Answers from folks who #feelthebern

Bernie Sanders supporters had some persuasive responses to my questions.

BernersFuckthisshitWeb
Okay, so by “this shit” you mean “big money in politics” – got it.

Two weeks ago, I published a post with nine questions for Bernie Sanders supporters to answer. I got some responses! 🙀😻 I am so pleased. Even better, there was an absence of any nastiness. A couple trolls popped up on the Facebook page, but they were all-purpose anti-left trolls, not the so-called “BernieBros” that Sanders himself has condemned. It is also fair to say that folks at Reddit were not impressed. At least the redditor who linked the piece thought it had some value-add:

FYI this is not my piece but I thought it brings up some interesting ideas to debate

Before I could get too flattered, the next commenter brought me back to Earth:

Not worth reading IMO.

Okay then. There were also a couple of commenters on the piece who both offered some answers and shared some of my concerns. One reader wrote:

As a fellow political nerd, I want to just thank you for doing this post. After taking a not very scientific online poll, I discovered that I agreed with Bernie 97% of the time to 93% with Hillary, but I am an old school Hillary supporter from way back before I went off to college to be a Political Science major. I am a die hard Democrat, and I will vote for whomever the nominee will be. However, my brain cannot bring me to support Bernie because of a lot of the unanswered questions you have posed here on your blog. I’m frustrated by the online Berners who are making it quite impossible to have conversation, and I think they are doing a disservice to a candidate who if/when Hillary wins will be giving her his full-throated support because he knows it is impossible for a Republican to win this year. The ones not willing to compromise are the worst, and those are the same ones that abandoned Obama in 2010.

That reader’s last point, about the folks who couldn’t stand compromise and abandoned President Obama in 2010, is an insight that helped me better understand my own reticence to take the #feelthebern revolutionaries at their word that they really want to be part of the process of social change.

Contrary to that image of Sanders supporters being reflexively anti-compromise and/or anti-Clinton, this Sanders supporter responded to several questions and then finished with empathy and praise for Hillary:

I have a lot of sympathy for Mrs. Clinton. She has developed a “close to the vest” style of speaking over the decades, and it (unfairly) makes her appear inauthentic. But she has been hounded publicly by a long list of villains who don’t play fair. If I had been vilified for things like her husband’s misbehavior (How did that become her fault?), I might well have developed some defensiveness too. Well, she held up in the hearings, and helped expose their partisan nature to a wider audience. She’s strong enough to lead.

One more thing we agree on!

Another reader provided some video links of Senator Sanders in non-debate settings, saying:

here are some videos that I think show the side of Bernie that doesn’t come through as well in his debates/interviews because he can’t afford to stray from his main points. But he actually has a lot of depth and he has engaged with people in a unique way that I find to be very important.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxaP4Ijo0ig  this one is HUGE. Sits down with undocumented people including a transgender latino activist. While Bernie doesn’t converse as freely or respectfully as I’d like, for god’s sake would Hillary Clinton or anyone else partake in a forum like this? And actually give voice to a transgender person in politics for once?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_AnELQ0hjA starts taking questions about 5 minutes in
One reader also sent in this comment and link to make the point that not all Berners are Hillary-haters:
I’d also like to make a point of saying, I am not an aggressive anti-Hillary (or even anti-Martin) Berners. I just think he’s the route to actual political change. This article from Robert Reich sums it up pretty well: http://robertreich.org/post/138036377515

The rest of the responses are included below, edited for length and/or relevance. “Edited” here really just means that I excerpted and arranged them according to the layout of my original post, so that a variety of responses will be provided to each question. There are also a few places where I provided notes about relevant circumstances that have changed since I asked the question.

Thanks again to all the folks who invested some time in reading and especially to those who took even more time to engage and send responses. This is the best dialogue I know about online between Bernie-radicals and a Hillary-pragmatist and it is also the most fun thing I have ever done on the blog. Thanks again.

Now let’s get to it…

Who will be accountable for the “political revolution” required to support a President Sanders?

This question got some pushback, from one reader because it applies to all candidates:

Who will be held accountable for HRC’s platform if it doesn’t work? All politicians make campaign promises that don’t/can’t/won’t come true. Bernie is authentic with his goals and reasons (fighting for the people), while the other candidate are bought by campaign donors who pull the strings on policy (like they still did with Obama, whom I like).

and from another reader because they think neither of these first two questions apply to all Sanders supporters:

…one thing that has consistently stuck out to me, and I see reflected in these questions, is that you seem to pigeonhole Sanders’ supporters. The first two questions, I think, reflect this best. I can’t answer those questions. They seem to assume a person who supports Sanders to an almost fanatical degree, a person who sees Sanders as a political messiah, if you will. I’m not that person. And while I can’t speak for everyone, none of the Sanders’ supporters I know personally and have spoken with are that person, either. For the most part, we are people who see Sanders as a candidate for president, and we like his positions more than we like other candidates. And it’s pretty much that simple.

I don’t doubt that the person assumed in the first two questions does exist, I’m sure they do. But it’s not me. I don’t pretend that Bernie Sanders isn’t a career politician, nor do I pretend that he is perfect. I just like his positions more than I like the others’. I’m not looking to him to save the world or start a mass revolution. I mean, that would be awesome, but Reality.

Similarly, another reader thinks I am overinterpreting Bernie’s comments about “political revolution:”

You’re taking the word “revolution” FAR too literally. It’s campaign hyperbole. They called it revolution when Reagan was elected. It wasn’t. The overall intent is a paradigm shift, incremental but significant change – which won’t fit on a bumper sticker. Once that terminology ambiguity is resolved, it affects a number of your queries. I work in health care, and support “Medicare for All”. That’s my main issue, and I believe it is a simpler structure than the PPACA, and saves more money while providing better outcomes for more patients.

At least one reader was game for answering the question about accountability head on:

Everyone, but just a little. Bernie’s revolution, as I interpret it, is based on the diminishing interest in the political process. It’s been a self-fulfilling cycle: people are jaded, voter turnout is low, their interests don’t get represented, people become more jaded, voter turnout gets lower, and so on.
Here is what I think happened. Barack Obama ran for president in 2008. He was a young, African American candidate who spoke with broad liberal strokes. Suddenly, political interest skyrocketed, and the 2008 election became one for the history books. But too much of that momentum got thrown behind one person, and too little went toward the public’s responsibility to consistently contribute. 2010 midterm voter turnout was low, the big money interests were allowed to thrive, and Congress became impossibly gridlocked. The gridlock caused voter frustration, which in turn led to the lowest voter turnout for midterm elections in over 70 years (in 2014), which led to more gridlock. The end result left President Obama barely able to move anything on his agenda through Congress.
Bernie isn’t asking his supporters to march on Washington for every single issue. But he wants us to learn a lesson from the Obama administration. When voter turnout is high, the interests of everyday Americans– which tend to be liberal interests– win.
Based off the incredible support built around this 74-year-old hippie whose throat gets so dry during debates that it sounds like he’s talking into a fan, I think Bernie could be the guy to affect desperately needed change to the political system.
In my best John McLaughlin voice: The correct answer is “everyone, but just a little.” 👍💯

 

What is the mechanism, or mechanisms, by which the political revolution will overcome entrenched political power?

One reader just laid it out like a battle plan:

Bernie will rally for revolution during his campaign and convince enough voters to vote in other politicians who are on board with the new progressive revolution (warren, Grayson, franken, etc), while voting out some of the obstructionists in 2016. Then as momentum builds we vote enough of the rest out in 2018 to retain a dem majority in congress. With a blue POTUS appointing more blue justices to SCOTUS, and a blue majority in congress, the policy revolution begins. With a constitutional amendment banning citizens United (like the wolfpac), and updated laws on gerrymandering (fair elections), dems can hold on to power long enough to pass single-payer and a carbon tax over the next 8 years. De-rigging the game.

Another reader sees something similar:

I don’t think there is one answer to this. I believe the mechanism will be slow, and I think it will work on a case-by-case basis.
The point of the revolution is to weed out big money interests from Washington. Hopefully, in a future in which more people pay attention to the political process, citizens will analyze each issue they are passionate about individually. If people find their elected officials not representing their interests, they can lobby for change in higher numbers than ever before.
My guess is that the machine will work from the bottom up, from local to state to federal government. With someone at the top representing a grassroots movement, it could happen.

Another reader is less specific, but makes the point that the revolution is already expanding beyond Sanders’ candidacy for President:

I think the crux of this idea is simply organizing people to stay engaged in politics. Bernie has proven extremely effective at this so far. I can’t speak for him or his campaign but I imagine that if elected he would continue to send emails directly to supporters to rally support for issues. The action would change from helping his campaign to speaking out for campaigns to raise awareness or force political momentum on the issues he is working on. I also think he would not be shy about reminding supporters to vote in congressional elections, and possibly even who to support in order to get the issues that he (we) care about turned into legislation. One great positive to electing Bernie would be the inevitable Bernie imitator politicians who would start popping up, and who in fact already are. I’ve seen at least two or three different campaign pages for congressman jumping onto the political revolution rhetoric/movement idea and also vowing not to take any corporate or super PAC contributions and only raise money grassroots style. So in a sense the political revolution is already happening, its only to be determined how far its reach can go or whether it will fizzle out.

The same reader kept going on this topic and I want to quote them at length:

I think a lot of people don’t understand the effectiveness of movement building. For example, you referred to it as some sort of magic, and expressed confusion as to how it could accomplish any specific goals, or what it would look like. To me, most major political gains in the direction of progressive values or human rights have been direct results of people’s movements. Think Civil Rights Movement, The Labor Movement of the early 1900s, The Woman’s Suffrage Movement, Feminism, The Gay Rights movement, and more recently Black Lives Matter and Not1More. Most progressive issues would not have become politically popular without major movements demanding that these issues be addressed. Not1More was instrumental in actually getting Obama to make the executive actions on Immigration that he did. Black Lives Matter has already greatly furthered the conversation on race and resulted in pressure on police departments, and for example the firing of Anita Alvarez in Chicago and a huge amount of pressure on Rahm Emanuel that has him politically backed into a corner currently. So the only difference with Bernie’s movement is that it is within the political system as opposed to outside of it like most movements. And perhaps its a bit more watery, dreamier, less gritty than these other intense social activist movements. But I think its very exciting to have a presidential candidate who understands the effectiveness of protest movements and actually wants to channel that energy to mainstream politics.

 

Strategic overview, tactical thinking, historical context – all good responses and actual answers to the question.

Are you at all concerned that Senator Sanders’ predominately white, educated bloc of supporters foreshadows major obstacles to building up the racially diverse movement required to support his political revolution?

A self-aware reader who thinks this issue is really just a matter of folks not knowing about Bernie and/or not understanding how much his economic policies will combat racism:

Yes. But those statistics don’t define how his policies would affect non-white citizens.
Bernie’s strategy against institutionalized racism stems from an economy that makes it extra hard for non-white Americans to get ahead. Single-payer healthcare, free public colleges, and raising the minimum wage would help financially burdened families save money and get higher paying jobs. And unfortunately, financially burdened families in this country are disproportionately non-white.
Listen, I’m a straight white guy. I grew up in the middle class and graduated from a private college. I have absolutely no right to tell a non-white, non-male, non-straight person what is in their best interests. I do know that there are many diversity activists endorsing Bernie, such as Dr. Cornel West, Killer Mike, Shaun King, and Erica Garner (daughter of Eric Garner).
But yes, I am definitely concerned that he’s behind. On the other hand, we should keep in mind that Bernie Sanders was virtually unknown until this summer. Hillary Clinton has been a political celebrity since 1992. He’s an underdog, but he’s gaining.
Another reader thinks similarly, and also makes the point that current polling of demographic groups isn’t a valid premise for the question:
I honestly think the main reason Bernie mainly has white support is because a lot of folks of color simply haven’t heard that much about him yet. I’m not going to call this a problem till after the first couple primary contests once he’s gotten more and more national coverage and then we’ll see where he stands with non-white voters. I find it quite patronizing that all the media outlets and political pundits think they can go ahead and decide how people of color will vote instead of waiting and letting them decide for themselves. I have a feeling it won’t be as one-sided toward Hillary as people keep saying.
And here is an answer from the same reader that doesn’t buy into the whole “political revolution” idea anyway:
Keeping in mind … that I’m not expecting him to accomplish a political revolution, I guess my answer to this is I don’t know. I understand the criticisms of Sanders as articulated by TNC, but I do not understand how that translates into support for HRC. I really don’t. I guess I figure that whoever is elected (assuming it’s a democrat), liberals will support their liberal policy goals. Kinda like normal.

Will this political revolution view compromise as incremental progress or as some kind of defeat?

One reader is not sweating this:

I suppose each compromise or incremental step of progress will be judged in context of what’s doable at the time, again, kinda like normal.

Another reader makes it clear they wouldn’t personally view compromise as a defeat, before acknowledging the violence idiocy that is inherent in the system:

I certainly wouldn’t. President Obama campaigned for single-payer healthcare, but I don’t see the Affordable Care Act as a defeat. I see it as a step in the right direction.
Americans can be loud and dumb. I can only hope that a political revolution will create a society that is a little more savvy about the system. But no matter who the next president is, Americans will be loud and dumb.

 

I like both of these responses and hope they are representative of Sanders supporters overall.

Do you believe that Senator Sanders is “above” or “outside” of the usual mode(s) of political discourse in the United States?

One reader thinks the same humanity that keeps Bernie mostly apart from the pack may also explain why he digressed, ever so slightly, on the topic of Bill Clinton’s past scandals:

I think Bernie is far and away the most outside of the usual mode of political discourse compared to the other candidates. He’s definitely not 100% outside. However, I believe a huge part of his involvement in the usual discourse is dirty politics coming to him, and not vice versa. He never brought up Bill Clinton’s sex scandals– he was routinely about it asked by the media. Could he have skipped the part of his answer that was “I’m not running against Bill Clinton,” and avoided the “his acts were deplorable” part? Of course. I wish he had. But I believe dipping his toes into that type of discourse was far less a planned attack and far more a result of being worn down by the question.

This reader wins a 💯 in response to this question:

No. The guy has held an elected position for 30+ years. No. I think you have to have a significant personality disorder to want to be involved in politics at all, and particularly at the national level, and especially to run for president. He’s a politician. Most candidates running for President are (at least on the left). He’s just the one I like the best, or dislike the least. Take your pick.

Are you aware of how wrong Senator Sanders is about gun safety, even in his home state of Vermont?

 

[This question needs an update. The point about the PLCAA is out of date, as Sanders has now evolved/flip-flopped/learned from his mistake on the question of letting mom and pop gun stores sell to criminals and traffickers while enjoying immunity from civil action for the resulting harm. However, it is still very much the case that Vermont has a serious gun violence problem and part of that problem is many legal Vermont guns that become illegal guns in neighboring states. So the main thrust of the question is still legit.]

Here are the responses to the original question. One reader kept it simple:

Yes. I don’t like a number of his positions. This is one of them.

Another:

Yes, and I disagree with him on this issue. I also think he’s lacking with support for women. But on every other issue, he’s on point. No other candidate comes remotely close to representing the will of the people like Bernie.

Alas, I think you could argue that Senator Sanders does represent the will of the people on guns, but that’s the whole reason why we need someone to make the other argument. On that note, a reader thinks Sanders is uniquely positioned to make progress on this issue precisely because of his previous support for bang bang toys:

I do think that Sanders past positions will allow him to negotiate a compromise with the left and right on gun control. Unfortunately every other candidate is so extreme on the matter that I don’t think they would accomplish much. As a gun owner, I have a little different views then many liberals. I’d say I’m a little more in the middle ground on the subject. I do believe that background checks and gun safety courses should be a requirement before any gun can be purchased. I do think that all assault rifles should be banned. No one (other then properly trained military) needs to own an AR.

Hallelujah! A gun owner who believes in common sense gun laws! Y’all were a unicorn to me until that response came in (I even had a draft post called “Are Sensible Gun Owners Real or a Myth?” that I have since happily deleted). Anyway, back to responses to the question.

This reader is circumspect both about their own level of engagement with the issues and wondering if there is, really, any consequential difference between Clinton and Sanders on gun safety:

I will confess I haven’t done a ton of research on gun violence, Vermont’s gun laws versus other states, or any other relevant data that would help me decide whether I agree that Sanders is wrong about gun safety. His reasons for his votes on legislation based on it having some bad provisions in it seems perfectly reasonable to me, though that’s just taking him straight from his word as I haven’t adequately researched the subject. Basically, while I care a lot about mass shootings and gun violence, I don’t think any of the proposals from the Democratic party would actually make much of a difference. They seem to be more symbolic gun control ideas that wouldn’t really get to the root of the issue.

Ultimately I think gun violence has a lot more to do with our cultural failings than guns. I think gun restrictions would have to go much further than what any Democrat has called for to actually be effective. So this issue doesn’t matter that much to me in terms of whether I vote for Hillary or Bernie. I don’t see any reason to believe there would be a major difference in what gets accomplished in congress on this issue depending on which of them gets elected. I could be very wrong about that, but that’s my impression of the issue.

Another reader, writing in after Senator Sanders changed his position and agreed to co-sponsor a repeal of the PLCAA:

I don’t love his gun record. I don’t love any gun record that isn’t making serious changes to the second amendment. “The right to bear arms” was written in a time when you had to load a gun one bullet at a time, and an attacker could arguably do more damage by just running up and punching you in the face. I think it’s ridiculous that anyone thinks they have the right to an automatic firearm. Or most forms of firearms. But we as a country are very far away from making changes that significant.
Bernie isn’t defending Vermont’s lax gun control when he brings it up in debates– he’s drawing attention to the views of his constituents. His less than exemplary record on gun control, ironically enough, reflects his willingness to follow through on his main campaign goal. He listens to the people who voted him into office, and does what is in their best interests. In the very rural state of Vermont, the huge majority of people are pro-gun. It is the one weird, unfortunate quirk of an otherwise very liberal state.
As a presidential candidate, his platform on gun control is almost identical to Hillary Clinton’s and Martin O’Malley’s. They reflect the views of the American public as opposed to just one state. Yesterday, Bernie announced that he would co-sponsor a bill to repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. I don’t like that he voted for the law in the first place, but he is moving in the right direction.
Yet another just doesn’t think the difference is big or about much other than where Bernie is from:
Senator Sanders has a problem in how he speaks about guns because of where he lives and serves. If Mrs. Clinton had an equivalent small-town and rural base of support (she doesn’t), she would have the same problem. If elected, he needs to strengthen his regulatory support, but it’s still a difference between an F and a D- on NRA grades for the two candidates.
While I have mostly refrained from editorializing in this post, since I want it to be a forum for responses and not an argument, regular readers will know that gun safety is my number one political issue (see here and here) and forgive me if I just have to follow up on this a bit. Gun violence kills more Americans every year than police brutality, lack of access to healthcare, mass incarceration, terrorism, and militaristic foreign policy combined. I am not going to make the case that disagreeing with Bernie on this one thing makes it absurd to support him because poverty deaths cannot really be separated from gun violence for statistical purposes, but for sure gun deaths make up a small fraction of the half-a-million-ish people who die each year from poverty, and Sanders is all about ending poverty. I am just saying: if this guy is going to lead a political revolution, let’s keep the pressure on to make damn sure gun safety comes in just after poverty on his priority list.

Senator Sanders’ campaign and rhetoric have focused on the idea that he has been on the right side of every issue his entire life (civil rights, Iraq War, etc). How is someone who believes he has always been right going to convince millions of Americans to change their minds about progressive policies?

One reader, perhaps unknowingly, thinks this will more likely be a long process of moving the Overton Window:

I don’t know that anyone is. I think it’s going to happen when large enough percentage of the population makes it happen, and after a while, when the world doesn’t end, it becomes the new normal.

Another reader thinks this is partly just a matter of how the campaign process works, but also points out that Sanders has already done a lot of learning for himself and persuading of others:

While I understand your concern on this issue, I think every candidate obviously focuses on the positive aspects of their past unless questioned otherwise. While Bernie is certainly a bit hard headed/stubborn I’ve been very impressed with the way he has responded to certain issues and criticisms. One example would be the Black Lives Matter protests early on in his campaign. In Seattle he stepped aside, let the protesters speak, and never belittled or negatively criticized them for interrupting and protesting him. He clearly hadn’t thought enough about racial justice before he began his campaign, and he responded to the pressure on the matter by releasing the most comprehensive and powerfully worded racial justice platform of any candidate. He has made great efforts to include Black leaders in his campaign and I think this shows his evolution on his understanding of the issue. You could of course argue that he is simply doing it to get black votes, but I’m honestly not sure radical racial justice actually wins someone the majority of black votes. It has more appeal to the most radicalized, activist fringes of society, no matter what race. So I appreciate his courage on those issues and willingness to let people who know more than him educate him and clearly help write his platform as it has language that he definitely wouldn’t have thought of such as framing the issues in terms of “political violence” “economic violence” etc.
I think Bernie is weak when it comes to listening and responding in the moment when put of the spot. But behind the scenes he listens to people who he needs to listen to and works to become a more comprehensive and effective leader.
To answer your question of how can he be trusted to persuade people to join progressive politics, look no further than the results he’s already getting. Regardless of whether his own stubbornness theoretically affects this, he has brought so many new people on board with progressive ideas already in a way that no establishment Democrat has ever or ever could do. Sanders is uniquely positioned to win new people over in so many ways, from his consistency, to his record as an independent instead of being a part of the party system, to his commitment to reforming the campaign finance system and not accepting corporate money. I personally know quite a few people who literally didn’t give a damn about politics nor necessarily expressed progressive views, who are now huge Bernie supporters and have began to not just support him but also get on board with some of his more “radical” ideas. I think this is one area where all the evidence points to Bernie being the most effective candidate in history at bringing new people to the conversation and motivating voters.

This reader, again responding after the PLCAA flip changes the context of the question, thinks the question does not give Sanders enough credit:

I think it’s a bit of a leap to say Bernie Sanders believes he has always been right. See above about co-sponsoring a bill to repeal the gun law he helped pass. But I’ll answer your question as if this were two days ago.
In terms of convincing people to adopt progressive policies – I think a lot of people’s minds are made up. If they’re deeply against progressive policies, I don’t see them drastically changing. But I think the majority of Americans at least lean toward those policies. Again – when voter turnout is high, democrats win.
In terms of his stance on the Iraq War and civil rights – I don’t think Bernie’s foresight can be understated. He marched with Dr. King in the 60s. He spoke out for gay rights in the 80s. He was one of the incredibly few votes against the Iraq War in 2003. The man has been on the right side of history again and again. I don’t read that as stubbornness, I read that as true vision.
However, you are right in saying that he was wrong about PLCAA. He voted in line with his constituents, which was not the right vote for all of America. But I don’t think it can be denied that Bernie’s presidential platform on gun control has been tough since day one. His plans are virtually the same as Hillary’s and Martin’s. He’s capable of keeping himself in check.

Again, really good, thoughtful, direct responses to the question. Thank you!

(conditional question) If you are a feminist: Take a moment and forget that hating Hillary Clinton is a national past time, and remember that misogyny is still misogyny even when it is aimed at a woman that many people dislike. With that in mind, I ask you: How can you get excited about a man who is constantly raising his voice, mainsplaining everything back to his preferred economic talking points, and even throwing epic side-eye, on national television, to a woman just because she dared to criticize him in the exact same manner in which he has criticized her?

This question definitely got some responses, my favorite first clause of which starts off this one:

Finally on the mansplaining subject, I do agree that Bernie is a bit loud, rude, and condescending sometimes. And I consider myself not just a feminist, but a radical feminist. But to be fair, he talks this way to everyone who questions him, male or female (not trying to be the person who makes this argument which is often used in these situations incorrectly, but seriously have you seen his interviews with reporters?). And while I think Hillary has to face an unfair amount of sexism, unnecessary and ungrounded hatred, and misogyny, I don’t necessarily think Bernie is that much of a perpetrator of it. Either way though, ultimately personality isn’t important to me in a presidential candidate. Yeah, Bernie is rude. He is clearly from a different generation and hasn’t evolved a sensitivity to the way he talks to people that we now expect from people. He definitely isn’t perfect as a lot of people believe him to be. But personality aside, damn if he isn’t sooo much more right about almost every single issue than any candidate I’ve ever seen run for office. I mean, no other candidate has ever seriously talked about climate change the way he does. No other candidate has run without corporate money. No other candidate has declared support for making election day a national holliday. I could go on and on, but he just kills it on the issues, aside from maybe gun control and foreign policy, but everything else. So it sucks if he talks sexist towards Hillary but we desperately need someone to take the problems we face seriously the way he does. I’m not gonna feel too much sympathy for someone who is as powerful and calculating as Hillary. Her debate manners of completely ignoring Bernie’s existence until he was actually challenging her in the polls was pretty dismal in my eyes as well. So ultimately I have to go with the candidate who actually cares about the right issues. For an old white man, Bernie stood up for racial justice, civil rights, and lgbt rights way before the majority of people cared about those issues. That’s more than most people can say. How many white men supported gay rights in the 80’s? How many white men declared their support for women’s rights and the equal pay for equal work idea that Bernie has voted for and expressed support for from the beginning? I think he is actually more progressive on women’s issues, and gay rights, than Hillary. So that’s what matters, in my opinion.

I know I said I would edit for length and relevance, but these long responses are so good and so relevant, I have hardly done any editing. Another:

Again, I am a straight white male. I consider myself a feminist, but I can’t speak for what may or may not be in a woman’s best interests.
In my personal view, I don’t believe Bernie’s rhetoric would be significantly different if his main opponent was a man. Bernie raises his voice constantly. Frankly, I don’t think he’s a wonderful speaker (and I also don’t care). He screams at his own campaign rally speeches, and he’s not even arguing with anyone. He’s an old guy from Brooklyn.
I think Bernie routes questions back to economic talking points because he sees the economy as an underlying issue in the majority of national issues. Gun violence sprouts from institutionalized racism which sprouts from a rigged economy. Healthcare problems stems from unethical activities from insurance and pharmaceutical companies which comes from improper wealth distribution. Threats from ISIS comes from the Iraq War which came from the allure of war profiteering. And most importantly, Washington is gridlocked because of Citizen’s United and corrupt campaigns.
Oh yeah, Bern threw some epic side eye during the last debate. But Hillary did not criticize Bernie in the exact same way in which he has ever criticized her. Bernie has criticized her undeniable ties to Wall Street and big money. Hillary suggested Bernie sought someone to run against President Obama in the 2012 primary. Bernie campaigned for Obama in 2008 and 2012. Side-eye earned, Mr. Sanders.
This all being said, I think there is deep inherent value in electing a president that is not a white male. In this specific case, I think Bernie’s political revolution has more inherent value.

One reader has the added credibility on this topic of, you know, being a woman:

I’ll need to watch the debates again to give a fuller answer (maybe? maybe not), but my answer is more or less the same I’ve been hitting on throughout. The menu of options is limited, I don’t see anyone that is perfect, I see two people to choose from. (Who is Martin O’Malley? Did I even spell his name right?) And of those two, one comes much closer to representing my goals for our future than the other. A wise person once criticized me for making the perfect the enemy of the good. Bernie Sanders is far from perfect. But for my money, he’s closer than the others.

And this reader provided a sound explanation for the whole thing, not at all in terms of sexism:

Despite being male and a senior citizen, I do call myself a feminist (emphasis 1st/2nd wave), so I’ll take a small swing at this one. I work in an Urgent Care clinic. The Sanders campaign doesn’t talk about it, but it’s obvious to me he has hearing loss and wears some kind of in-ear amplification. That is where the voice-raising behavior comes from, more than “mansplaining”. I don’t actually know what “epic side eye” means, but he has to look at people’s lips to supplement what he can’t hear in their speech.

Good responses, and also great that almost every man who wrote in self-identified as a feminist. Which brings us to my mildly baiting, but mostly genuine Senator Warren fan fiction question…

…am I the only one who thinks that the best outcome of Sanders’ candidacy isn’t President Sanders, but Vice-President (and later President) Warren?

Again, from the keeping it 💯 reader:

No, you are not. Elizabeth Warren comes much closer to perfect.

Another likes Warren, but isn’t missing her in the campaign:

Vice President and later President Warren would be pretty sweet. But I wasn’t entirely disappointed when she decided not to run. She’s a champion of progressive efforts, but she’s only been in politics since 2012. Bernie’s been crushing campaigns for over 30 years.

Another digresses a bit after pointing out that Warren has sworn off such an outing:

Sanders would be very smart to select a woman as capable as Elizabeth Warren for a running mate. She doesn’t want to run this time. She promised her constituents she will complete the term of her current office before mounting any national campaign. I respect that. I also would be content to vote for Mrs. Clinton if she becomes the nominee, and I think it’s more likely than not even if Sanders wins BOTH Iowa and N.H. Either candidate could beat Trump or Cruz. I hope one of those two get the GOP nod. It’s more fun to run against such despicable characters.

What I love most about this is that no response actually imagined what I was pitching, which is that the best outcome of the Sanders campaign is that it forces Hillary to nominate Warren as her VP in order to woo Sanders supporters, and that as a result we get a very progressive President Warren in eight years.

 

Houston, we have dialogue.

There is increased media chatter about BernieBros, not to mention some confusion about what a BernieBro actually is, and that has mostly come up in the two weeks since I published the original post. So I will once again say thank you to the readers who took time (some of you, quite a lot of time!) to read and respond and even provide supplemental article and video links. It is important – in a lot of ways – that rational, thoughtful Sanders and Clinton supporters have a chance to dialogue about progressive causes, policy differences, realism vs. idealism, realism vs realism, electoral math, etc. and I will be happy to host as much of that debate as I can keep up with on the blog.

I am especially eager to hear from my fellow Millennials and/or more women that are supporting Sanders (I say women just because I know y’all make up a greater share of Berners than of readers emailing me about being Berners). Millennials are becoming the next few decades of American politics, we will be the establishment soon enough, and one thing we could really improve around here is the tone and quality of dialogue.

So let’s keep this conversation going. If you are a Clinton supporter that wants to respond (civilly) to these comments from Berners, leave a comment below or (even better) email your comment. If you are one of the quoter Berners and want to modify your response, or if you are a Berner who wants to offer another response, please send TLP an email or leave a comment below.

(Click here for the TLP about page, which explains how emails are quoted on the blog. All original emails and personal information will be deleted. The site is ad-free and I do no marketing or promotion of any kind based on email submissions.)

Got a question or comment? Send an email, comment on Facebook, or tweet on Twitter. There is also Tumblr and the comment field below, if you’re into that kind of thing. 

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