I 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?”