could just as well use exit polls from earlier in the day to identify the winner. In reality, the tool is controversial, exit poll “who will win” projections are often wrong as the tool produces 2-3 times the error rate of standard polling. Exit polls are, in particular, a useful tool for identifying why people who are excited about their candidate are so. But even Warren Mitofsky, generally credited with inventing the exit poll, admitted that once distance laws (how far pollsters and others need to be from polling stations) began to be enforced in the U.S, that the tool’s projections about who would win became problematic. Back in 04 the Left used Mitofksy’s results as proof of election fraud. Mitofsky’s explanation were simpler, “the Kerry voters were more anxious to participate in our exit polls than the Bush voters.” Harry Enten wrote some, kind of wonky papers about the tools problems. A few yrs ago Nate Silver wrote a nice summary of the problems. Standard polling is simply more accurate. As Sam Wang points out, standard polling’s aggregate numbers re the primaries (and the Bernie – Hillary spread) were excellent. He’s got a nice graph on his website that displays a very consistent set of data points. Neither Wang, Silver nor Enten are not raising questions about whether Hillary really won because standard polling clearly shows that she did.

  4. What many of the mainstream HRC supporters do not realize is that this goes beyond Bernie to the very shape and corruption of the Democratic Party itself. I supported Bernie whole-heartedly. I have had my feet-on-the-ground in political, peace, feminist, reproductive rights, environmental movements since 1968 so my experience is not naive and gullible as much younger are accused. I have been an active faithful dues-paying Dem since 1970 in 2 states and 5 counties; over the years holding elected office within that party in every one of those counties with the last position being 21 years in as communications officer. I was active for McCarthy, McGovern (a campus organizer), Gary Hart, John Kerry, and many others at the national level. Dozens more at the state and local level. I have felt the sting of my favored candidates being rejected time after time and survived to continue with the democratically-elected favored candidates. But NOTHING has ever gone to the level of the deceit, fraud, back-door-deals, and complicity of this cycle. At no time were those who gave their time, energy and money to a failed candidacy ever mocked, harrassed, and demeaned as Bernie supporters have now been. I am ashamed of the Democratic Party which has in an organized fashion encouraged the disparagement. I am ashamed by those who call HRC a feminist when she is the antithesis of all women have struggled and even died for by her playing that “ol’ boys” game of power at any price/ends justify the means because a true feminist would never lower herself to that level of dishonesty and pretense. Real feminists EXPECT better. We all now face months of continued pressure, cajoling, and worse with constant fear-mongering, badgering, and even intimidation. Trump must not prevail but neither must a corrupt system that denies real Democracy itself. I have no answers but I do know I can never again participate in this Democratic Party that has betrayed all I invested in every way. This is NOT how Democracy works.

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