In the battle for the Democratic nomination in 2008, things got pretty damned ugly and a lot of scary promises were made. More than a few Clinton supporters insisted, “If Obama gets the nomination, I’m writing in Hillary.” According to the Federal Elections Commission, there were 112,597 miscellaneous write-in votes, among which it can be assumed votes for Hillary Clinton could be counted. Keep in mind, this is also where you’ll find votes for cartoon characters, inanimate objects, deceased historical figure and your garden variety Honeys Booboo. Meanwhile, Obama received 69,498,516 votes.
During that year’s primaries, both Clinton and Obama landed some knock-out blows on each other. And each time they did, everybody gasped. All this fighting! Wouldn’t that just be fuel for the Republicans come November? Well, no.
Way back in 2000, Ralph Nader, who ran for the Green Party, collected almost three million votes. That election was decided on roughly a half-million votes — even though those votes went to the subsequent loser of the election. Thanks, electoral college!
And now, here we are sixteen years on watching another contentious Democratic primary. Many Bernie fans believe Hillary is a lying shrew. Many Hillary fans think Bernie is batshit crazy. Both sides seem to believe the whole system is rigged. And it is. Thanks again, electoral college! The voters who consider themselves “locked in” on either Hillary or Bernie aren’t going anywhere — even when it comes to the general election. “If Hillary/Bernie doesn’t get the nomination, then I’m writing in Bernie/Hillary on my ballot!” That’s because, “it’s time to teach the Democratic Party a lesson!”
But, is it really? And what kind of lesson are these voters willing to dish out? I assume it’s the Twisted Sister lesson that “We’re not gonna take it anymore.” But not take what? Isn’t this “rigged system” the same one that elected Barack Obama twice? Aren’t all presidential candidates kinda crazy and power mad?
I actually saw an “I will not vote for Hillary” pledge for Bernie fans to “sign” floating around Facebook the other day. What unfathomable bullshit. We’re supposed to bail on the United States completely and hand the reins over to the asocial asshammer who just flummoxed the GOP? That’s patently insane.
This is the time to do it, say Bernie fans. [And it must be noted that plenty of Hillary fans have made the reciprocal pledge should Bernie get the nod.] Donald Trump is a loudmouth diaper genie and will be easy to beat in the GE. Right?
Now would be a good time to remember back in June of 2015 when conservative pundits concluded that there was absolutely no way on earth that “il Douchebag,” a sketchy, screechy numbskull real estate developer and reality television hack, would win the Republican primary. It was a different time. We were all so young and foolish then.
I have friends in the “Never Hillary” and in the “Never Bernie” camps. We will still be friends in December. As for my Trump-fan friends? We’ll still be friends too. Life is too freaking short.
Me? I’m a Bernie guy myself and I see Hillary as pretty much what the Republicans should be. She’s a smart person who can get things done. But she’s a pro-business, pro-wealth neoliberal, just like her husband, and Jimmy Carter and, frankly, Barack Obama. We’ve tried that. I think enough is enough.
Progressivism has wandered pretty far off course over the last 40 years and the 1% has benefitted greatly from it. This is why it’s so important for the 1%-ers to keep the info-phobic voters on the right so terrified of policies that would actually benefit them and at the same time keep them energized to vote in a way that they feel certain will harm groups of people they define as “others.” This forces conservatives to lean even further right. And ultimately that lean has dragged progressives right along with it.
Bernie has been a very solid reminder that government should be working for all of us. But he’s also a reminder that progressivism and even socialism are about trying to lift all people up — not just the ones who look like we do or believe what we believe or work the same way we do — everybody. It’s that simple. The Bernie Revolution is, at the very least, an enthusiastic attempt to move the country back toward the center. Obama didn’t do it. And Hillary won’t either. And that’s a shame. I believe very firmly that we [the US] as a leader of nations need this shift desperately.
However, if Hillary is the Democratic nominee, I will sure as hell vote for her. At the very least, Hillary Clinton can speak on the global stage without sounding like a fucking beef-witted nincompoop. At the very least, she’ll try to consider the lives and livelihoods of American citizens who are not white or male when she’s making important decisions. At the very least, she’ll speak to the people who disagree with her respectfully. At the very least, she will attempt to keep the nation out of the gutter and instead moving forward — without clinched fists. That’s more than I can say about the presumptive GOP nominee.
When it comes to write-in votes — or even simply not voting — the math is pretty simple. If Bernie and Hillary each have about half of the democrats’ votes, and roughly 40% of Americans identify as democrats, that means on Election Day the most write-in votes Bernie can hope to get is 20% out of the total electorate. And that leaves Hillary with 20%. Meanwhile, Trump is polling at about 33% these days. If nobody writes in Ben Carson (and nobody will) his 33 beats your 20.
Now of course, 20% of voters are not going to vote for Bernie — or Hillary, if Bernie gets the nod. But now that he’s the GOP nominee, Donald Trump has momentum and lots of it. Momentum moves the swing voters. And there’s a lot more swing voters than there are protest voters.
You might think that punishing the Democratic Party by writing in Bernie will teach them a lesson. But don’t forget, 2,882,955 people taught the Democratic Party a lesson in 2000 by voting for Ralph Nader, another stand up guy with real ideas the world needs, but impossible to elect.
Instead, the lesson we learned was George W Bush. When he was being inaugurated, I recall thinking to myself, “Well, what’s the worst that can happen?”
And by God, in every possible way, it did.
Addendum: So What Should We Do?
If you really believe in the Bernie Revolution then you should have faith that it can and should live on and even grow after November. If the Tea Party has taught us anything, it should be this. Look at what they were able to accomplish in just eight short years — the US Legislature at a complete standstill and the potential election of a certifiable lunatic as president. Now, just imagine what an organization of people with brains and empathy could do.
© 2016 Chris Henson