By Rachel Cox
Even though the Democratic Party was hoping to kick off the Democratic National Convention with a message of unity, things did not go according to plan. The problems for the DNC’s opening night began with a group of Bernie Sander’s supporters threatening to protest during the convention, resulting in attempts by Sanders to unify his supporters behind Hillary Clinton. Despite his efforts, the so-called “Bernie or Bust” crowd continued to emit feelings of betrayal and unrest throughout the first night of the convention. Matters were only made worse when Sarah Silverman, despite giving a speech promoting party unity, said, “To the ‘Bernie or Bust’ people, you’re being ridiculous”, resulting in strong reactions of approval and disapproval from the DNC crowd. I have recently made the decision to vote for Hillary Clinton in the general election. But as someone who supported Senator Sanders during most of the primary season, donated to his campaign and voted for him in my state’s primary election, Silverman’s comment leaves me feeling hurt and infuriated.
I did not start out this election as a Bernie Sanders supporter. Initially, excited by the notion of the United States finally having a female president, I supported Hillary Clinton. This changed once two important things happened: One, I started to educate myself on the issues and the stances of the various candidates. And two, Bernie Sanders entered the race. After watching many of their campaign speeches, I came to the conclusion that while they fundamentally agree on most things, Bernie Sanders spoke to me in a way that Hillary Clinton never could. Unlike Clinton, Sanders understood my core feelings and values, some of which I didn't even know I had. And, unlike every other candidate on both sides of the aisle, I could trust every single word that he said. Thus, Bernie Sanders became my voice and my candidate.
Like many Sanders supporters, I was deeply troubled and angered at the media for acting like Clinton was already the nominee and treating the Sanders campaign like it didn't exist. Like many, I fought against this attitude and refused to give up on my candidate. And even after Clinton became the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party, I refused to abandon my support for Bernie Sanders. I did not immediately say, “Okay, I’ll vote for Hillary." Instead, I continued to fight against her.
So, I speak to the members of the "Bernie or Bust" movement as someone who, up until just a week ago, was one of you. I understand your passion, I understand your anger and I understand your conflict. For a long time, I felt like my hands were tied, and that I was in the ultimate no-win situation. To me, my options were to either not vote for anyone and help President Trump become a reality, or go against everything I had come to believe in by voting for Hillary Clinton. I always hesitate to make broad assumptions, but I suspect that this is the same conflict many Bernie Sanders supporters feel.
My decision to vote for Hillary Clinton is one based on fear. As much as I dislike her, the thought of Donald Trump becoming the next president is enough to scare me into giving her my vote. For many of us, it is a sad reality that Donald Trump could be the next president. However, that is not the only sad reality that plagues this election. The other reality is that there is a certain percentage of the American population, of which I am a part, that feels pressured into voting for a candidate that we would not vote for under any other circumstances—based solely on the fact that the other guy is worse. And, while it is my reason, I can acknowledge that this is an awful reason to vote for someone. The decision to give a candidate your vote should be based on whether or not you agree with their platform, trust them and feel that they are the right person for the job. It is a decision that should never have to be based on fear.
With all of that said, my message to the "Bernie or Bust" crowd is this: While I would respectfully ask you to take a step back, look at everything objectively and maybe rethink a few things, if you do not want to vote for Hillary Clinton in November, you are not obligated to do so in any way, shape or form. One of the things I love and respect most about the Bernie camp is your willingness to bravely fight against establishment politics for a pure democracy. There is not a single person in the world that has the right to bribe you, force you or bully you into voting for someone that you truly do not want to vote for. That's not how a democracy works. For myself and many people I know, the fear of Donald Trump is enough for us to give Hillary our vote. However, I understand that this is not a good enough reason for everybody, and that's okay. In any election, the person you vote for needs to earn your vote. And, at the end of the day, if you feel that Hillary Clinton does not deserve your vote, you do not have to give it to her. It is your right as an American citizen to vote for whomever you want. It is also your right not to vote for someone if you do not want to. The decision to vote for someone is your choice, and your choice alone.
So, to the "Bernie or Bust" people: You are NOT ridiculous. You are not stupid, you are not crazy, you are not childish and you are not bad people. And do not EVER let anyone convince you otherwise.