The “Bernie or Bust!” movement asks Sanders supporters to commit to vote for only Bernie in the general election. If he’s not on the ballot in November, busters say they won’t vote for President or will write in Bernie’s name even though this could lead to the election of “il Duce” Donald Trump or Torquemada Ted Cruz. I am not a buster, although I certainly understand the movement’s appeal.
By contrast, I condemned Ralph Nader in 2000 as soon as he indicated he was running as a third-party candidate and continue to revile the man for what he did to our nation. But there are significant differences between this year’s election and Bush v. Gore. Most importantly, Al Gore was almost certainly a better Presidential candidate than Nader. He was also about as liberal a candidate as we could hope to elect at that point. He was more progressive than the Democratic President he served for eight years, refreshingly decent and honest, and an ardent environmentalist.
Hillary Clinton, by contrast, was the most conservative Democratic Presidential candidate in this election cycle. She is decidedly hawkish, has a well-deserved reputation for dishonesty, and is an economic neo-liberal. She is exactly what this country doesn’t need.
So, I get “Bernie or Bust” which claims up to 1/3 of Sanders supporters. My sense, though, is that most Democratic pundits and insiders don’t take them too seriously. After all, say the women and men making rounds on NPR, CNN, and MSNBC, Clinton’s PUMAs in 2008 ultimately didn’t amount to anything at all. Liberal radio host Randi Rhodes who supported Obama ardently in 2008 and never missed an opportunity to slam Hillary – sometimes profanely – may have nailed it when she said “you fall in love during the primaries and you fall in line before the general election.”
Of course, there are important distinctions between the 2008 edition of the Democratic primaries and the 2016 campaign. Eight years ago the top two candidates differed little on the most important issue in that election season. Both promised healthcare reform and their plans were so similar that newspapers had to take pains to identify salient differences.
I asked a disgruntled Clinton supporter in the summer of 2008 to identify policy differences between Clinton and Barack Obama. She couldn’t do it, although she sputtered that nobody could have reasonably thought Obama would be a better President than Clinton so the fact that he won proved his supporters were sexist. It didn’t take her long to endorse Obama.
By contrast, there are broad and obvious differences between Clinton and Sanders both on the issues and in the way they’re campaigning. To vote for Clinton, Sanders supporters will have to move quite a distance from the pro-peace, pro-worker, pro-environment, pro-economic justice candidate. So, I get “Bernie or Bust”.
I won’t join them. If Clinton is the Democratic nominee, as expected, I plan to vote for her because the Republican alternative will likely to do much more harm to our nation. Still, “Bernie or Bust” has good reasons to reject Clinton. In order to prevent the national nightmare that a Trump or Cruz Presidency would induce, Clinton must therefore demonstrate that, if elected, she will not govern as the neo-con corporatist Bernie’s busters fear.
How can she do this? She should right now commit to a truly progressive agenda by naming the people she intends to appoint to be her top domestic and foreign policy advisers. Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, or Sherrod Brown are all good choices for the domestic job. If she doesn’t want to pluck a sitting Democratic Senator from Congress, Robert Reich might be a good choice, although his latest piece at Salon bizarrely questioned whether free trade is really as bad as its detractors claim. Perhaps a labor leader would be the ideal choice.
Clinton should promise to push hard for a $15 minimum wage, higher top marginal tax rates on the wealthy, not to sign off on any more free trade deals and to renegotiate or renounce the ones currently in effect.
Clinton should name as her putative top foreign policy adviser a national figure who has bucked the neo-con trend over the past 20 years. Not too many come to mind. Lincoln Chafee might be a good choice. I’d plump for a retired officer like Colonel Ann Wright who has been consistently correct on foreign policy over the past two decades.
There are other actions Clinton can take to demonstrate she has forsworn the DLC/Third Way Wall Street moderates. Breaking decisively from allies Rahm Emanuel and Debbie Wasserman Schultz would be a good start as would cutting ties with David “Hitman” Brock’ and his “Correct the Record” SuperPac.
Sanders die-hards may ultimately support Clinton but she must woo them. Her stated goal Monday of taking America’s relationship with Israel to the next level made the task much more difficult. If Clinton continues to ignore the legitimate concerns of “Sanders or Bust!”, if she signals contempt for its adherents as she did at AIPAC, she risks losing a significant number of Sanders supporters in the general election. Should this happen and our nation devolves into fascism or theocracy, Clinton will bear a portion of the responsibility.