Focus On Our Similarities: An Open Letter To Democrats And Independents

I spent the better part of an hour earlier today taking part in a massive, multi-person argument over the Democratic party. The argument was represented at the most visible level as Clinton vs. Sanders, but the true meat of the argument goes far deeper than that. It was about representation vs. the status quo. And I feel like that’s the biggest fight among Democrats lately; we don’t fight because we disagree on whether Sanders’ economic policies make sense, or whether Clinton’s ties to Wall Street would affect her presidency. We fight because we can’t decide the boundaries of the Democratic Party.

For full disclosure, I’m a Sanders supporter who will vote for Hillary in the primary if she is the Democratic nominee. “Vote blue, no matter who,” they tell me, and for the most part, I agree. But I’m also a debater in college, and that means knowing how to play devil’s advocate and both understanding and arguing the opposite side of one’s own viewpoint. This argument took place on a friend’s wall on Facebook. My friend, who like many of us are frustrated with all the infighting in our party, suggested that die-hard Sanders supporters should start their own party, claiming how the Democratic Party does things has worked for a long time, and that outsiders shouldn’t try to take advantage of what the party offers while simultaneously complaining about how it accomplishes its goals.

As I write this, I am overcome with frustration as the debate simply raged on. Some debaters were more cordial than others, but as a perceived Bernie or Bust voter (remember, I was playing devil’s advocate) I was called dense and petulant, among other things, for hypothetically supporting the notion that the Bernie or Bust movement may have a point.

Earlier in this election, the idea of Trump dividing the Republican voter base made me ecstatic. I thought that Ted Cruz winning the nomination would drive Trump supporters away from the more centrist mainstream of the Republican Party and into the arms of obscurity. But with Trump slowly gaining support of the party’s establishment and Clinton and Sanders supporters quickly storming away from each other in a huff, it’s looking more and more like I got things backwards. I think that both sides have valid points that need to be heard, though I think the mainstream Democrats, so mostly Clinton supporters, are the ones most commonly dismissing conflicting claims from outliers and independents. So I want to get a few things off my chest and try and clear the air. I want to show that we have plenty in common, but that our differences are important. So here goes:

Clinton supporters: Superdelegates are a mess.

The entire superdelegate system makes very little sense, especially to independent voters (and even some Republicans!). Basically, as was the case in Wyoming, a candidate can win the popular vote by a large margin, and still get less delegates than the losing candidate. This is how the Democratic Party has been doing things for years, but does that make it right? Why do superdelegates even exist when their function seems to be to override the peoples’ vote? CNN’s Jake Tapper asked DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz this question, and this is the response he got:

“Unpledged delegates exist really to make sure that party leaders and elected officials don’t have to be in a position where they are running against grassroots activists.”

Photo from Debbie Wasserman Schultz' Congressional website.
Photo from Debbie Wasserman Schultz’ Congressional website.

That’s… not a democratic answer. If that truly is the reason, that’s about as undemocratic as it gets. I know you don’t like it, but Sanders supporters have a point here. Why is the Democratic Party behaving in a manner befitting Republicans’ efforts to suppress voting? Even Joe Scarborough points that out in the video I linked above. Clinton supporters, please stop dismissing this argument and address it. This is a very real problem.

Bernie or Bust supporters: This is not a great year for anyone.

This isn’t a popular argument, or even a fully ethical one. But there aren’t a lot of ethical arguments to be made this year. Normally, I’m all about sticking to your guns, and if Marco Rubio or John Kasich were running, I wouldn’t even be saying this. But with Donald Trump on the Republican ticket, this just isn’t the year for the party to be divided. I’m not saying not to vote for Sanders in the primaries. I’m in Texas and I did just that. But if Clinton wins, we need to vote for her. At stake we have:

  • Potential supreme court appointments. (To include the one President Obama should be appointing, but the Republicans in Congress are being obstinate. Sometimes.)
  • Healthcare reform. Trump wants to turn over Obamacare, and will likely do everything in his power to do so if he’s elected.
  • Gender and Sexuality Minority (GSM or LGBT) rights. Trump has waffled on this, but it’s very possible that he will attempt to roll back marriage equality and other landmark victories if he’s elected.
  • Our economy will fall apart. The guy has four bankruptcies and walked away from each of them a little richer. Do we want that in charge of our economy?
  • National security issues. He will make America less safe. Even Romney thinks so! He wants more military intervention in the Middle East, and he wants to ban Muslims from the U.S. and make the ones who live here wear ID tags. This is seriously the only acceptable violation of Godwin’s Law I’ve ever seen.
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

That’s not all, but it’s all I’m listing for now. Suffice it to say that while I’m all for attempting to incite change, this is not the best time for it since we’re facing one of the worst Republican candidates in U.S. history.

Clinton supporters: Democrats don’t dismiss ideas.

We aren’t the Republican Party. We are, therefore, not supposed to be an echo chamber. So stop dismissing people you deem to be “less than” you. I’m referring to calling Sanders supporters immature. Saying that Generation Y (Millennials) are entitled or uneducated. Claiming you know what’s best and telling others to be quiet and fall in line is not how we do things. We are the progressive party in the U.S. That means we take all viewpoints, process them, and use them as a guide to move in a direction that is more advanced, inclusive, and ever-changing with new information. This dismissive behavior is deplorable, and is only contributing to our party falling apart.

Bernie or Bust supporters: Extreme behavior doesn’t help your cause.

Part of the problem with being a member of Generation Y is that your actions and beliefs are on display. This is to a greater extent than the Baby Boomers or Generation X simply because we are the largest Internet demographic old enough to be involved in politics. I recognize that extreme behavior exists in all camps, it’s so much easier to point out the craziness of a Gen Y person because it goes viral so quickly. As a result, a large number of Clinton supporters consider your extreme wing to be representative of your whole. (Insert Republicans views on Islamic extremists here.) The point is, stunts like threatening Democratic officials and throwing chairs are not going to ensure your message is taken seriously. In fact, it will only have the opposite effect.

These are Trump-style tactics, and they have no place among Progressives. But don’t think that gets you off the hook, Hillary supporters. I’ve seen a fair share of vandalism and extreme behavior from your camp, too.

Everyone: Shut the hell up and listen.

If you’re with her, you need to listen to the other camp about the flaws in the Democratic Party. If you’re feeling the Bern, you have to remember that even if your preferred candidate isn’t elected, he’s having a huge impact on the way we look at politics, and listen to the Hillary camp when it comes to trying to compromise with the other side. And both of you need to listen to what Trump is saying and realize where our priorities really are.

The infighting will only make America hate again. And that is literally the last thing we need.

Featured image via Jim Cole of the Associated Press. 

David Pham is a proud Gaytheist and Gaymer, and an Iraq Veteran who staunchly supports LGBT rights and the separation of church and state. When not reading or researching, he's usually found with his nose in his Kindle or Wii U Gamepad. He studies Psychology with the intent to provide therapy to Veterans and teach at the college level.