At the risk of sounding like an internet cliché, I’m writing this post as an open letter to my fellow Democrats of all stripes. Unlike the Republican candidates, who spend valuable time arguing about the size of Donald Trump’s penis and the volume of Marco Rubio’s sweat, we’ve had a substantive discussion about real issues facing this country. In all of our debates, our candidates have looked like the adults in the room while the Republicans have behaved as a bunch of preadolescents who never graduated the eighth grade.
Hillary Clinton was widely expected to capture the Democratic nomination for President. The field largely cleared for her and endorsements from incumbent members of Congress poured in. These are usually fairly clear predictors that a candidate is going to win the primary. However, two weeks after her announcement, Senator Bernie Sanders jumped into the mix. Despite long odds, he has run a strong campaign, and has done better than expected in the primaries. However, barring a catastrophe, it is now fairly certain that Clinton will become a first-ballot nominee at the Democratic National Convention. She now has a large enough delegate lead that the Democrats’ proportional system for delegate allocation will make it near-impossible for Sanders to catch up. Despite this, there have been some activists out there suggesting that Sanders supporters should sit out the election or write him in if he doesn’t become the Democratic nominee.
To these people I say: think long and hard about the potential consequences of this.
Bernie Sanders fans are a passionate and dedicated group, and it’s easy to see why. He has forced a discussion of many important issues that we liberals are passionate about, such as income inequality and Wall Street corruption. But we need to take a look at the big picture. In 2000, we got a preview of what can happen when some liberal abandon the Democratic nominee. The contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore was incredibly close, as most of you probably remember. Ralph Nader, the Green Party nominee, ended up as the “protest candidate” for those that thought there was no difference between Bush and Gore. The election ended up coming down to a razor-thin margin in Florida, so thin that recounts in several counties were called for, and many irregularities, including a poorly designed ballot, were found. A conservative Supreme Court halted the recounts, declaring Bush the winner.
In several states, if even a fraction of the votes Nader got had gone to Gore, several states would’ve swung his way, and the recount could have been avoided. Had the “protesters” voted with their heads and not their hearts, the Iraq war would likely have been avoided, and the tax cuts Bush pushed through before 9/11 would not have happened. 4,000 Americans killed in Iraq would be alive, and countless thousands more would not have been left maimed by a war fought on false pretenses. The federal deficit would be sharply lower, and the federal debt a fraction of what it is today.
But this is not 2000.
There is a clear and present danger looming on the Republican ticket in the form of Donald Trump. It is increasingly likely that he will capture the Republican nomination, despite ill-timed Republican establishment efforts to prevent it. He has run a campaign based on bigotry, intolerance, and outright lies on a scale that McCain and Romney would be ashamed of, and in fact, they are. Whether he is advocating war crimes, touting his record as a businessman and dealmaker as a strength when he’s actually terrible at it, or calling for discrimination against practically everyone that isn’t a WASP male, it’s clear that he would be at best an embarrassment as President. At worst, he would set the country back decades, far worse than anything Bush did.
Now is not the time for “a pox on both their houses.” Now is not the time for third-party conceit. Now is the time to stop this threat.
Many of the “Bernie or Bust” crowd have said that Hillary Clinton would be a status quo candidate, and her nomination proves that America has become an oligarchy or plutocracy. Aside from the dubious notion that a man whose net worth has been estimated at $200-$500K is not also a member of the privileged class, this ignores the progress that President Obama has made on many issues. Millions of Americans have health insurance now that did not before. Two solidly liberal justices sit on the Supreme Court. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is gone. The stimulus package passed at the beginning of his presidency created jobs and saved this country from a second Great Depression. Osama bin Laden is dead. I could go on.
That said, there is much President Obama did not accomplish. Guantanamo Bay prison remains open. Government surveillance is still a problem. Terrorist attacks still happen, both at home and abroad. One presidency is not going to fix every problem that ails this country, and those that expected that when Obama was elected need to get a reality check. The rhetoric among these voters is disturbingly reminiscent of Tea Party activists who have ground Congress to a screeching halt by refusing to compromise on anything, or do what effective politicians call governing. This is how democracy works. Democrats have always stood above the fray on this. But we risk developing the same petulant, childish attitude that the Republican candidates have displayed this year if we insist on ideological purity above all else.
In short, Hillary Clinton is not a perfect candidate. Nor is Bernie. But Democrats, liberal activists, and genuine Republicans who care about the future of our country need to do everything they can to stop Donald Drumpf from leading this country into oblivion. To do any less would be irresponsible and reckless.