Although Hillary Clinton actually won the 2016 election by nearly three million votes, thanks to gerrymandering and the anomaly of the Electoral College, Donald Trump now occupies the Oval Office. There were a number of factors that allowed him to gain as many votes as he did and win the electoral vote. One, of course, was the influence of Russian propaganda intended to denounce Hillary Clinton with misinformation fed to the unwitting public. There was significant voter suppression in a number of states that denied the vote to poor, minorities and youth. Another was FBI Director James Comey’s ‘October Surprise’, and yet another was Hillary Clinton herself. Despite the fact that it makes no sense, you would be surprised how many people vote for a candidate based on looks or that “warm, fuzzy” persona. Clinton was highly qualified, had both the experience and education to have made an excellent president, but for some her forthright manner was off-putting. And then, of course, there was that moment when she used really poor judgement in her comment about ‘deplorables’.
But the biggest single factor that handed Donald Trump enough votes to win the Electoral College was the fans of Bernie Sanders. Let’s take a brief walk back through those times, shall we, for there are large parallels between 2016 and 2020.
Although Bernie was an Independent, when he threw his hat into the ring on May 26, 2015, he did so as a member of the Democratic Party, for the odds are so stacked against an Independent that most often they cannot qualify for debates, and will not be allowed on the ballots in many states. Bernie ran his campaign much as he has this year, on a platform of populist, socialist, and social democratic politics, which gave him the support of a large portion of the under-40 crowd. Then, as now, he focused on income and wealth inequality, which he argued is eroding the American middle class, and on campaign finance reform. Unlike most other major presidential candidates, Sanders eschewed an unlimited super PAC, instead choosing to receive most of his funding from direct individual campaign donations.
By the time of the final primary election in June, it was obvious that Clinton would be the nominee, and on July 12th, Sanders officially endorsed Clinton at a unity rally with her in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. But then … On July 22, 2016, various emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the governing body of the Democratic Party, were leaked and published, revealing apparent bias against the Sanders campaign on the part of the Committee and its chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz. I have always believed this was part of the Russian campaign to put Trump into the Oval Office, but as far as I know, there is no evidence to support it, so I can only speculate.
Although the race was close, with Clinton leading by only 291 delegates before the superdelegates weighed in at the nominating convention, Hillary won the party’s nomination. Sanders threw his support to Clinton, campaigned with her, and asked his supporters to please vote for Hillary Clinton. But … his supporters were bitter about a number of things, especially the leaked DNC emails. They also believed that the media had short-changed Bernie by covering his campaign significantly less than Clinton’s or Trump’s.
And thus began ‘Bernie or Bust’, a movement by some of Bernie’s die-hard supporters with the goal of taking votes away from Hillary Clinton. They urged Democrats to write in Sanders, vote for a third-party candidate such as Jill Stein or Gary Johnson, or not to vote at all. Sanders repeatedly said he would vote for Clinton in the general election in order to avoid a “disastrous” Trump presidency and encouraged his supporters to do the same, but few of his supporters listened. If every Bernie supporter had given his or her vote to Hillary Clinton, we would have been talking and writing about President Clinton these past 38 months, even despite the Russian interference, despite Jim Comey, despite Hillary being “anatomically incorrect” in the eyes of some, and despite her lack of a ‘warm & fuzzy persona’.
All of which brings us to today and the looming 2020 election. This year, it is Joe Biden vs Bernie Sanders, or as I’ve been calling it, the Bernie & Joe Show. The circumstances are much the same as they were four years ago, with Biden leading in delegate count and almost certain to become the Democratic nominee in July. Just this past Tuesday, in the three states that held Democratic primary elections – Illinois, Florida, and Arizona – Joe Biden was the clear winner in all three. And already, “Bernie or Bust” and “Never Biden” movements are in full swing.
Allow me to share with you some of the comments from Bernie supporters …
- “I can’t vote for Joe Biden. It feels like the party doesn’t want us — the people who were pushing for Bernie Sanders and were enthusiastic about it. I think it just means I don’t vote for president.”
- “The rationale for us is that our votes need to be earned and that we’ve been taken for granted, and the party never moves to us. If they install Joe Biden, I will not vote for Biden. … This is not democratic what’s happening in the Democratic primary.”
- “If we lose to Trump then hopefully within the next four years maybe an AOC or Rashida Tlaib would be able to run. Maybe there would be a better chance to save the planet.”
- “I don’t think that I should put aside my values and vote out of fear. The DNC needs an overhaul, it lacks values, real leaders that represent the people not its donors.”
- “For me not voting would be to send a message: what you’ve done is not OK. I wish there was a way to vote for Biden and still send that message.”
And those are just a sampling. But I think what those comments tell us is that the Democratic Party has some work to do. Unity. The party is deeply divided at present, and you know that saying, “United we stand, divided we fall”? It’s true. I think that Joe Biden stands a very good chance to beat Donald Trump, especially considering that Trump has been shooting himself in the foot these past few weeks. BUT … it will not happen unless both the party and the man get busy and unify the party.
The best-case scenario probably would have been for Joe Biden to pick Bernie to be his running mate, but that is not going to happen. To his credit, Biden did say in Sunday night’s debate that he would chose a woman to be his running mate, which should help with women voters, at any rate. The most likely is Kamala Harris, second most likely is Stacey Abrams.
My own personal choice was Elizabeth Warren, and when she dropped out, it became Bernie Sanders. However, I believe Joe Biden to be at least as qualified as Hillary Clinton was in 2016, I believe that Bernie will support Joe if Joe is the nominee, and I will most assuredly vote for Biden. I think that many of the younger voters who comprise “Bernie or Bust” fail to understand what another four years under Donald Trump would mean. I think, based on all the comments I’ve seen, that they want to shake things up within the Democratic Party, and I understand that, for I share their frustration with the Party. However, having watched the progressive destruction of our constitutional democratic republic over the past three years, and having studied at some length the current incumbent, his lack of values, lack of intelligence, and his monumental ego, I will throw my full support behind Joe Biden if he is the Democratic nominee, because I honestly believe that by 2024 the United States of America under Donald Trump would be a full-blown dictatorship, plain and simple. If Trump is handed another four years, I do not believe there will be an election in 2024, but that Trump will have found a way to circumvent or disavow the U.S. Constitution and extend his term. Nope, I am neither a conspiracy theorist nor a drama queen, but rather I am an observer with enough knowledge to understand what we are seeing.
What I ask of you is twofold. First, please VOTE on November 3rd for whomever the Democratic nominee is. Second, please, when you hear someone say they will throw away their vote either by staying home, writing in Bernie Sanders, or voting for a third-party candidate, try to talk to them. Try to explain the dangers for the future if Trump is re-elected.