With Bernie’s delegate count slowing, Hillary pulling ahead, and Trump solidifying his lead last night, a lot of Bernie supporters have been asking me: if this race ends up being Trump vs. Hillary, who do I vote for? Do I even vote?
It’s clear, of course, that many of us Bernie supporters don’t prioritize party allegiance. Automatic support for a democratic party that Bernie is barely a part of in the first place is not something that motivates us. In fact, there are many of us who support Bernie specifically because he challenges that very party’s power. So for us, casting a vote for Hillary is in no way related to casting a vote for Bernie. We’re simply being asked to make too big a jump.
But at that point, cold, hard logic steps in – or our friend who is a Hillary supporter – and says: but casting a vote for Hillary is the only way to stop Trump! Isn’t this a function of privilege that we’re even questioning this?! Sure, Hillary is no Bernie, but we’ve got a demagogue who will take office! Isn’t this by all means the lesser of two evils?!
…And this can feel like a very compelling argument. It may fall deaf on some ears, but not on mine. We should be seriously considering how a Trump presidency would change our lives, especially if we are immigrants and people of color, or we care about those who are. (This is setting aside the real possibility that Hillary would lose a race against Trump, or that Trump would be unable to enact half of his batshit insane proposals, anyway – which is not the focus of the post.) I think, realistically, we’re going to have to make that call as we get closer to a general election, and as we watch the dynamics play out.
But if in the meantime, a concern for ourselves and for others is what is motivating us to potentially cast a vote for Hillary next year – or, as some have mentioned to me, throwing our support behind a third party candidate, neither of which I’m advocating against -then I think the problem is that we’re asking the entirely wrong question.
What we should be asking ourselves, is: how will I continue the fight for the issues that Bernie speaks for? What is my plan to see more candidates like him in positions of power, and better equipped next time? If we are not asking these questions, we are back to square one, and all we will have to show for Bernie’s campaign is a ton of tired organizers and some hilarious memes.
Regardless of who is in office, the issues that Bernie activates us around – free college education, single payer healthcare, money out of politics – are not going to come from voting anytime in the near future. The amount of voter suppression in this election, and the extent to which our electoral and two-party system is likely to block out a candidate who defied the rules so intelligently, prove that. The progress that we want to see, the kind of people we want to see in office, aren’t going to come from business as usual. Without a ton of sustained grassroots power, we won’t see a candidate like Bernie for decades. And this tells me that my vote next November, without a larger plan to accompany it, means very little.
Your vote should be an honest one. Which is to say, that if half of you doesn’t support the person you’re voting for, you should find a way to acknowledge that in your actions beyond the ballot. If you vote Hillary because of damage control, you’re going to need a plan to help build a stronger progressive party and movement over the next 4-8 years. You’re going to need a plan to help curb her hawkishness if she’s in office. You’re going to need to help build a grassroots movement to get money out of politics, or join an existing one. And real talk for a moment: these fights might actually be more difficult if Hillary is office, and if the establishment Democrats are re-energized by this election. I don’t think this is a reason to not cast a vote for her, it’s just a reason to organize better.
If you don’t vote – which, I must insert, given this nation’s historically low voter turnout, is a norm, not a political statement – and Trump takes office, then yes, the honest fact is that you might have been one of his enablers. But you can outweigh that by throwing your energy behind racial justice movements, or around building up working class energy toward a progressive platform. We desperately need people in that fight, more than either candidate needs these votes.
I still have a ton of possibly naive hope that Bernie will continue toward the convention, and that a third party or independent alternative will contest this two-party election. But in the meantime, I am building up my exit strategy, or perhaps more accurately, my entry strategy, into a new era of grassroots power in American politics. To me, that is the safest bet.