Here's a newsflash, everyone. Telling Bernie Sanders supporters that they're idiots if they don't vote for Hillary is not what's going to get Bernie supporters to vote for Hillary.
A demonstrated, consistent commitment to the progressive agenda on Hillary's part is what is.
Virulent supporters of Hillary Clinton have wasted very little time in the last few days since their candidate officially became the presumptive Democratic nominee in going after Bernie Sanders' supporters full force, basically saying, 'Ok, fun's over, can we all get in line now?'
The frustration-tinged discourse is clearly born of having had to endure a much longer, grueling campaign than they'd anticipated, and out of an understandable panic that having such division in the Democratic party only benefits Donald Trump.
Yet the rhetoric has been pretty harsh. While Bernie's supporters are still licking their wounds after the California primary, Hillary's base is basically saying either get on board, or you're an idiot who is going to end up putting Trump in office. There seems to be a deep sense of indignation and disbelief that anyone, anywhere could not see that the most important thing in this election is stopping Trump at all costs and therefore voting for her.
Leaving aside the question of whether she is actually the best candidate to run against Trump (I guess we'll find out in November), this rhetoric misses the mark for several reasons.
Most importantly, it further divides rather than unites.
Those on the left side of the political spectrum have been blamed for the Democratic Party's own problems for a very long time now. In 2000, it was the 2% of the population that voted for Nader that were clearly the problem, not the fact that the Democratic party, starting with Bill Clinton, had made a calculated move to the right, had adopted policies that were disturbingly Republican in their overtones, and so inevitably and understandably lost a chunk of their voter base. Now, it's Sanders supporters who are apparently the divisive ones, too caught up in their pesky idealism to see reality for what it is.
Personally, over the years, I -- like most progressives -- have been labeled idealistic, naive, radical, too emotional, and out of touch, simply because I want Americans to have the basic societal supports that all of my European and Canadian friends already enjoy. It is tiring and demoralizing to have your views treated this way, when for most of the developed world, they are the norm.
We on the left have been derided enough. We don't need, at this critical point in history, to be dismissed as idiots for not supporting Hillary Clinton. There are extremely valid reasons why we haven't (yet) supported her. And there are a whole lot of us.
What we need is for the Democratic party to start listening to us.
This Democratic race is not divided because Bernie is being divisive. The party is divided as a direct result of the Democratic party's own actions.
In the 1990s the Democratic party made a calculated move to center, and basically vowed to avoid any position too 'pure'. As Matt Taibbi points out in his brilliant Rolling Stone piece, which should be required reading for Hillary supporters, the party mantra became 'center wins elections.'
The problem with consistently taking the center, is that when one side moves deliberately and pro-actively to the right each election cycle, it takes the center along with it. The center of 2016 looks a lot like the far right of 1992. This does not sit well with millions of Democratic party voters, and that unease has reached a boiling point.
But the Democratic party has not effectively listened. Even with clear signs that a growing number of people on the left are becoming disenchanted by the party's move to the right, the party continues to rely heavily on the 'at least we're not them' platform.
The core problem is that the Lesser of Two Evils is not a foundation for a political party. It is not a platform. You may be able to shame some people into voting that way. You may appeal to their common sense in the short term. Many people in this election of course will take an 'anyone but Trump' stance, as they should. But in anything other than the shortest of terms, Lesser of Two Evils is not any type of solution. When people repeatedly see their vote doing nothing but empowering their party's movement away from its core principles, the argument loses steam, no matter how inane the opposition is.
When I was a kid, my parents voted Carter because 'anyone but Reagan', even though who they really supported was Barry Commoner. They couldn't believe that a Hollywood actor like Reagan, who spoke in childish soundbites, could run for high office and win. Then it was Bush senior. Then W. It couldn't possibly get worse. Then Sarah Palin. Now, the Orange-ocalypse.
Why does it keep getting worse?
Because rather than provide the counterpoint, the Democratic party has let the Republicans set the agenda, has moved to the right along with them, and alienated millions of people along the way.
It is time for the Democratic Party to listen to its liberal base.
If Hillary wants unity, she needs to forge it by paying more than lip service to the 40% of the registered Democratic voter base (and even more independents) that support real, progressive change. We need to see a progressive agenda.
The Democratic party needs to demonstrate that it takes the left seriously, in a big way.
Let's see if Hillary is our candidate. Let's see who she'll fill those cabinet positions with. Let's see if this can be the party it once claimed to be.
Calm down, everyone. I'm not encouraging people to not vote for Hillary in November. I'm trying to help you understand what's going to get people to.
And in the meantime, please don't call us idiots.