Let's Understand Bernie or Bust

Real Discontent

The course of the Democratic primary this election season made the rift within the Democratic Party clear. Hilary Clinton has been a contentious figure for years, scrutinized for her hawkish policies abroad and for taking money from Wall Street. When Sanders entered the contest, offering a more liberal and progressive stance on almost everything, and coming as someone with little controversy in his record, he seemed to offer a satisfying option to many disgruntled Democrats.

The Bernie or Bust movement was a result of the hope instilled in supporters combined with the deep-seated anger against Clinton. It was formed way before Clinton clinched the nomination in June. It was there in April when Trump was forecasted to be the Republican nominee, when some said they were prepared to vote for anyone else, even Trump, if Clinton were to be the Democratic nominee.

In the heat of the election season, when the nominations were being contested, I think the Bernie or Bust movement had a good message for the nation. It was often angry and critical of Clinton, to the point of attacking her, but it was an expression of the deep discontent with the political system. If there was a tangible thing to point to that showed the state of disgruntled Democrats, Bernie or Bust supporters were it for me.

Bernie or Bust supporters at the Democratic National Convention.
Bernie or Bust supporters at the Democratic National Convention. | Source

It Became a Problem

The movement was recalcitrant, as was expected. After Clinton clinched the nomination in June, Bernie or Bust drew the attention of the media further because the Democratic Party was working toward redirecting all its support to Clinton. I believe I saw it in the news through days surrounding the Democratic National Convention between July 25-28. A Bloomberg poll around that time, quoted in this article, showed that nearly half of Sanders supporters wouldn't support Clinton.

In my opinion, the poll shows the difficulty for many supporters to make the transition from Sanders to Clinton. A transition of that kind involves a restructuring of one's ideology and of reaching a compromise given the reality. Of course, the media seemed to make a big fuss over the the poll numbers as some evidence that the Democratic Party is in danger of falling apart.

Bernie or Bust was getting more credit and blame it was worth. In fact, it was just a small subset of Bernie supporters who were part of this movement.

Publicly, it got a lot of criticism. Sarah Silverstein, who was publicly supportive of Sanders during his campaign, was even in the news for quoting, "To the Bernie or bust people, you're being ridiculous." This blogger echoed the sentiments of many when he called it unrealistic idealism.

Do you think Bernie or Bust had a reasonable message?

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It's Over (Mostly)

Now, it's August, and the news of Bernie or Bust hype seems to have died down, as Bernie has taken more of a role behind the scenes. This article reported that 74 percent of millennials, a group Sanders swept, are now voting for Clinton.

Clearly, the group wasn't as large or effective as the media had portrayed it to be earlier. Many Sanders supporters are not the diehard Bernie or Bust fans that the media had portrayed as a large, threatening entity.

Yet even without Bernie or Bust around much anymore, former Bernie supporters are likely to feel pessimistic about this election. Given how different Sanders and Clinton were on ideology during the primaries, it takes some reframing and perspective shifting to make the leap to support Clinton. The support is not likely to be as enthusiastic either.

The Path Forward?

Hilary Clinton at a rally.
Hilary Clinton at a rally. | Source

Who are you voting for in the general election?

  • Jill Stein
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