The Primary Post Mortem.

Well, now that the Democratic Primary contest is over…

No. No, stop. It is over. I don’t care if Bernie Sanders is going to “take it all the way to the convention,” and in fact I would find it highly undemocratic if he were to attempt to subvert the popular vote through use of superdelegates…

That sounds weirdly familiar. Where have I heard that before?

Oh yeah. Now I remember. I heard it from the Sanders campaign.

Anyway, now that the primary is over, I hope we can all get over hating each others guts for long enough to govern.

Hillary Clinton won, and I’m very glad that she did.

Clinton is a candidate with problems in her past, but you know, so are literally all candidates. Yes, including Sanders. No, this is not up for debate. Sanders has made bad votes. He has even made votes in favor of military and paramilitary action.

What I have noticed the most, the absolute most, during this primary is how easy it has been for us  to blame every disastrous problem in our government in the last fifty plus years on her. I find it odd that the issues with corruption and cronyism and whatnot that, I find it important to point out, were caused and exacerbated by men, are so handily blamed on Clinton when she has a chance to become president.

I also find it strange, for the Bernie-or-Bust crowd, that we are suddenly incapable of going to the polls for a flawed candidate after years of voting for flawed candidates.

The above is of course a lie. Bernie Sanders is a deeply flawed candidate. But I’ll get to that later.

There’s been this weird narrative that people only vote for Clinton because they feel like they have to. I saw one person on Facebook this week saying that the vote must be fraudulent, because seriously do any of you even know any Clinton supporters? There’s been this idea that Clinton isn’t inspiring, that she’s not “likable.”

I’m here to say that yes, people voted for Clinton, yes, she has supporters; yes, many of us support her because we actually like her. We’ve just been invisible in particularly Bern-heavy parts of the discourse because we quickly got tired of being called genocidal cunts and corporate whores. Easier to just shut up and vote at that point.

This is, of course, why I stayed home during the Washington State caucuses. Because fuuuuuck that.

I started out as a Sanders supporter. In fact Sanders was a hero of mine, and I was excited when he ran. But the shine quickly wore off, and now I really don’t like Sanders very much. This was a disheartening thing to realize. It’s painful when heroes tarnish.

But Clinton was also a hero of mine, so I got over it pretty quickly.

There have been dozens of opinion pieces written about why people don’t “feel the bern” since around the middle of the primary. I’ve been hesitant to criticize Sanders, not just because it’s illegal in 30 states to do so, and not just because you will be called female gendered slurs if you do so, but because (unlike the Sanders crew, apparently) my first priority is keeping Republicans out of office, so even as I came to dislike Bernie Sanders, I didn’t want to contribute to him becoming an unelectable candidate in the event that he won the nomination.

You see, I’m female, and women actually stand to lose some rights if the Republicans win. I know that’s hard for people to understand, but women, as well as gendered minorities, sexual minorities, and racial minorities, can’t afford to wait out four to eight years of a Trump presidency. We are already under attack.

So anyway, I’ve held off criticizing Sanders because if he won the nomination I needed him to be able to win.

But he’s not going on to the general election.

At least, not in any politically viable way.

So now I can get some shit off my chest.

Referring to voting for Clinton as the lesser of two evils is acting like Sanders wouldn’t be the same. Listen to me: all people who rise to power in our government have  bad votes on their records, and those bad votes are generally speaking the result of difficult choices that now seem easy in hindsight. So I don’t really hold these things against Sanders, but I think it’s important to acknowledge that the left’s favorite demagogue isn’t perfect.

Bernie Sanders has voted for war.

In fact, his vote to support the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia caused staffer Jeremy Brecher to resign in protest. From his letter of resignation to Sanders:

“Is there a moral limit to the military violence you are willing to participate in or support? Where does that limit lie? And when that limit has been reached, what action will you take? My answers led to my resignation.”

And while he did vote against the Iraq war, he did later vote to authorize funds for not just that war, but also the one in Afghanistan. Additionally, and most chilling to me, he voted t authorize funds for the Israeli assault on Gaza. Do you remember the 2014 assault on Gaza? It was a nightmare.

Like I said. I don’t hold these things against Bernie Sanders to any particular degree. But I think if we’re going to blame Clinton for voting for the use of force authorization for the Iraq war, it’s only fair to acknowledge the blood on Sanders’ hands.

I’m also not much of a fan of the infamous rape essay (hint: it’s not infamous because it’s illegal to criticize Bernie Sanders in 30 out of 50 states, remember.), nor of his admitted admiration for socialist strongmen, nor his praise for the morality of breadlines.

But all of those things were a while ago, so why hold them against him? We all grow and learn and change, right? (I of course mean everyone but Clinton, who is held responsible for working on a Republican campaign at the age of 16.)

But I’ll tell you what did push me away from the Sanders campaign… his supporters. And not in the way you might thing.

Don’t get me wrong; being yelled at and having gendered slurs flung at me is off-putting (seriously did you guys think that would get Sanders more votes? Really?). But that’s not the reason.

The reason is authoritarianism.

There’s been this weird undercurrent of belief in the Sanders camp that if they elected Bernie, everything would be okay. That’s really weird when you take into account the difficulty our current president has had getting literally anything done. There was this weird idea that Sanders was going to change everything, with little to no discussion about Congress. And this was encouraged by the campaign.

It was as if Sanders could just magically ignore the other half of the country and their representatives and votes. Now, I don’t agree with the political right in the United States on pretty much anything. But I acknowledge that they’re human and citizens and have votes and voices that are equal to mine.

When you asked about it, if you were lucky enough to not be screamed at, there was this notion that Sanders would just “sweep” people into office. Which is weird because he actively campaigned against the Democratic Party (I know I know, the party is an evil plaything of the Prime Evil, Hillary Clinton), and it didn’t seem that Sanders voters were particularly interested in voting down-ballot.

When he finally did announce that he was going to fund downticket races, it was only for people who had endorsed him, which is a weirdly Soviet and cronyish way to go about it. If he got his three BFFs elected, he still wouldn’t be able to get shit done without more Democrats in congress. So strange, so confusing.

His willingness (and his supporters’ willingness) to vilify Democratic heroes of mine when they didn’t agree with him also gave me pause. Like, Bernie? You’re going to have to work with these people.

And in with all of this was the kind of dangerous rhetoric regarding the primary process, rhetoric that came directly from the campaign and indicated that the primary was somehow rigged against him.

Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.

But here’s why this rhetoric is troubling: it set up Bernie supporters as somehow marginalized and oppressed and further deepened suspicion of the Democratic party. There was this idea that the inconsistencies in places like Arizona and New York were aimed at Sanders supporters somehow, which is weird if you stop and think about it. Sure, maybe voter rolls were purged in New York inappropriately. But they were purged in places that favored Clinton. Arizona’s irregularities were the result of Republican oversight, and could easily have been prevented if anyone bothered to give a rat’s ass when the Voting Rights Act was gutted in, what, 2013? You see, Arizona was a Section 5 state, and was such due to its tendency to disenfranchise native and latino voters.

In fact, voting irregularities all over the country aren’t new, and aren’t limited to this primary, or even to the Democratic party or to primaries in general. People of color have been complaining about these irregularities for literally years, and nobody listened until Sanders supporters decided that they were being oppressed.

But tied up in this is also the idea that votes for Clinton are somehow illegitimate or don’t matter.

And that’s more of that weird authoritarian thinking. If you’re not with us then you shouldn’t have a say.

Now I’m not saying that Bernie Sanders supporters are racist, or that they’re authoritarians, or even that Bernie Sanders was a socialist strongman in the offing. I actually like a lot of socialism; I think we need way, way, way more of it. But these things, and the fact that they were actively encouraged by rhetoric coming out of the campaign, definitely pushed me towards Clinton.

As did the fact that the Sanders campaign carefully skirted a line between censuring his most reprehensible supporters just enough, but not enough to actually discourage them.

As did the sexist rhetoric coming out of the campaign.

Also, I really like Hillary Clinton.

But that’s a subject for a different post.

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Author: adrennan

An artist and writer in Bellingham, Washington.

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