Hey, Bernie supporters, here’s why it’s okay to be #BernieOrBust

Democratic Presidential hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont speaks during a campaign stop at the Town Hall Theater in New York City. photo by Trevor Collens
Image: Trevor Collens/Shutterstock

Yesterday we ran an article that enraged some diehard Bernie supporters. The gist of it—or feel free to read it for yourself—is that Bernie Sanders has essentially lost the democratic nomination for president, a statement many people can offer brilliant arguments against. Trust me, I get it. I’m with you there, and it panged me to approve the writing of it, but all traditional thinking suggests it’s true.

Arguing against that position isn’t why I’m here today. Keep up hope, Berners, and never stop supporting Bernie Sanders and his movement, especially when the odds are stacked against him. That’s your right, Bernie loyalists, and Men’s Trait would never suggest otherwise.

Today we’re going to be talking about what happens if Bernie Sanders does lose the democratic primary. Let’s just assume my colleague was correct yesterday, and Bernie is officially done, his supporters can continue to fight for his principles and yours. Over the next few weeks you will be inundated with article after article, Facebook argument after Facebook argument and Twitter spat after Twitter spat, telling you to just suck it up and to vote for Hillary Clinton because of course not voting for her is akin to voting for Trump and hoping he’ll turn into a U.S. version of Adolf Hitler, which just sounds so lovely.

I’m here to tell the people saying that to piss off.

First, allow me to address the silliest claims of theirs.

Not voting for Hillary Clinton is not the same as voting for Donald Trump

Remember, this is a hypothetical situation where it’s a Clinton (D) v. Trump (R) general election matchup for the White House. Now, Clintonistas insist you really need to vote for Hillary, because not doing so is the same as voting for Trump, right? If you’re a #BernieOrBust loyalist, you’ve probably rolled your eyes so many times they’re starting to ache, just over this single statement. It’s the most reductive argument someone can bring to this discussion.

Here’s what you tell those people. In a CvT (Clinton v. Trump) matchup, there is a potential two point swing based on your vote. Now, for some reason Clintonistas think your vote belongs to Hillary Clinton, so let’s just humor them and pretend it does. Since your vote belongs to Clinton, not actually voting for her would be a net -1. If at the same time you instead vote for Donald Trump, that would be a net -2 for Hillary in this yet-to-be CvT race. That’s a two vote swing.

Since elections aren’t binary things, there are other variables to take into account, such as just not voting at all. This situation would represent a net -1 for Clinton in the CvT matchup. Similarly, not voting for Clinton and then proceeding to vote for a third party candidate, such as Jill Stein or Gary Johnson, would result in the same net -1. Please note, the impact is not the same as not voting for Hillary and actually voting for Trump. It’s exactly half as impactful as Clinton supporters would have you believe. See, that basic math education comes in handy.

But, please remember, Clinton doesn’t automatically own your vote, so not voting for her doesn’t mean there is any vote swing. It’s not like she’s currently holding a pile of votes and you’re taking one away. She’s a candidate for president. If she wants your vote she’ll have to convince you to vote for her. If the best she can offer you is that she’s not Trump, then there is nothing different between Clinton and any other non-Trump candidate.

Now that that’s handled, let’s move on from here.

Hillary Clinton has the best chance of stopping Donald Trump

No, she doesn’t. Bernie Sanders does. At least according to the evidence we have available.

You’ll be hurting down-ticket Democrats by not getting out to vote for Clinton

Down-ticket Democrats are just Democrats running for lower offices, especially in state and local governments. Naturally they already own your vote too, and not showing up to vote for them is the same as voting for their Republican opponents. See above for why this is plainly false.

But the glorious thing is that you can still support those candidates without voting for Hillary Clinton. You can be a good Democrat and still support the party without supporting Clinton. (FSM be praised, it’s a miracle! We’ve been touched by his noodly appendage. RA’men.)

Supporting or not supporting the Democratic Party is also a right you possess, and your support of Bernie Sanders, who is running as a Democrat, does not beholden you to always supporting the Democratic Party. If, as millions do right now, you feel the Democratic Party no longer holds the same values as you, you are free to not vote for the Democratic Party.

This election is too important to play games with

Bullshit. Every election is super duper important, because policy takes years to effect change within our society. It does not happen overnight, and it doesn’t only happen every four years. One could argue non-presidential campaigns and elections are far more important in dictating how our country will be governed than electing a president does. Right now Republicans control the vast majority of state offices, including governorships, and are quietly shaping policy at the state level at an alarming rate. See HB2 in North Carolina for an example. Of course, Congress is also incredibly important and valuable to democracy, but thanks to Republicans controlling the states, gerrymandering has severely handicapped the Democrats’ ability to take back the House of Representatives in 2014 and it will again this election.

If the Democratic Party’s leadership was that concerned with important elections, it would have a 50 state plan for implementing its platform. It doesn’t, and now any Democratic president is basically a lame duck, unless that candidate can generate huge amounts of grassroots support from disenfranchised voters and independents. Hillary Clinton isn’t that candidate, and the Democratic Party establishment’s preference for her—which is perfectly understandable—will ensure more losses in those very important state and local elections.

We could then circle back around to the issue of hurting down-ticket Democrats and point a finger at Hillary Clinton, but we’ll just move along.

I know the heart of this argument stems from the idea that Donald Trump is like super duper scary, ya? It’s not really about how important the election is, it’s just important that Donald Trump is stopped.

Donald Trump isn’t as scary as people make him out to be. It’s highly unlikely he defeats either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, even in the event of a mass exodus from the Democratic Party. But let’s say a bunch of Bernie Sanders choosing not to support Clinton does cost her the election (because, remember, she already owns your vote), what exactly do you expect Donald Trump to do? Any Supreme Court nominee would have to be approved by the Senate, and as shitty as some Republicans are, not enough of them are so stupid as to give Trump carte blanche in governance, and together moderate Republicans and Democrats can block him from doing pretty much anything. Congress also controls the government’s money and can effectively eliminate the ability for the president to do anything. The past few days have not so subtly seen a lot of moderate Republicans distance themselves from Donald Trump in the most insulting way possible, with some even changing parties to join the Democrats. Do you seriously think enough of them would give him exactly what he wants? Pfft.

There’s also the Supreme Court, and both Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy have proven themselves rational plenty of times, and you can bet they’re not going to let stupid nonsense get past them. Together they and the four liberal justices—that would be Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor—could stop the country from falling apart.  I’d also suspect that moderate Republicans would team with the Democrats to get a moderate justice appointed under President Obama if Trump won the general election, to secure a moderate-ish majority on the Supreme Court. See, the division of power within our federal government serves a very important process.

The bigger fear would have been if John Kasich somehow secured the Republican nomination, because he’d have had support from pretty much every Republican. Trump won’t accomplish much if he’s somehow able to win the presidency, being as divisive as he is.

This election is no more important than any other. If anything, a Trump presidency would be the most entertaining but uneventful presidency in modern history. He’d be the lamest lame duck president ever. Essentially, falling for the “this election is too important and Trump is too scary” argument equates to succumbing to fear mongering. It’s not quite the same thing, but it’s also not that far off.

Besides, Democrats have lost and will continue to lose important elections. That’s exactly why we still have two major political parties, because power will always transfer back and forth between the two, until viable alternatives are given a chance.

We can move on.

LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 13 2015: (L-R) Democratic presidential debate features candidate U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders at Wynn Las Vegas in first CNN Democratic Debate.
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

Hopefully by this point you’ve been convinced that you don’t need to feel guilty if you choose not to vote for Hillary Clinton, but wouldn’t you rather feel really good about not voting for her? So let’s talk about why you should relish that opportunity.

Your vote is your power

Unless you have millions or billions of dollars (yay Citizens United and corporate politics!), the most powerful tool at your disposal for effecting political change is your vote. It’s more powerful than a Facebook rant or Twitter feud. Your vote is so powerful it’s worth more than the $2,700 you’re legally allowed to donate to a candidate’s political campaign. Why would you waste it on someone you don’t like?

If Hillary Clinton does not represent your values and if her record and policy stances suggest she’s not going to be working for things that are important to you, why on earth would you vote for her? Chances are there is another candidate out there who will support the things you want to see supported, and the only way to impress upon other candidates that you want to see your values represented is by rewarding your vote to the candidate who best reflects them.

The United States is effectively operated by a two-party system, but it’s not predestined to be that way. Imagine if politicians started listening to you instead of you listening to them. Your elected officials work for you, not the other way around. Don’t just hand them your vote because it’s expected of you. Make them earn it.

If Hillary Clinton best represents your values, vote for her. The same is true of Donald Trump. Conversely, if neither of them do, you may choose to support a third party candidate, the two most notable being Jill Stein, who should appeal to a lot of Bernie supporters, and Gary Johnson, a fiscal conservative who truly believes in getting government out of your lives on social issues. If you’re socially liberal but fiscally conservative, Gary Johnson is probably your best bet. Jill Stein will be the candidate closest to offering the same policy positions as Bernie Sanders, for the more liberal members of society.

You can vote for whomever you want. That’s sort of the point of Democracy.

By voting for a Democrat, you’re supporting the Democratic Party’s rightward shift

If you’re unfamiliar with the “Third Way” or New Democrats, they’re worth reading up on. At it’s core, it’s the political shift of the Democratic party to be more centrist, becoming more fiscally conservative, militarily aggressive and more tempered in the advancement of social welfare. It’s the incremental approach to progress on social issues while also keeping us pretty much stationary both militarily and fiscally. They’re closer to Richard Nixon than they are Jimmy Carter, if that gives you any indication, and they’re about as different from New Deal Democrats as can be when adjusted for different times.

Bill Clinton was the first big name New Democrat, and his wife is another one. This is a perfectly fine political identity to hold, and it’s become the main identity of the Democratic Party. By voting for Hillary Clinton, you are voting for the New Democratic policy position (in this case it is kind of a binary thing).

If you don’t like the ideological shift to the right, voting for Hillary Clinton will just be a vote for that ideological shift. If today’s moderate Democratic Party doesn’t represent you, you shouldn’t support it. Vote for candidates you want in office, not just those who are less undesirable than others.

If you want money out of politics, vote for candidates who aren’t allowing money into their politics

Look where Hillary Clinton gets her campaign funds, how transparent she is(n’t) about speaking to Wall Street firms, and how many connections there are between her campaign contributors and which companies benefited from generous State Department contracts. Hey, folks, she’s buying support with your tax money from the financial elites and then earning it back herself by giving speeches to the companies she gave it to. That’s like totes ethical.

Both Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein have and will continue to eschew large corporate donations from people who already have too much power. See, alternatives.

It’s time to put pressure on the two-party system

Of all the points I’ve hoped to make in this article, this is by far the most important to me. It may not be as important to you, or anyone else, but that’s kind of the point.

All Americans will never be well-represented by the Democrats and Republicans, which might be why there are almost as many independent voters as there are Democrats and Republicans combined. This isn’t hyperbole either, it’s true. That may also be why 43% of Americans didn’t vote in the last presidential election, and why even fewer might this time.

The only way to get better representation in politics is to vote for candidates who represent you. All of you. You can help break the two-party system into a bunch of tiny little pieces, and we could eventually have a true multi-party system. Falling in line and voting for the “lesser of two evils” will just result in a more entrenched two-party government. If deadlock and the complete inability to pass any major legislation is what you like, by all means, back that two-party system to your heart’s content.

Breaking up the two-party system probably isn’t going to happen as a result of the 2016 election, and it might not happen in 2020 either. But investing in your political future, to achieve a true multi-party system that more closely represents our diverse population, isn’t about immediate returns (stopping Trump), it’s a long-term plans (breaking up the duopoly in government). It’s like financial planning. Yes, you make sure your world won’t blow up in the short-term, but what you do thereafter is ensure continued growth and progression for your finances. Building financial wealth takes time and long-term planning. The same is true in building political wealth, and the division of power within the federal government is our safety net. If you want your vote to become more valuable and more powerful, like money has become in politics, you need to begin investing it in politicians who will give you more power and empower you to be more involved in the democratic process. That won’t happen by voting for either a Democrat or a Republican, nor will it happen by voting for any other candidate who represents the status quo.

More directly, it won’t happen while you support candidates who allow themselves to be influenced by money, something both Republicans and Democrats have no problem doing. And you’re a fool if you think millions of dollars in speaking fees, campaign contributions and donations to a candidate’s Foundation don’t influence his/her policy positions.

The 2016 presidential election actually could bring about an end to the two party system, and all it would take is a very simple change in how we vote. Rather than voting for just a single candidate, wouldn’t it be pretty dope if we could rank our candidates based on preference? Nobody is perfect, so we just end up voting for the least imperfect candidate, but with ranked-choice voting, voters could express their preferences by ranking the difference candidates. So, if Bernie Sanders is your first choice, you would rank him #1. If you then prefer Jill Stein, you could rank her second. Is Clinton a better choice than only Donald Trump? Then rank her as such. It’s really a very simple and beautiful system, and it would immediately bring credibility to every third party in this country. It just makes so much sense!

hillary clinton in red jumpsuit

Here’s a note for you Clinton supporters: Some people just don’t like her platform. This is perfectly acceptable, and people are free to vote for whomever they choose. That’s the truest form of taking part in the democratic process, to vote for those supporting one’s own principles. To suggest that people should suspend that right, simply because you want your candidate to win, is the most undemocratic thing you can suggest. That’s not democracy, people. Bullying and strongarming others, through fear-based campaigning, into voting against their best interests is pretty close to fascism or any other authoritarian forms of governance. If you love democracy as much as you say you do, you’d be supporting people’s desire to vote by their conscience. And please, don’t suggest Donald Trump can destroy American democracy himself unless you can see the future and provide some sort of tangible evidence to prove it. All you’re doing is spreading unsubstantiated fear with some make believe foresight.

People simply have different political wants, and you should be ashamed of yourself if you’re telling others to ignore that and just vote how you want them to. By all means, extoll the benefits and perks of your preferred candidate, but leave it at that. Don’t patronize or condescend to people who hold different values than you. That’s not how you win people over to your side.

And a note to my conservative counterparts, I urge you to vote for the candidates who best represent you this November, even if I vehemently disagree with everything those people stand for. That’s your right, and I’ll defend that right myself, even if it means my candidates lose sometimes—because that’s how democracy works.

Lastly, to the disenfranchised, I hope you’ll vote. Your vote has the potential to be so powerful, but only if you use it. I won’t patronize or scold you. Just as voting for one candidate instead others is your right, so is not voting at all.

I’ll ask a favor of all the disenfranchised, though, and that’s to help people like me shake up the two-party system. People like me, and millions upon millions of others, need your help limiting the power of both the Democrats and Republicans, as well as their immensely wealthy donors who pull the strings of government, and the most efficient way to do this is by voting only, but often, for candidates who represent your values. There are over 40% of Americans not voting, which is enough to elect either Jill Stein or Gary Johnson. If those 40+% of voters just rallied behind a single third party candidate, we wouldn’t have to deal with the Republicans and Democrats in the White House. That’s all it takes. If Republicans and Democrats start losing “important elections” because more and more of us vote for third party candidates, they’ll change to better reflect their constituents or they’ll just continue to lose. And heck, if you like Republicans or Democrats, vote for them. That’s cool too.

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Preston Hemmerich

Preston fancies himself somewhat intelligent and a very poor joke teller. He enjoys writing about food, pets, politics and the occasional bit of social commentary. He has four dogs, a cat, and a pretty awesome husband.