I’m still reeling from the impact and disappointment of the 2016 Presidential election. Yes, I voted for Hillary, and while I was not trilled with the baggage she brought to the campaign, I was entirely pumped about the idea of “Madam President.” I really believed we were ready for a woman to break the glass ceiling and take the reign of leadership in our country. Sadly, things did not turn out as expected.
It is well debated among pundits the reasons for the Trump victory. If you got your fill of news and commentary from Fox, the Trump victory was about the economy, nationalism, outsiders, and a promise to “Make America Great Again.” If you tuned into MSNBC or CNN, the operative conclusion was Hillary snatched defeat from the hands of victory, and the Bernie voter was center stage. Let’s examine…
The unraveling started with the DNC hack by Russia, and the subsequent email dump that began in late July 2016 by WikiLeaks. According to the New York Times, “several embarrassing messages” were made public about then DNC Chair and Congresswoman, Debbie Wasserman Shultz (FL-Dem), and others, indicating their preference for Clinton over Sanders. Some of the emails suggested the DNC and Team Clinton had planned to disparage Bernie’s campaign to ensure a Clinton nomination. Bernie was making it easy to fight back. He and his supporters railed against Clinton, the Democrats in general, and argued that his progressive agenda was the future of the party. His campaign, and the froth that went with it, was remarkably similar to Trump’s. He and his supporters hated the “establishment” and thought money, corruption, and influence represented Clinton and mainstream Democratic politics. It is noteworthy that while Bernie complained consistently about the establishment, he changed party designation from Independent to Democrat just to run for President. Doesn’t that sort of mean you need the establishment? Think about that.
While investigations by the FBI and Mueller clearly proved that Clinton was targeted by Russia, in favor of Trump, the big mystery has continued to be about how the attack changed the way voters in this country viewed Clinton and ultimately voted, or didn’t.
Clinton ended up winning the nomination, handily, which always irritated voters like me. She would likely have won without the DNC and Team Clinton mischief with Bernie. It was unnecessary and a brutal distraction. The August-November months played out with continued interruptions for email dumps and investigation starts and stops. Watching the polls, Clinton never led the National polls by less than 5% at any time. She was going to win. It was in the bag. According to a Forbes article published just after the Trump victory in 2016, “Hillary was always going to be the head of the Democratic ticket in 2016. This was decided by party leaders in 2008.” That viewpoint didn’t sit well with Bernie, and really didn’t sit well with his supporters. Bernie bro’s didn’t like Clinton, even though Trump seemed worse in a lot of respects. What Trump had going for him was the call to “drain the swamp.” Bernie was in favor of that too. Of course, we know now that Trump didn’t drain the swamp. In fact, he made the swamp bigger and more threatening. But, back to Bernie. He made appearances, went to the Convention, called for unity, and campaigned for Hillary. But, everyone knew there was no truth in it. Especially among those who really campaigned hard for him. The email reveals were just too much. They felt betrayed, taken advantage of and hurt. They were convinced that the Democratic Party machine kept their guy from being the one to take on Trump.
So, what resulted is burned into American history. Don’t mind the pun. The election that couldn’t be lost, was lost. Election night was supposed to be an all out assault, with high voter turn-out to ensure America didn’t end up with the embarrassment it got. That didn’t happen. Bernie voters became emblematic of the progressive protest and essentially “sat it out.” If you add up the maybe 75,000 or so votes in Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania that Trump won by, you can chalk up the difference and the election to Bernie voters who protested through their “no” vote. So, America got Trump.
Fast-forward nearly four years later and its June 2020. Here we are again. Trump is looking to get re-elected and the Democratic Party has chosen former VP Joe Biden to be the party nominee. Nothing nefarious happened this go around. The headlining story has been US Representative Jim Clyburn (Dem-SC) perhaps saving Biden’s campaign through an inspiring push in the South Carolina primary, helping Joe to his first primary win, ever.
With a few additional key primary wins that happened during the Super Tuesday vote, it became clear that the Democrats wanted Joe to be their 2020 standard bearer. Candidate after candidate dropped out and threw in for Biden. Bernie, of course, was last, having thought weeks earlier he was on his way to the nomination. Some would argue that he didn’t believe the Democrats would rally around Biden. He had good reason. Biden really hadn’t found his spark and prior to South Carolina, he was in fourth place. The nation was talking about Bernie’s delegate lead. There was no thought that Biden would survive a long primary let alone become the nominee. As the tide turned after South Carolina, Bernie’s lead evaporated, and soon it became apparent that Biden would win the nomination. Once again, Bernie, and his supporters, would not prevail. But not because of the establishment being unfair. Voters quickly made the calculation that Biden was the most electable, and Bernie represented a pull too far to the left. Bernie’s supporters have long wondered why he couldn’t get over the hurdle? Why hadn’t the party leaned in to the progressive left? After all, Bernie self proclaimed his movement to be extraordinary. Consider the Democratic party may not quite be ready for revolution.
So, has anything really changed from 2016? Yes. Bernie has changed. He has very much opted for unity as the stakes are critical now. Once again, we are facing an election that MUST not be lost. Bernie knows this. Other progressives like Elizabeth Warren know this too. So does Andrew Yang. Even party moderates like Pete Buttigieg know this. Every one of the twenty plus candidates that ran for the nomination knows this.
Do the Bernie supporters know this? I have met a lot of Bernie supporters in person, through Twitter, FB, and other channels. They worry me. I must say I am not that worried about those who support Trump. They are the same. A minority base that was there in 2016. They dont represent the majority of America and that base doesn’t grow. The Bernie supporter, however, worries me. They are still fussing over why Bernie wasn’t the nominee. They are being aggressive about Biden needing to pick him for VP, or else. I’ve had Bernie voters tell me they will once again not vote in this election. I argue feverishly that a no vote is a vote for Trump. Remember 2016? They get it but still feel like the “establishment” is working against them. I argue some more. Biden has agreed to incorporate some of the most progressive ideas in our country’s history, and Bernie had an important hand in driving these ideas. Biden isn’t a perfect choice. But he’s a better choice. Personally, I pulled for and supported other candidates that I wanted to see represent the party in the general election. I really believed the next generation should take over, but the country wasn’t ready yet. So, I will vote for Biden. That’s the responsible action to take as a Democrat and someone who is disgusted with Trump. I do think the Bernie voters get it, but they continue to protest the Democratic Party not being progressive enough. Maybe that’s why many of the Bernie voters are really Independents? Whatever the reasons for discontent, I argue its time to be responsible and vote, or forever be a big part of why we got Trump twice.
If we all show up in November, Biden will win in a landslide victory for the country. If we don’t, well, we’ve seen the movie. My message to Bernie supporters…please don’t “cut off your nose to spite your face.” Please.