How will history remember Bernie Sanders? In the early days of this Presidential election cycle, millions were inspired by the frank words of the self-described socialist from Vermont, the man who rose from humble beginnings as the mayor of Burlington to a national voice for leftists within the Democratic Party. Though Sanders’ platform was neither radical nor revolutionary – his foreign policy especially left a lot to be desired – he at least should be credited with galvanizing voters at a time when political apathy is rampant, and for inspiring Democratic voters to want more from their party.
We do not yet know how history will treat Sanders, but we know how his political opponents have treated him: Cruelly, and unfairly. Thanks to the work of Wikileaks, we can now prove what we always intuited: That the DNC and the Clinton campaign conspired with the mainstream press to deny Sanders a fair contest and rig the primaries in favour of Hillary Clinton. Whether it was giving Clinton access to debate questions in advance, using Sanders’ religious beliefs against him, or strategically publishing falsified hit-pieces, they cheated. Plain and simple.
Hopefully the irony is not lost on anybody here: A party with the word “democratic” in its name, which condemns the Republicans’ voting blockades, using underhand tactics to shut a candidate out of a primary race. The word ‘hypocrisy’ simply doesn’t have enough gravitas to express the level of corruption at play, and one does not need to agree with Sanders’ platform to agree that cheating your way to a Presidential nomination is a) morally wrong and b) probably a sad sign of things to come.
Based on the limited polling research done, as many as 90% of those who supported Sanders in the primaries now intend to vote for Clinton. For the most part, the Clinton campaign (with the help of Sanders himself) has managed to mitigate the danger that his supporters’ revolutionary zeal posed to the Democratic party machinery, and through the corruption mentioned earlier, has forced many of them to vote for someone they detest.
For the 10% of Sanders’ supporters who are left behind, prospects are bleak. These forgotten voters now have to choose between jumping ship and joining the grotesque Trump campaign (polling suggests that barely any are doing this, for obvious reasons), abstaining from voting altogether, or voting for a third-party candidate who probably will not win. I spoke to many of these forgotten voters to see what their intentions are, and how they feel about the situation they now find themselves in. From all the responses, one thing is clear: Trust in Clinton is low. Here are three such people, both of whom wish to remain anonymous:
In my conversations with someone we will call Mary, she made it clear that she has been a Democratic loyalist for most of her adult life, and took a very binary view of American politics: Democrats good, Republicans bad. Mary credits Bernie Sanders with removing the wool from her eyes and making her realize that “money is corrupting powers on both sides of the political aisle”, and that both party machines have serious shortcomings. Though she has no concrete plans to vote, if she does, she will vote for Clinton and “vomit right after”. Her trust in the Democratic Party has been severely undermined, probably forever.
Another woman I spoke to, whom we will call Jane, was turned off by Clinton’s record. In my conversation with her, Jane recited Clinton’s support for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, her reference to “super predators”, her antagonism towards Russia, and her willingness to accept donations from fossil fuel companies, Wall St. banks, and private prisons. In a nutshell, Jane believes “everything [Clinton] says Trump will do, she has done herself” and that both the candidates are “equally dangerous”. She intends to vote for Jill Stein of the Green Party, and plans to use the aftermath of the election to make third-party candidates more viable.
We will call our final Sanders supporter Anne. Anne too intends to vote for Jill Stein in November for one simple reason: Her opposition to electoral fraud. I actually spoke to Anne before the latest round of emails released by Wikileaks, which proved collusion between the media and the Clinton campaign, but Anne already knew they were in cahoots. Anne believes that Clinton’s supporters have behaved horribly during the primaries, scoffing at their support for Sanders during the contest, and now begging them to vote Democrat now that the contest is over. Many of Anne’s family members have fought in wars started by Presidents, and she believes that Clinton’s entitled supporters have no intention of stopping future wars that their candidate will no doubt start. Anne refuses to vote for Clinton because she sees that as endangering members of her family who work in the armed forces.
Naturally, liberal pundits are not concerned about any of this. A smug attempt at declaring a psychological victory on Clinton’s behalf recently appeared in Politics USA, in which author Jason Easely argues that the Democratic primary “was a success in terms of unifying the party”. What Easely means by this is that the ambitions and biases of the DNC have been protected from the danger of progressive reform, from the danger of people like Mary, Jane, and Anne. That some people feel the need to physically vomit after voting for Clinton is apparently of no consequence. At least the party is “unified” and all that “democratic socialism” nonsense has been put to bed. The most other pundits like Chris Hayes can say about proof of corruption in the Clinton campaign is that the proof should never have been released because extremely powerful people like John Podesta have a right to privacy too.
This too is a sign of things to come. Though Clinton has an estimated 84% chance of winning the Presidential election, the media has no immediate plans to challenge (or even ask her about) her platform and policies, nor will they scrutinize the actions she takes once she assumes the throne. Like Sanders’ supporters, the victims of Clinton’s wars and deportations have been repeatedly forgotten, relegated to a footnote of a footnote. The children separated from their families and shoved into a country they weren’t born in are, according to the logic of Laura Silverman, “privileged assholes” for not supporting Clinton (Silverman has since apologized for the comments she made). Clinton’s supporters and the mainstream media will not question the decisions she makes as President. That should frighten us enormously.
What can we take from this? That American democracy is a sham? That much has been obvious for a very long time. That the future is bleak? That too has been quite clear for some time. It would be deceptive to think that the future looks rosy under a Clinton premiership. People will die. Lots of them. All we can do now is bring justice to those future victims, and to the forgotten voters of this campaign, by fighting for rigorous and extensive campaign finance reforms, open and fair debate forums that include third-party candidates, and vastly reduced costs for candidates seeking to put their name on a state ballot. All of these things will give candidates like Jill Stein a fair shot at the presidency, and force the two dominant parties to work for people’s votes again, not take them for granted.