On the day Bernie Sanders declared his candidacy, I contributed $15 to his campaign. He came closer to representing my positions than any politician I can remember. I made several other investments in fundamental change as the Democratic primary season wore on. I still think that Sanders was spot-on in his critique of Hillary Clinton and his complaints about party officials favoring her. But I also have no doubt about joining him in voting for her.
This is hardly automatic for me. I have a record opposing the status quo. I proudly voted for Ralph Nader and other third-party candidates over the years. I’ve been a registered Green for a long time and faithfully participated in their local meetings in Tucson. Indeed, I became one of the few Green officials nationwide when Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano appointed me to a judge-picking panel. And I was planning to run as a Green for the local school board but ended up moving away.
So I really want to see the sort of fundamental change that Sanders espouses. But one of the things I liked about him, as opposed to most Green candidates, is that he’s a realist. I agree with him that:
- Above all, Trump must be defeated. He poses a threat to almost everything, including to democracy in the United States.
- Hillary Clinton, like her husband, will prostitute a lot of her political positions to whichever forces help her get reelected. (This is not a criticism per se but a feature of representative democracy.) If Sanders’ supporters clearly help her win, then she’ll be freer to ignore big-money interests and to embrace progressive proposals from the likes of Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. If she wins without support from progressives, she’s unlikely to accede to their demands. That’s why Sanders and Warren are her most obvious supporters on the campaign trail.
- On paper Clinton’s not so different from President Obama. Personally, I think she’ll do a better job of getting legislation through Congress.
I recognize that some Sanders supporters think that Clinton stole the nomination. But his wife, Jane Sanders, explicitly stated that Clinton would have won even without the tricks.
Further, I imagine that some people see Clinton’s lead in the polls and feel free to vote for Jill Stein, rather than sully themselves by supporting Clinton. For example, I live in DC, where the outcome of the election is utterly predictable. Nonetheless, to such people I say: Would Jill Stein actually make a good president? What’s the evidence? One of my problems with the Greens (again, my party) is that we don’t nominate people with the requisite experience or who recognize that politics is the art of the possible. Jill Stein would likely be well-meaning but disastrous, and I won’t support that.
All in all, the best thing we can do is to vote for Hillary Clinton. Then, as Sanders says, we must pressure President Clinton to enact her progressive platform and reward her if she does.