The degree to which the presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has benefited the Democratic Party cannot be overstated. Rather than constituting a slumber-inducing coronation ceremony with the presence of competitors requisite only to crown the head of the triumphant, the primary process has instead witnessed an invigoration at the hands of Sanders’ buoyant idealism and unyielding will.
Thousands of disaffected Americans, from the halls of intellectualistic academia to the weathered factories of the Rust Belt, have not only been inspired to engage with politics for the first time, but have passionately adopted the mantle of activism. Issues that may have been otherwise marginalized — such as banking regulation and campaign finance reform, among others — have become fundamental platform priorities. And voter enthusiasm, purportedly tempered in a cycle featuring a frontrunner less rhetorically inspiring than President Barack Obama, has surprisingly rivaled, if not exceeded that of his meteoric 2008 ascendency.
Despite this phenomenon, however, Sanders is neither primed to become the democratic nominee nor is he in a position to feasibly alter this outcome. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton currently holds 2,811 delegates, easily surpassing the 2,383 needed to secure the nomination, while Sanders has only 1,879. And while it is true that 591 of Hillary’s delegates are superdelegates, her three million-vote national lead over Sanders dispels any conventional argument for a shift in their allegiances.
As the inevitability of a Clinton victory looms, the fervency of pro-Sanders passion has been discernibly tainted by a desperate, unapologetic obstinacy laced with vitriol. Campaign attacks originally founded upon policy differences have transformed into assaults against the former Secretary of State’s character and morality. Additionally, criticisms of Democratic establishment insularity and opaqueness have prompted vows to contest the party’s convention and have even spurred the incitement of violence.
Secretary Clinton is, understandably on the part of many Sanders allies, not an optimal nominee. Questions abound revolve around her trustworthiness. Furthermore, some of her policy positions lie to the right of some liberals who consider her overly beholden to the interests of the elite.
Nevertheless, as the aforementioned figures reflect, Clinton will be the democratic nominee, the standard-bearer of progressive aims that even rebellious leftists so infatuated with Sanders’ promises do hold dear. And in an election between two candidates, what hurts one will inherently benefit the other. Consequently, present efforts to stunt Clinton’s candidacy will aid the ambitions of Republican presidential nominee-assumptive Mr. Donald J. Trump.
The reprehensible nature of Trump’s campaign is beyond description. Hatred abounds in his speeches, violence is ever-present at his rallies and alarming levels of ignorance permeate his communications. Yet even more terrifying than the prospect of a president who refuses to condemn the Ku Klux Klan is that of a leader advancing an agenda of incomprehensible unpredictability. Would Trump legitimately command the deportation of 12 million people and impose a ban on Muslim entry, or might these extremist suggestions be only a ploy designed to keep viewers tuned in until next week? The reality is that leaders on both sides of the aisle have little comprehension of what a Trump presidency would entail. The best-case scenario envisions the mogul’s deal-making abilities netting favorable trade agreements. But the worst-case scenario? A descent into authoritarianism and the demise of American democracy.
The majority of Sanders supporters comprehend the catastrophic consequences of a Trump victory, and by extension, the immense stakes characterizing the 2016 election. Yet for a vocal contingent of the Vermont Senator’s devotees, their loathing for Secretary Clinton exceeds any distaste for or fear of Trump. Adopting the banner of “Bernie or Bust,” these hardline adherents argue that because Secretary Clinton is a product of the political and corporate establishment, casting a protest vote or refraining from electoral participation altogether would advance their interests more than rallying behind the democratic nominee.
For these Sanders enthusiasts, pledging unconditional allegiance for their idol constitutes a display of ideological purity and idealistic integrity. In a contest between Clinton and Trump however, “Bernie or Bust” must be seen for what it truly is: a fundamental betrayal of the Democratic Party and a potent weapon in Trump’s electoral arsenal. Every vote cast by a progressive not marked for Hillary Clinton directly helps Trump’s probability of victory, and with it, the likelihood that years of social progress, not to mention the precarious balance of international peace, could be shattered by the whims of man whose convictions are as unstable as the corporations he led into bankruptcy.
Sanders’ supporters will be faced with a choice in November: stand by their party’s nominee, or refrain. Electing to vote for Clinton will prove a trying task for many, a gut-wrenching ordeal necessitating the temporary forsaking of principle for a cause perceived as corrupt and misguided. But momentary indignity will fade over time. The damage inflicted upon the United States and the global community by a Trump presidency, on the other hand, will likely not. If Sanders’ adherents elect to prioritize personal vendettas and self-contentment over the good of the nation, they will bear responsibility for each and every atrocity perpetrated by Trump over the course of his reign. For as has been done over the course of our history, sacrifices must be made for the preservation of the republic. This time is no different.
Matthew Gregory is a Senior in the School of Foreign Service, and previously served as President of the Georgetown University College Democrats.
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