I’ve been a fan of Bernie Sanders for years, dating back to his weekly Brunch with Bernie segment on Thom Hartmann’s radio show out of Portland, Oregon. He’s a straight-shooter, he doesn’t change positions on issues, he is a man of extremely high character and he genuinely cares about the plight of the working class in America. Some of his proposals make me scratch my head, but I have confidence that he has a workable plan for everything he proposes. I am a supporter of Sanders, he’s the only presidential candidate to whom I have contributed money, and I voted for him in the Texas primary recently.
I am not, however, a rabid Sanders supporter.
I have a very good friend who is a rabid Sanders supporter, and he’s the reason I know I am not one. The difference between being a supporter who donates money and attends a rally here and there and a rabid supporter is worth noting.
Bernie Sanders was also my choice in 2016, when the Democratic National Committee, already under the control of Hillary Clinton, put forth Clinton, rather than Sanders, as their nominee against Donald Trump. Clinton would go on to win the popular vote, but lose the electoral college, making Trump the 45th President of the United States. The actions of the DNC caused a schism in the Democratic Party, one that has only grown as the party continues to say internally that Sanders can’t win the 2020 election for their party.
During the run-up to the 2016 election my friend asked me to help moderate a Facebook support group for Sanders, and I agreed. After all, I am an-even minder person, college professor, professional writer and political enthusiast. I am also one who has worked extensively in behavior management and have had great success helping people get along with each other.
Boy, was I in for a shock.
When the DNC chose Clinton as their nominee in 2016, I was disappointed, but as Sanders himself did, I quickly pledged my support (though not my money) behind Clinton. After all, the alternative – reality TV scam artist Donald Trump – was absolutely unthinkable. I told the thousands of members of the Sanders support page it was time to band together in support of a bigger cause. Immediately afterwards, I felt like a piece of fresh meat dropped into a pool of starving piranhas.
I was called a stunning assortment of names, accused of many unsettling things, and was threatened with violence even Quentin Tarantino couldn’t imagine. Yet all I was doing was pointing out the obvious. Sanders stood up in support of the greater cause, asking us, as his supporters, to now back Clinton. It was the only logical course of action, distasteful as it was, and I understood the bigger picture well enough to do as Sanders asked unhesitatingly.
After fighting the good fight, trying to speak reason to the frothing, foaming faithful, I finally gave up. I removed myself from the group and even blocked it from my feed. I simply didn’t enjoy the ocean of negativity being generated by the membership. How could the supporters of a man who does not espouse violence or anger turn to those as their primary tools of action?
I would like to say this was unprecedented, but only an ostrich, its head buried deep in the sand, could make such a claim. While there are myriad examples, the greatest may be that of Jesus of Nazareth, who preached non-violence, love of the poor and embracing enemies like brothers, but has been used as the central figure of inspiration by people who kill and torture relentlessly, espouse a “prosperity gospel,” and claim anyone who doesn’t practice precisely what they dictate will certainly burn in hell.
As with Jesus, many of Bernie Sanders’ supporters seem to have missed the point of his message entirely.
To those rabid followers, I would ask the following question: What Would Bernie Do? Perhaps we need t-shirts, hats and rubber bands for our wrists with the message, WWBD? What Would Bernie Do? You see, I simply don’t understand how people who place their faith in a person don’t attempt to emulate that person’s behavior as they demonstrate their support.
The outcome of the 2020 presidential election is far from certain. Sanders is the clear front runner as of this writing, but only three states have completed their caucuses and the election is still months away. There is still a chance that Sanders will not be the Democratic nominee come November. In the event that he is not, what will Sanders supporters do?
The only rational thing would be to do as Bernie will unquestionably do: throw support behind whomever the nominee might be. It might not be enthusiastic support, but support, nonetheless. We must show up at the polls and keep the bigger picture in mind. Yes, I dearly hope Sanders is the choice on the blue side of the ballot come November, but if he is not I will still do the most responsible thing any rational person can do: vote for the Democratic candidate and against Donald Trump. (A vote for a third party candidate is not a protest vote, it is basically a vote for Trump.)
Any other reaction would only disrespect the man we all admire, as Sanders supporters, just as the actions of so many Christians today disrespect the memory of one of history’s revered public figures.