#BernieOrBust Faces a Choice between Principles and Pragmatism

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton at a rally in Philadelphia after the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Photo credit: neverbutterfly / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
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The message of the Democratic National Convention has been clear to all: Fall in line, please.

But outside the convention hall, the message was equally clear: Never.

Leading up to the moment Hillary Clinton accepted the Democratic nomination for president Thursday as the first woman ever to be nominated by either major party, nearly all the rhetoric had been designed to showcase party unity. Everyone from Barack Obama on down reinforced the not-so-subtle message of the week: Get behind Hillary, or Trump wins. So, too, did Bernie Sanders.

And, in fact, recent polls seem to indicate that Clinton has been picking up the support of many, if not most, of those who favored Sanders.

Bernie Sanders supporters rally at the Democratic National Convention. Photo credit: Jon Hecht / WhoWhatWhy

Bernie Sanders supporters rally at the Democratic National Convention.
Photo credit: Jon Hecht / WhoWhatWhy

But for Sanders’s most hardcore supporters who were protesting in the heat — and not inside the air-conditioned arena — there’s nothing she could say that would ever get them to vote for her. And even if they represent a minority, their emotions are strongly felt.

“Absolutely not,” said GG Winter, a retired electrician from Oakland, CA, who was protesting against the convention on Monday. “She’s too much of a liar.”

Winter told WhoWhatWhy she was unimpressed with any of the progressive tenets of the Democratic Party’s platform, especially the changes that were the result of negotiations between the Sanders and Clinton camps following the primaries.

“‘Oh I couldn’t get it through Congress’”, Winter said mockingly. “‘I really tried to do it but I couldn’t’ — she’s gonna give a million excuses. She’s not even gonna look at that paper.”

“She doesn’t care about that platform. She’ll throw that platform in the freaking garbage.”

For nearly all those protesting, it was impossible to take Clinton at her word that she would support any of the progressive goals she had endorsed.

And that is a real problem for the Democratic nominee because these staunch Sanders backers are not just lost votes. They are also the people who will knock on doors and make phone calls. In other words, they are the lifeblood of a campaign. But for now, their activism is targeting Clinton and not helping her.

“Talk is cheap, and I just look at her actions instead of her words,” James Perault, 28, a lumber mill employee from Austin, TX, told WhoWhatWhy. “If you look at her vice president pick, [Virginia Senator and former governor Tim Kaine], that says everything to me right there.”

“He’s a center-left corporatist.”

Others amplified that theme.

“Hillary has already showed us time and time again that she cannot be trusted, so how am I supposed to believe that her policies are not just symbolic?” asked Kaycee, a masters student from Liberty Center, OH who protested in Philadelphia. She said she believes that only a vice-presidential nominee choice — such as a hardcore progressive like Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren — could assuage fears that Clinton’s support for the left was all talk. (Warren, like just about every other Democratic officeholder in Washington, is now a strong Clinton supporter.)

Kaycee, too, criticized Clinton’s choice of Kaine.

“She lost the progressives’ vote by choosing a centrist,” she told WhoWhatWhy.

Photo credit: Jon Hecht / WhoWhatWhy

Photo credit: Jon Hecht / WhoWhatWhy

“Centrist” is too tame a view of Kaine for Winter, the retired electrician from California. “Call him a Republican. Come on. He’s not a freaking Democrat,” Winter told WhoWhatWhy. “He’s for the TPP. He’s for all the bad stuff.”

Among the protesters, there nevertheless seemed to be a small glimmer of hope that Clinton could change. Many still hope that Clinton will move to the left on issues that they care about — free college tuition, single-payer health care, police reform, and a limit on military adventurism abroad.

Given the unwavering positions of Sanders’s hardcore supporters, it is difficult to understand how Clinton would see the benefit in moving more to the left than she already has.

And, indeed, if the convention is any indication, it is more likely that Clinton, despite her strong praise of Sanders in her acceptance speech, may be planning to pivot to the center to strengthen her general election appeal

Among the speakers in Philadelphia were Michael Bloomberg, the multi-billionaire and former  Republican mayor of New York, and former General John Allen, who was greeted by chanting of “No more war” from Sanders delegates within the convention hall. These speakers were meant to show Clinton’s cross-party appeal in hopes of attracting independents and moderate Republicans.

That strategy seems to have paid dividends. Numerous Republicans praised this year’s DNC, with its optimistic patriotism, support for the military, and mentions of God, as the kind of convention that Republicans would normally hold if it were not for Trump.

If the polls show that approach works, the risk of Sanders holdouts marginalizing themselves increases. After all, why would Clinton try to appease the staunchest supporters of the Vermont senator if there is no chance that they will vote for her?

Nevertheless, Sanders backer Jessica Savercool, 21, of Delaware County, PA, thought that Clinton still had a responsibility to reach to the left and try to bring voters over, even as she made it clear she would not be one of them.

“Some might,” she told WhoWhatWhy. “I can’t really speak for all of them.”

It is possible that the views of Sanders supporters will change over time. After all, their refusal to switch to Clinton in part reflects their feeling that Sanders had not been treated fairly and those wounds are still raw.

“His running the way he did brought out a lot of problems I think we have with our election system,” said Sarah Hoss, a professor of human anatomy from Oklahoma City. “A lot of people out there were disenfranchised.”

Hoss told WhoWhatWhy she was saddened by encountering first time voters who said, after voting problems “I don’t ever want to vote again.”

“If everything was done right, and Bernie lost, I don’t think people would be here today,” Hoss said.

“You want to believe in the system.”

As it stands now, few of these Sanders holdouts believe in the system. And there were many of these voters in Philadelphia.

Their distaste for the election to come was evident in the sign held up by Jessica Savercool. It read: “The lesser of two evils is the evil of two lessers.”

Neither of the major candidates seemed worthy to those reached by WhoWhatWhy. Many supported Jill Stein, the presumptive Green Party nominee, and others found themselves not sure what they were going to do.

But it was clear that Hillary Clinton was beyond the hope of people on the left who would normally be among the Democratic party’s most reliable supporters.

When asked by WhoWhatWhy what Clinton could do to change her mind, Clover Williams, 58, a schoolteacher from New Mexico, made her distaste clear, implying that Clinton would need to undo many of the political positions she’d taken over the years.

“She could get a time machine.”


Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Hillary Clinton at the DNC (Lorie Shaull / Flickr – CC BY-SA 2.0)

Hillary Clinton at a rally in Philadelphia after the 2016 Democratic National Convention.  Photo credit: neverbutterfly / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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32 responses to “#BernieOrBust Faces a Choice between Principles and Pragmatism”

  1. JR Bob Dobbs says:

    Bernie Sanders paid $600,000 For a new Summer vacation home.

    • Al_Martinez says:

      It was more of a trade than a purchase. His wife inherited a home in Maine but was too far away, so they sold it and used the money to buy one closer to home.

  2. David Gerard says:

    If one chooses ‘pragmatism’ over principles……principles cease to exist, period.

  3. JR Bob Dobbs says:

    It boggles my mind that any self-respecting Bernie supporter would even consider it “pragmatism” to vote for Hillary. I don’t like any of these candidates but Hillary is easily the worst of the bunch. She is exactly what is wrong with this country.

    I respect Bernie supporters but I don’t respect Bernie. But I’m sure this website won’t even publish my comment because they always redact anti-Bernie sentiment.

  4. Hunter.Forrest says:

    Since Hillary benefited from hackable voting/counting machines during the primary, she doesn’t need my vote anyhow.

  5. punkyboy says:

    What’s going to hurt is seeing Hillary take the oath and plunk herself down in the Offal office before ordering nukes at the ready, pointed at Russia.

  6. Blackrobe says:

    Dear “who,what, where,when,why”
    If it is true that your stated goal is “We uncover the truth”, then you must stop referring to Clinton Democrats as the “Left”. There is no left in the USA – nothing close by any standards of left or left-leaning. Instead you have ever darkening shades of grey heading toward an all in or all out kind politics. Let’s call this what it is – Americanism. It will exclude the common good and the interests of the rest of the world and will likely end in self-destruction. Don’t forget to wrap yourself in your flag as you run in every direction trying to escape the wrath of each other.

  7. Charles Corum says:

    Many, if not a majority, of progressive Bernie-Bots (myself included) live in solid “blue” states, such as CA, and we can, without any fear of diminishing HRC’s chances, or casting a de facto vote for the orange clown, vote for Jill Stein (or write in Mickey Mouse, but that might be counted as a vote for “Drumpf!). This is because the Electoral College, a VERY undemocratic institution foisted on us by the Founding Fathers in 1789, because they (with the exception of Jefferson) feared the “unwashed”. The EC ensures that ALL the state EC-votes go to the winner of the state popular vote. NO other nation in the world has any similar undemocratic allotment of votes, as they decide the winner on the basis of the total individual votes count. (Had we has such a system in 2000, Gore would have become POTUS, and the nightmare of the past 15 years would not have taken place. This is, or course, assuming that the Five Neanderthals on the SCOTUS didn’t get involved in a judicial coup, and give the election to the TX boy). I would only cast a vote for the self-serving, warmongering, lying, flipflopping, Wall St.-bankster, corporate-owned HRC if I lived in a swing state like Ohio, PA, or Fla.

    • nha16 says:

      I don’t think that strategic voting is helpful. We should cast our vote for the person who will best represent us, no matter where we live. We need to reform our election system. That will never happen as long as we always play it “safe.”

    • editorsteve says:

      States can choose how electors are chosen and counted and several (Nebraska and Maine) have roughly proportional EC voting. Winner-take-all has nothing to do with the Constitution. It has to do with the major political parties not being willing to support a change unless the other side does. Why should, say, the Republicans, push for non-winner-take-all in a state they usually win by small majority?

    • Charles Corum says:

      I stand corrected. DC and 48 states have a winner-take-all system. Only Nebraska, with 5 electoral votes, and Maine with 4, proportionately allocate the electoral votes; so a total of 9 electoral votes out of 538. It hardly seems worthwhile counting them! My basic premise stands: the POTUS should be elected on the basis of the popular vote, as is the case in every other country claiming to have a democratic system, and even a majority of countries with decidedly undemocratic systems.

    • editorsteve says:

      I agree with you. But either you go the Constitutional Amendment route or the state-by-state route. There have been few cases where EC and popular vote have differed but looks like we’re in a period where this could become common.

      Right now, for instance, Trump and Clinton are running even in the popular polls but Clinton has a comfortable lead in the electoral college because Trump has piled up votes in the south and lags or is close elsewhere.

      So I assume you are complaining that EC should be abolished because you are a Trump supporter?

    • Charles Corum says:

      I am the furthest thing from a “Drumpf” supporter you could find. He is the quintessential narcissistic psychopath; the bloviating know-nothing American equivalent to Benito Mussolini.It is my belief that if the POTUS elections were based on the popular vote, the more progressive candidates would tend to win, especially as the poorer, more dependent (on Fed. Gov’t handouts) residents of the red states would, out of self-interest, tend to vote for those candidates that support single-payer healthcare, Social Security, free college, FEMA assistance programs, etc.

    • editorsteve says:

      I agree with you on Trump. For the life of me, I have no idea why any women or poor vote Republican anyway. I grew up in a working class family. My family did not own a car until I was in college on full tuition scholarship. In the 1950s I had polio. The insurance my father had, as a clerk in a hardware store, specifically excluded that. But the Commonwealth of Massachusetts stepped up and paid for treatment and world-class reconstructive surgery.

      So fast-forward to modern times. Since the mid 1960s, consumer prices have increased 7-fold (using the CPI for all urban wage earners), starting salaries 3-fold, private college tuition 30-fold, public college from near zero to $10,000+ a year, medical costs roughly 20-fold (a bit tricky because Medicare started in 1965 and is better cost-controlled than private insurance). In real dollars the minimum wage has declined. Money spent in the classroom per child has declined…. and as a result of all of this, upward mobility has declined.

      Even the tax system is rigged against marriage! Two people can live together and pay less federal tax than if they were married, so 60% of kids are born out of wedlock! So much for the Republican moralists responsible for THAT atrocity!

      BTW, in most years, the typical person on welfare is a suburban, white, single mother.

      Add all this together and the poor and unlucky are not looking for a better deal than at any time in history. They want something closer to the safety net and opportunities I had as a poor white kid in the 1950s, first in my family to go to college.

      So now the Republican base — royally screwed for years and kept in line with racist and anti-gay, anti-anything rhetoric — has finally reached the end of the road. And only Trump, among 17 nutcases, spoke to them. Bernie supporters are more middle-class, but they see the injustices even if they don’t experience them first-hand. In fact, the supporters often were condescending about people who actually eek out a living against all odds and can see empty promises for what they are. We should not let this moment of clarity disappear!

      Back to the future! Really!

    • Charles Corum says:

      I agree with everything you say. We are both members of the “Silent Generation”. I was born in 1936. My father abandoned the family and died during WWII; which I spent in an orphanage, as my mother was working as “Rosie the Riveter,” and there were no childcare facilities to take care of kids. My teenage years were a bit rocky, but I managed to avoid serious entanglements with the justice system, and spent three years in the U.S. Army, which gave my teenage brain time to mature. I entered college (the first in my family), and eventually was awarded a four year NSF Fellowship to UCLA, and graduated with an MS degree. The reason that I benefited to the extent that I have is an accident of birth. I was born white, grew up during the 1950s, when the middle class and union jobs were growing, and a college education was essentially free. Fast forward to “Raygun.” Bush 1, and BJ Bill, and everything changed. Since then, the Neocons and the Neoliberals destroyed the “American Dream.” I supported Bernie as I believed he was the only chance for change. After HRC and the DNC and establishment lamestream media destroyed his chances, my hope was that he would resign his Senate seat and head a movement that would put together a “brain trust” and a war chest for 2018 and 2020. Alas, that did not happen, and it may now be too late. With the obscene disparity of wealth, and the financialization of our economy, climate change, environmental degradation, and the “sixth extinction” taking place at an unprecedented and accelerating rate, and the American Corporate/Military Empire continuing to expand (read Chalmers Johnson, John Perkins, Noam Chomsky, etc.), we may all be living on borrowed time.

    • gustave courbet says:

      From a GenY/Millennial perspective, an interesting exchange.

  8. Westcoastdeplorable says:

    There’s no way in hell most Bernie supporters are going to vote for Hilliary, we’re mad as hell! Amongst other things, what’s the 1st thing she does after the kerfuffle with Wasserman-Shultz? She appoints her as co-chair of her campaign! Talk about rubbing the nose of Bernie’s supporters into the doo-doo! And I haven’t started on her “qualifications”, she voted for the Iraq war, she’s responsible in part (from being the point person for U.S. foreign policy) for the Brexit due to all the refugees in the EU. She’s the biggest basher of Russia, a nuclear power seemingly trying to intentionally start WWIII, which will be nuclear…..the list is endless.

    Bernie was one of two change agents running in this election; my prediction is the majority of Bernie’s supporters will vote for Trump. Even with cheating and election fraud , my prediction is Trump will win the election by more than 60%. I plan to vote for him if for no other reason to stir the pot and hopefully get immigration under control.

    This election will go down in history as the most dim-witted, contrived, illegal attempt by the DNC designed to subvert the will of the voters.

    • punkyboy says:

      And then the next nose-rubbing we got was her pick of TTP Kaine for VP – and the threat of putting NAFTA Bubba “in charge” of the economy. I will vote for Stein, but I’m at the point where I don’t really care who wins. I don’t think it really matters.

  9. Nick Smegg says:

    The idea that Hillary is left-wing is a joke. WhoWhatWhy should know better.

    • editorsteve says:

      8th most liberal voting record in the Senate. Voted with Bernie 93% of the time… but obviously not as far-left as Bernie.

    • JR Bob Dobbs says:

      What does this even mean?

      How can you possibly defend this woman?

    • editorsteve says:

      Again: 8th most liberal voting record in the Senate. Voted with Bernie 93% of the time…

      Look, what Bernie wants is what I had as a white child in the 1950s. Good public education, help to be the first in my family to go to college, better minimum wage, state-funded world-class medical help after I had polio. But words don’t do it for me. Action does. Bernie is all talk, almost no action, and with his share of fraud (which Hillary and the much maligned DNC did NOT emphasize even though the VT press was full of stories on it and even though Bernie emphasized her money from banks without noting a single pro-banking vote except for one arguable one in 2002).

      I live in Harlem and in Boston. My nonwhite Harlem neighbors thought Bernie was laughable. Laughable. Anti gun control and no sensible way to fulfill his empty promises. Build a movement? He would not even help fund progressive down-ticket candidates in primary fights. He’s donated little to Democratic candidates, and most of the $300,000 total went to war-monger Sen. Chuck Schumer.

  10. nha16 says:

    Keep trying to convince us that we #NeverHillary ‘s are a minority of Sanders supporters, Liberal Press. A vote for Clinton is an acceptance of election fraud and the complete shutdown of democracy in America. No doubt ONLY a vote for Clinton will count, but mine will go to Dr. Jill Stein anyway. Clinton has made it abundantly clear that she doesn’t want or need us to win. No harm; no foul. The Clintons will end this country.

  11. MikeMaloney says:

    I’m a 60 yo white veteran from AZ and I voted for Bernie in the primary and if this were a normal election I would not vote for HRC in the general. This is not a normal election.
    After emulating Albert Einstein and doing a thought experiment on the consequences of a Donald Presidency, pragmatism wins. I’m With Her.

  12. MrLiberty says:

    If people had honestly voted for candidates that supported their principles instead of simply being pragmatic, etc. we never would have ended up with Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush, or likely any of their opponents. People are simply too lazy to find out about the plethora of candidates running for other parties, as independents. etc, and are too suckered in by “peer pressure” or other media lies, fearmongering, etc. about voting for someone other than the ruling-elite-approved two party oligarchy candidates. I have always voted only for a candidate who supported what I support and sometimes that has meant not voting at all. I would much rather not have a candidate think that I actually supported him/her than the opposite. Your vote is your endorsement of these criminals and their agenda.

    We have already seen for at least 100 years that it does not matter one bit who gets elected. Our country is going to be poorer, our government and debt are going to be larger, our freedom and liberty are going to be less, the wars will be more, the lies will continue, etc. So why not at least be able to look at yourself in the mirror and know that you did the right thing the next morning?

    • editorsteve says:

      So… Ted Kennedy and Bill Clinton put 8 million kids into single-payer health care, Obama got 20 million more insured, passed financial protection laws and the strongest banking regulations in 30 years, and saved the US and world economy. Not good enough because the ACA could have been better and Republicans blocked 29 job bills? No differences in parties? Really? That was Nader’s line — and 80%+ of his donors in 2000 also gave to Republican Candidates. He did his job for them!

      Would we have gone to war with Iraq and packed the Supreme court with loons if Gore had been elected President? Oh, yes, he actually was…

      The people who wrote the Constitution designed it for inaction in defense against despots, and the Republicans use every lever they have to gum up the works. want more good stuff? Elect liberal politicians. They may not be as far-left as you REALLY want, but they might actually get elected!

    • MrLiberty says:

      Well, if you evaluate the two political parties based on their support for individual liberty, private property rights, economic freedom, personal freedom, and behaving in a moral fashion regarding the inalienable rights of the individual, then both are basically the same. As you seem to have no problem with violations of economic and personal liberties, private property rights, business rights, etc. or the inalienable rights of individuals, I can see where you might think there is a difference. I support libertarian/moral beliefs in how people, their property, their incomes/fruits of their labor, and their rights should be treated.

  13. JohnJoslin says:

    For many well off suburb dwellers this ‘pragmatic vs. principle’ mantra will seem a conveniently urgent dilemma they will seek to solve… while keeping their consciences sheltered & their thinking caps in mothballs.

    I’m a union guy in a near- dead area of the U.S. and I am going to spend my scantly democratic , fleeting 12 minutes in November casting a solid vote for Jill Stein.

    After due consideration given to the ferocious chorus of revulsion expressed by wealthy , secure Depublicans towards the concerns of working & poor people ( most of the country…remember?) I can’t think of a single war-mongering, climate-killing, infrastructure-ignoring, prison- expanding, or job-exporting policy that would be different under CEO/prez Trump or Clinton.

    Two sides of one helluva’counterfeit coin. The same folks who suppose that squeaking out an occasional ,”All lives matter…” fulfills an important rhetorical duty.

    -John A.Joslin (IBEW Local # 58,Detroit,Michigan)

    • editorsteve says:

      My Harlem neighbors liked what Bernie had to say, but saw no way he could deliver on the promises. He was dismissed as just another big-talk’n white guy — and comments by his mostly white campaign workers and staff (and rudeness on the floor of the convention) were taken as condescending and racist.

      Several political activists who helped Bernie raise money for the NYS primary were also appalled that Bernie didn’t help them back — as he was trying to build a movement, he said. A movement requires good progressive, well supported downticket candidates.

      I hope Bernie spends his time campaigning for the few progressives running for Congress.

  14. George Knight says:

    If Bernie was the candidate principle and pragmatism would fall together. DNC, what have you done? ‘Stupid, it is the favorability!’

    • MrLiberty says:

      Seems like his endorsement of the criminal negates any claim to principles that he might have been able to muster. Sad. You didn’t see Ron Paul endorsing any of the worthless GOP nominees and his supporters absolutely LOVE him for his never-ending principled stands for liberty, freedom, small government, etc. He NEVER sold out. That is what REAL principles actually look like. Bernie…not so much.

  15. Blackrobe says:

    The left? Only in America would the Clinton dems be seen as the left….all is lost.