On May 21st of this year, I was elected to be the male delegate pledged to Hillary Clinton for Michigan’s 7th Congressional District. To say I’m proud to be supporting the first woman to receive the Democratic Party’s nomination for president is a bit of an understatement. I’m proud of her and I’m proud of my Party for shattering historic barriers and showing that, in America, literally anyone can be president, no matter what their gender or race.
I’m also proud that a person like Bernie Sanders can come as close as he did and has been able to push our Party to a more progressive place. There’s no question that his candidacy has been a game changer. I actually wish he were younger and had more time to build the revolution he has begun – helping to elect people with his values and positions into office at the local, state, and national level. The chance of a revolution occurring in a single election cycle is remote but Sen. Sanders has begun something that I hope he and others will sustain going into the future.
Last night I attended a party where Sec. Clinton’s supporters gathered to watch primary results come in and to celebrate her historic achievement. It wasn’t a gloatfest. There were no speeches. We cheered briefly when CNN called it for Clinton and labeled her the “presumptive nominee” but it wasn’t a time for negativity toward Sen. Sanders. He has our sincere respect.
We did, however, talk about how we’ve been made to feel by far too many of Sen. Sanders’ supporters. Most of the people I chatted with have largely kept their heads down, not making a big deal about their support of Clinton. My wife Anne was among them. She was wearing a “Clinton ’16” t-shirt that I bought her over a year ago but she had never worn. Why? Because all too often we’ve been told by Sanders supporters that we are somehow sellouts for supporting Clinton; that her historic candidacy and lifetime of championing progressive causes and people without a voice was meaningless because “Shillary”. It’s an incredibly insulting characterization often supported by trotting out the same attacks on her that Republicans and other conservatives have been peddling for decades. So, Clinton supporters have mostly bided their time, done the work needed to help propel her to victory, and waited for the primary to conclude so that we can do the real work of electing a Democrat as the 45th POTUS.
What we know is that Clinton and Sanders agree on the issues well over 90% of the time. We know that she will uphold our Democratic values and isn’t seeking the presidency to enact an agenda that favors the wealthy and well-connected. You never heard Clinton supporters threatening to leave the Party or vote for Donald Trump if Bernie Sanders got the nomination. They know the stakes are far too high for that sort of thinking.
We’ve been told by Sanders’ supporters that the process is rigged, that superdelegates are anti-democratic, and that the fix was in for Clinton the whole time. This is despite her having won more primary votes and more primary contests. For much of the primary, they along with Sen. Sanders himself contended that superdelegates should vote according to how primary voters in their state vote. But that’s not how superdelegates function (even if that’s historically exactly what they have done.) Superdelegates were ostensibly created to avoid the Democratic version of Donald Trump. This was done by ensuring that knowledgeable Party leaders represent a portion of the delegates. But it was also done in a way that ensures grassroots leaders don’t have to compete against the more politically powerful Party leaders, that delegate spots were open to anyone (including people like me) who wished to run for them and could secure enough support.
The idea that superdelegates are there simply to amplify the votes of primary voters simply is not true. They, like all other delegates, choose who they are supporting based on their knowledge and core political beliefs. A common trope recently has been that the primary is somehow rigged because superdelegates declared their support for Clinton before a single primary vote was cast. Well, you know what? I pretty much knew who I was supporting before the primary began, too, and I am decidedly NOT a superdelegate. That doesn’t mean I’m somehow complicit in the rigging of the primary. It means that I, like superdelegates, am an individual, free to make my choice and I can do that however and whenever I want. That actually IS democracy.
As Anne and I watched Clinton speak last night for the first time as the presumptive nominee, we knew we were watching history being made. It was an amazing speech, well-written and well-delivered. It was Hillary Clinton at her best. After that we went back and watched her 2008 concession speech, delivered eight years before to the day. That, too, was an incredible speech. She showed poise, courage, and dignity as she endorsed Barack Obama and vowed to work hard to make sure he was elected.
After watching those speeches, I wondered how things will play out with Sen. Sanders. Based on Clinton’s 2008 concession speech, it’s clear he has very big shoes to fill. Unlike Clinton in 2008 (who actually had MORE support in the primary than Sanders currently has), he is vowing to stay in the race until after the Democratic National Convention. You see, he has changed his position on superdelegates. While he originally contended that they should vote as their state’s primary voters voted, he now believes they should do they opposite, in many cases. According to now-Sanders, they should choose him because he believes he is better poised to defeat Donald Trump in the general election.
I am personal friends with one Michigan superdelegate who is a national political figure. This person gave serious consideration supporting Sanders based on his win in Michigan. What changed their minds, however, was the bullying and truly offensive attacks they endured from some of Sen. Sanders’ supporters. Those completely inappropriate attacks, sometimes verging on threats, were enough to solidify them in their support for Clinton.
I don’t generally condone judging a candidate by his or her supporters. It’s unfair and not rational. However, when the candidate not only doesn’t refute this sort of behavior publicly but actually seems to condone it, atrocious behavior by some supporters DOES begin to reflect on the candidate. Unfortunately, and though it breaks my heart to say it, I believe this is the case with Sen. Sanders. There is a sharp contrast between him and his actions as the primary draws to a close and Clinton and her actions as the 2008 primary drew to a close.
Fortunately, at least in my area, Clinton and Sanders supporters are generally united. We’re all smart enough to know that we are – to use a phrase that appears to be becoming Sec. Clinton’s main campaign slogan – STRONGER TOGETHER. The person who ran Sen. Sanders’ primary campaign in my county is now running for a County Commission seat that has been held by a Republican for six years. She has the full support of our Party and our members and she has a real shot at taking this seat back for Republicans. THIS is the sort of revolution that is sustainable and builds toward future victories.
And we NEED to be stronger together. All you have to do is to listen to the speech Donald Trump delivered last night. Using a teleprompter just one week after deriding Clinton for using one and saying they should be “outlawed for anybody running for president” just last year, Trump went after Clinton hard, promising a speech on Monday that will detail how supposedly corrupt and criminal she and her husband are. I expect this from Republicans; they’ve been trumpeting that disgusting message about Hillary Clinton for so long that even the supporters of her Democratic primary opponents began to use them. It was no coincidence that he used the words “rigged” and “corrupt” in his speech. These words have been all-too-frequently used by many of Sanders supporters when referring to the candidacy of Hillary Clinton and Trump wants those votes. In fact, he literally said, “To all those Bernie Sanders supporters left out in the cold by a rigged system of superdelegates, we welcome you with open arms.” Frankly, given how many demographic groups he’s offended during his primary campaign, Trump NEEDS those votes.
But I believe that the majority of Sanders supporters are much more intelligent, much more politically savvy, and much more committed to good government than a small minority of his supporters would have you believe. They, too, believe we are stronger together. They know that Hillary Clinton shares the vast majority of their values and views. And they know that the prospect of a President Trump is simply too terrifying to sit on the sidelines for. Anyone who believes that it’s somehow okay for Trump to win because it will ignite Democrats to become more progressive is engaging in fairy tale thinking and, more repugnantly, expressing white, often male, privilege in the extreme. Because the people who would be most harmed by a Trump presidency are not comfortable straight white Christians. They are our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. They are our Muslims friends and neighbors. They are women who are disrespected and seen as objects, not worthy of equal treatment. They are people with disabilities. When someone says that it’s okay for a Trump victory as a way to justify sitting on the sidelines in the general election, they’re saying it’s okay for these groups of people to be harmed and to pay the price for that decision, not them.
I was disgusted with campaign that Hillary Clinton ran in 2008 and I was angry at her for it for quite awhile. However, she has more than redeemed herself in my mind since then and the campaign she and Robby Mook are running is a dramatic improvement over the one she ran with Mark Penn eight years ago. Mostly though it was her tenure as Secretary of State that proved to me that she is a diplomat with the knowledge, values, and ability to achieve change that our country needs in a president. I am proud to be a Clinton supporter and her historic achievement is something every Democrat should be proud of.