By Jono Davis
Undergraduate International Relations Student
A few months ago, I wrote an article for this very website, in which positivity radiated from the page, describing the incredible experience of contributing to the Bernie Sanders campaign in the largest way I possibly could being a UK citizen. Now, as I sit down to begin an almost reflection piece on the same topic, my mood is a little subdued; the time is currently 10am in China, New Jersey’s primary has just declared Clinton as victor, and as i’m sure others will do as the day progresses, its had me slumping further and further down in my chair until I’m lying face down on the floor.
Am I really feeling so sanctimonious? Of course not. Well, maybe a little. When a boxer steps into the ring, he never expects to lose, and it is only when he or she snaps into consciousness after unknowingly lying on the mat for several minutes, does reality set in. To continue the boxing analogy a little longer, I am currently at that stage; having solidly spent the last five months in Bernie’s corner, shouting at him to weave, dodge and strike a proverbial Hillary Clinton, she has just delivered a devastating haymaker with the full force of the media and DNC behind it. With this being said, I think it’s worth outlining why I think the race was lost, the dilemma of what to do now, and the timely and important consolations and self-reflections still to be had.
If one were to ask average Sander’s supporters: “why do you believe the race for the Democratic nominee was lost?”, you will get the varied, but consistent responses that include “The Mainstream Media!”, “Superdelegates!”, “Debbie Wasserman-Shultz!” (head of the DNC) and “Voter suppression”. There is more than merit to all of these claims: the media including Super-delegates in the “pledged delegate” counters and graphs from the first primary undoubtedly has an impact on the way people vote, and Wasserman-Shultz, herself a willing obstacle to the Sanders campaign, accidentally let slip on a Fox News interview that the Super-Delegates serve the deliberate purpose of preventing grassroots activists from exerting much influence on the nomination.
Additionally, there were numerous (and I mean numerous) unexplained happenings in certain states regarding both voter registration for the primaries, New York state acting as a key example of this, where several thousand Democrat voters mysteriously had their voter affiliation changed to Republican (meaning of course they couldn’t vote in the Democrat primary), and actual polling stations, most notably in Maricopa County in Arizona, where polling stations were reduced from 200 (in 2012) to 60, despite voter registration more than doubling from 2012. These are all factors, and they have been said and re-said a thousand times, and that is why, in my bitter and grumbling state, I must supply an honest and uncommon opinion as to why Bernie lost: his supporters, namely, the savvy internet meme-loving youth vote.
The young vote has always been a popular choice to pander to as a Democratic candidate. But the domination of the internet and its subsequent ability to act as a platform for any idea or thought, regardless of how mind-numbingly stupid it is, has in my opinion, for the first time, led the youth vote to contribute to the downfall for a candidate. If you wanted to find the origin of where Sander’s support goes from productive to sour, look no further than the echo chamber of the Facebook page “Bernie Sanders’ Dank Meme Stash” (already anyone over the age of 25 is groaning in both utter discontent and confusion – thus proving my point), which currently has a membership of nearly 450,000 members. Before entirely skewering the page and its admins, it has admittedly caused me to laugh on numerous occasions, and it would be a disservice to the page to ignore its capacity to bring together thousands upon thousands of Sanders supporters worldwide.
However, this page, with its initial reverence of Bernie that quickly turned into a somewhat worshipping cult, quickly began not only shutting down healthy debate but also taking the concept of “political revolution” far too literally, switching off voters that would see Bernie as a politician to help raise their income, or be the anti-establishment candidate that Donald Trump has definitely now snatched. Whilst not entirely at fault, the page is a shining beacon of an example of what the young vote did to prevent the older demographics from voting for Bernie; they snatched him and claimed him as their own, for weeks on end calling him the literal Messiah after the bird landed on his podium, but also, believing themselves to be revolutionaries, began using violence as a means of spreading a message.
The page is a shining beacon of an example of what the young vote did to prevent the older demographics from voting for Bernie
It may seem like harmless fun, but when a people begin to refuse debate and just aimlessly shout “Bernie will turn water into wine and heal the sick” (I am exaggerating but genuinely only slightly) whilst turning up to Trump rallies and causing civil unrest, it has an adverse effect on those voters yet undecided. However, it must be mentioned that Bernie himself has done extremely well to not pander to this new-found status. Whilst Trump is pushed to newer and ever more racist heights by his supporters (this was a candidate who went from discussing a change in the length of time on foreign work permits to building a wall between Mexico and the United States and deporting all Muslims), Sanders has remained humble and stayed on message– I guess the Jesus comparisons are well deserved in that respect.
So, having completely isolated myself from my own age demographic and shot myself in both the foot and face, it’s probably now appropriate to discuss what to do in the coming months, now that Hillary is the presumptive nominee, and subsequently capped off the race no American’s wanted, but the majority voted for.
Hillary Clinton, despite my disdain for aspects of the Bernie Sanders movement, is one of the most unlikeable candidates in Democrat primary history, and ran a campaign to match her equally distasteful personality. Her experience in frontline American politics does nothing to fog nor aid her ineptitude for dealing with domestic issues, primarily the struggling middle class that is currently staring down the barrel of a loaded gun branded “possible minor recession”, attempting to ploy the vulnerable American population into voting for her with a different opinion every week. From her staunch pro traditional family position in 2008 she managed to pivot her worldview, and apparently even her memory, within two election cycles until she is left unreflectively touting to NPR’s Terry Gross her “strong record” and “great commitment to this issue [gay marriage]” before bandwagoning about how she is “proud of what I’ve done and the progress we’re making”. From wearing a $12,000 Armani jacket to a speech on income inequality, to charging innumerable sums for speaker fees, Hillary Clinton has easily run one of the most dislikable and ridicule worthy campaigns of all time, and without the help from the DNC and the media, its likely she would have had a very difficult chance at beating even herself this election cycle.
Hillary Clinton, despite my disdain for aspects of the Bernie Sanders movement, is one of the most unlikeable candidates in Democrat primary history, and ran a campaign to match her equally distasteful personality.
With that said, the answer to “how to get involved and participate in the coming months” really depends on the kind of person you are. There is a real temptation to sit back and do nothing, to abstain come November. This is looking to be an extremely popular choice with both Democrats and Republicans, who both see the destruction of their respective party take place right before their eyes. There are multiple articles from various sources that discuss how this will be the most unpopular election race of all time; whoever wins, hardly anyone will be cheering, and almost everyone will be crying.
There is a real temptation to sit back and do nothing, to abstain come November.
I distinctly remember during the UK 2015 election cycle when someone were to shrug and claim that they weren’t going to vote, they would be verbally prosecuted on the spot, with notions such as “people died for your right to vote!” being flung in every which direction. Yet in this US election cycle of 2016, when someone claims they won’t vote, most people, with relatively few exceptions, can only mutter back “I guess you have a reason this time”. My point is this: you do not owe anyone your vote, and in the land of the free and the brave, you are exercising your right to spoil your ballot, where in so many nations that is not possible.
Unfortunately, whilst I would love to leave the article there and say “just don’t vote, it isn’t worth it”, which I do believe to a great extent, I must, for the purposes of aforementioned freedom and bravery, also encourage people to vote. By now everyone has heard the expression “Hillary may be bad, but Trump is worse” – that is not a sound argument, nobody should vote on that basis. However, its important to provide some scope for what is at stake. While nobody really knows what Trump is bringing to the table, whether it be punishment of abortion by death, or building giant walls around anything Mexican, at least you know what you’re getting with Hillary, pretty much more of the same. While Hillary is by no means Obama 2.0, she will certainly be using his doctrine domestically and her previous foreign policy doctrine to create her presidency. What’s more, as much as the population don’t like her, she is respected on the Hill, she plays the Democrat card of social welfare and big government, whilst also pandering to Republican love of tax breaks and big business (with her religious Methodist background serving her well with Church relations).
Putting it more simply: you open your fridge, and staring back at you are two options; first, there is the quiche – you had it last night and it didn’t taste awful. Sure, no-one actually likes quiche, but you’re hungry and need to eat. Next to that is some moldy chicken that, while its orange texture makes it look slightly appealing, you know if you eat it you’ll in all likelihood probably die, no matter how much it insists its the real. America, much like The Flying Dutchman, needs a leader, and it’s going to be either the tasteless bordering on insufferable quiche, or the e-coli ridden chicken.
Having written far too much already, I feel that all that’s left to say is this; it’s okay to lose sometimes, because losing is inevitable (except for the likes of DJ Khaled). Despite 2016 being a pretty tough loss for the American population, there is solace to be found. Bernie Sanders, the candidate who was polling 1% in May 2015, has ended his race with over 46% of the pledged delegates (as of 8th June 2016), and opened up a dialogue in American politics for a real and frank discussion about a failing healthcare and education system, but more importantly taken the concept of “Liberal” away from the hands of those that don’t deserve it, such as Hillary Clinton, and given it new life; in the elections to come, there is no doubt that we shall see much more open dialogue about issues raised by Bernie’s campaign, with real change in America not far off.