Why “Bernie or Bust” is Doing a Great Disservice to Sanders’ Legacy

It’s undeniable that Bernie Sanders has made a massive impact on the Democratic party this last year. Even though it’s very unlikely his goal of becoming the party’s nominee is going to happen, just based on the success of his campaign alone he’s brought positive changes to the party as a whole. Not only that, but win or lose, he’s made a profound impact on Hillary Clinton that will make her a better candidate this November.

That being said, there’s a chunk of Sanders supporters who are often referred to as “Bernie or bust.” These are people who’ve either declared that they’ll write his name in on election day, won’t vote at all or some have even said they’ll vote for Donald Trump. However, I believe you lose all right to call yourself “liberal” or “progressive” if you would even entertain the thought of voting for someone who’s called for banning all Muslims; wants to overturn Roe v. Wade; calls women pigs; wants to rip apart millions of families; and has been embraced by white supremacist groups.

While I’m sure many of these folks aren’t Democrats, progressives or liberals – some of them are. Though I’ll admit, it’s been a rather interesting few months trying to decipher who’s a legitimate Sanders supporter and who’s just “supporting” him because they’re a “troll” trying to take down Hillary Clinton.

However, what “Bernie or bust” could eventually lead to is everything Sanders has accomplished this last year (and even throughout his entire career in Congress) being undone and tarnished. If Democrats lose the White House in November in a way where the numbers indicate this “Bernie or bust” crowd ultimately benefitted Republicans, all history will remember Bernie Sanders as is the candidate who helped elect Donald Trump.

Doubt me?

Tell me, how does history view Ralph Nader? You know, the candidate who ultimately did nothing but help George W. Bush get elected in 2000 – the president who then went on to wreck this country over the next eight years. While Florida gets most of the attention, New Hampshire was actually the state that gave Bush the White House. In 2000, Al Gore lost New Hampshire by just over 7,000 votes. How many did Nader get? Around 22,000. Had Gore won New Hampshire’s 4 electoral votes, the final results would have been Gore 270 vs. Bush 267.

Now, you tell me, which option is worse:

  • The “not-quite-liberal-enough” Al Gore who has since become a huge advocate for combating climate change? – or –
  • George W. Bush, who went on to start two wars, nearly doubled our national debt and led this country to the worst economic crash since the Great Depression?

Almost nobody looks at Nader as some sort of revolutionary who changed anything – not even close. History will forever look back upon him during the 2000 election as the third-party candidate who did just enough to hurt Gore, which opened the door for one of the worst presidents in our nation’s history to win the presidency.

Well, in 2016, we could see that same sort of scenario play out. And if it does, everything Bernie Sanders has tried to do this election will be undone almost instantly.

Putting aside all the campaign rhetoric, the number one goal Sanders has stated throughout his entire campaign is, no matter what happens, we cannot allow Republicans to win this November. He’s also made it clear that he’ll proudly support Clinton this November if she ultimately defeats him for the nomination.

The truth is, he could have run as a true third-party candidate but he knew doing so would do nothing but hand Republicans the White House in a landslide. So, writing him in as a third-party candidate is literally someone saying “I don’t care what he wanted – I’m doing it my way.” Everyone has the right to do that if they so choose, but it goes against Sanders’ primary goal of making sure Republicans don’t win the presidency.

So it’s a bit confusing to say you respect, admire and trust Bernie Sanders – then instantly do the very thing he has said repeatedly he doesn’t want to see happen: Help Republicans win the White House.

Even avid Sanders supporter Bill Maher has said that the “Bernie or bust” people are going to be the “death of liberals.”

I’ve said for a while now, win or lose, Sanders has changed everything. He’s pushed Clinton to the left and made the entire Democratic party rethink its party’s positions. Even if Clinton does become our next president, because of the undeniable impact Sanders has had on her, some of his ideas will be represented in her administration. Not only that, but his stature in the Senate has grown immensely due to the exposure he’s gotten from his campaign.

But none of that’s going to matter if the “Bernie or bust” folks get their way. If they do, the only thing Sanders will be remembered as is the candidate who weakened Hillary Clinton during the 2016 primary and built a movement that ultimately did nothing but help elect Donald Trump to the White House.

And if that happens, Bernie Sanders won’t be remembered as the revolutionary who helped change nearly everything within the Democratic party – which is the legacy he has now and deserves – he’ll be remembered as 2016’s Ralph Nader.

Don’t take this as me trying to “guilt” Sanders voters into supporting Clinton – though I’m sure that’s what some reading this will accuse me of trying to do. People are free to do whatever they like. All I’m outlining here is a reality that will happen if Trump wins and it’s determined that this “Bernie or bust” movement helped him get the victory. Reject that if you want, tell me I’m full of it and nothing but a “shill for Hillary” (because I’m sure that’s coming – just go read the comment section), but I’m telling you all that’s exactly how history will look back on 2016 and Bernie Sanders if these “Bernie or bust” folks get their way.

It would be a damn disgrace to throw away everything Bernie Sanders has fought for this year and throughout his career. No matter what he’s said or done throughout the campaign, Sanders has said repeatedly that his number one goal is to make damn sure the Republican party doesn’t win the White House.

But if you don’t believe me, here’s a direct quote from Bernie Sanders himself:

“I think Hillary Clinton and I agree on this, that we will do everything we can to make sure that a Republican does not win the White House, and I will knock my brains out. I will work seven days a week to make sure that that does not happen if I am the nominee and if I am not the nominee. That’s what I will do.” (Emphasis added by me)

Again, those are his words, not mine.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.


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