Senator Bernie Sanders at Ventura College, 2016. Photo credit: Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

In 2000, I was a member of the Green Party and working for its presidential candidate, Ralph Nader. A twenty-something living in San Francisco, I took the bus every day to the Green Party’s campaign office in the city’s Mission District. It was a cavernous, dusty old store-front with political posters decorating its windows and an open front door that encouraged passersby to drop in.

We were a rag-tag group of volunteers: retirees, students, people barely making it economically, techies, and some trust-fund kids. We all were exhilarated by Nader’s message that our political system was corrupt, and that the Democrats were clearly sell-outs to progressive values after eight years of Bill Clinton. Voting for Nader and the Green Party was the way to change the political system.

I was at the headquarters on election night. It was a celebration. But, I felt unease in my stomach when a volunteer came over and hugged me, saying, “Yay, Al Gore lost!” Was this really a good thing? Was there really no difference between Gore and George W. Bush, as I’d heard repeated over and over? 

By 2004, I realized there were significant differences between Al Gore and George W. Bush. Gore wouldn’t have led us into a war in Iraq based on doctored maps and flagrant lies. Gore wouldn’t have rolled out an energy policy that was informed by the oil and gas industries, and he wouldn’t have withdrawn the United States from the Kyoto Protocol. He wouldn’t have established Guantanamo or appointed conservative justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. 

Though I still believed in much of the Green Party’s political platform, I knew that I needed to do my part to defeat Bush. I started a national campaign group called Greens for Kerry. Along with two friends, and in coalition with other Greens nationwide, we successfully worked non-stop for seven months to encourage Green party members in swing states to support John Kerry, and for the Green Party presidential candidate not to campaign in swing states.

Over the years, I started to feel distance from Green party members who seemed to regard their party leaders as messianic figures who could do no wrong. By re-registering as a Democrat, I could use my vote to support progressive candidates and policies while also working within the confines of our problematic two-party dominant system. I voted for Obama twice, and felt ambivalent about his two terms in office — satisfied with some domestic legislative victories, disappointed with some of his foreign policy positions.

In this election, I hear from some Bernie Sanders supporters echoes of the kind of language we Green party members used in 2000. Biden today like Al Gore then: a feeble vessel of a corrupt system. He will backtrack on any progressive promises he makes. It doesn’t matter if his opponent wins. Our job is to change the system, not shore it up.

Bernie Sanders created a movement that has given a powerful voice to millions of people in a political system that is overrun by corporate interests. He has pushed Joe Biden and other moderate leaders in the Democratic party to adopt some of his policy positions. He has also clearly articulated that a political revolution does not occur in one election. 

Our democracy was designed to make the legislative process a tedious one that forces moderation and compromise. Political change happens slowly. Even if Sanders had become president, he couldn’t possibly have achieved all the aims of his “revolution” in four years — or even eight. 

Does Joe Biden have flaws? Absolutely. No candidate is perfect: They’re politicians, not prophets. But Joe Biden is not a racist, xenophobic, science-denier, anti-woman demagogue like Donald Trump. 

Progressives who refuse to vote for Joe Biden because he doesn’t fulfill their idealistic political visions should know that the stakes are too high. If you want to advance any social, economic, or environmental issues, then the choice is obvious. The progressive movement will have a voice and significant impact under President Joe Biden. There is zero chance of any political progress, and only more devastating rollbacks, if Trump is re-elected. I still am “green” — but I’m also proud to vote for Joe Biden this November.

Sarah Newman is a communications and social impact strategist in Washington, D.C.

12 thoughts on “A Letter to the Bernie-or-Bust People

  1. This is an excellent article that needs to be read by all Green Party or Bernie or bust supporters. Helpful points and reminder that our political system was designed to take time to change and it won’t necessarily happen in one term or by one candidate.

  2. I don’t remember who originally said
    ” if when 20 you are not a rebel you have no heart and if at 30 you are not a centrist you have no brain” but this commentary makes the point we need both heart i.e. caring and intelligence about how to accomplish our progressive goal- by supporting the most electable candidate in this instance Biden. WE CANNOT STANDBY. THIS ELECTION IS ABOUT THE FUTURE OF AMERICA-FASCIST,RACIST, MISOGYNIST, DANGEROUS OR FAIR, EQUITABLE WITH OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL. IF YOU CARE NOT ONLY VOTE FOR BIDEN BUT SUPPORT EVERY DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE AT EVERY LEVEL AND DO ALL THAT YOU CAN TO SEE THAT EVERY ELIGIBLE CITIZEN IS ABLE TO VOTE.

    Another relevant quote” it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”

    Please consider the merits of Sarah’s rationale. She is right.

  3. Great article. The biggest problem of the left is the lack of unity, with various righteous arguments to support it. In the end, these upcoming elections are crucial. And “real-politique” should guide everyone who wishes to defeat Trump.

  4. The rich buy elections with money spent on all sides of the political contentions if they volunteered as any citizens might their effect on Elections would be negligible as their power is based on capital: the working class poor etc donate more so time than money and difficult to divide as there are always winners and losers for every loser on the stock market there is a winner. But the question is win what for winning is like losing.

  5. Wonderful article. We are a country in crisis, our democracy is being threatened and it is crucial that Trump be defeated. We must all vote for Biden if we want to make America truly great again.

  6. Either I’m crazy or everyone suffers from crippling amnesia! Obama’s hope and change platform was a big fat lie. We handed them a majority in the house and the senate and they still botched healthcare, and don’t even get me started on how they handled the financial crisis.

    I too, kept my dem registration so I can vote for progressives in the primary but I have not voted for a Democrat in a general election since my first election in 2008 and there is no force on heaven or earth that would get me to throw my vote away on Joe Biden. This Pennsylvanian voted for Jill Stein in 2012 and 2016, and will be voting for Howie Hawkins this November, and will never vote for another Plutocrat ever again.

    One last note: “But Joe Biden is not a racist, xenophobic, science-denier, anti-woman demagogue like Donald Trump.” You literally just described EVERY REPUBLICAN!! That’s the problem with democrats! They don’t need to work or fight for tough issues when they can simply point across the aisle and say, “Well at least we’re not crazy.” Seriously? That’s how you’re going to excite voters? Good luck with that.

  7. “But Joe Biden is not a racist, xenophobic, science-denier, anti-woman demagogue like Donald Trump. ”

    I disagree. Joe Biden is ALL those things, if perhaps to a lesser degree.

    He is certainly racist, given his record on promoting segregation and his gushing eulogizing of Strom Thurmond and his palling around with other racists in the Senate, saying he understood them and he was proud to come from “a slave state”. And OF COURSE let’s not forget his crowning racist achievement, the 1994 Crime Bill that led to mass incarceration of POC and which he insisted be called “the Biden Bill”.

    As far as xenophobia is concerned, please remember that he and Obama were the ones that built the ICE detention cages that Trump is using, and Biden supported turning away unaccompanied refugees from Central America, and perhaps nothing could be more xenophobic than his support for wars and sanctions that killed millions of brown skinned people. And though many make excuses, Biden has made many, many casual xenophobic remarks over the years, like how you “have to have s slight Indian accent” in order to run a 7/11 store.

    Biden denies science every time he says that fracking is necessary as a “bridge” solution to global warming. He denies science every time he says that the Green New Deal is too expensive and too disruptive, because he still refuses to see the climate crisis as an existential threat to humanity. Biden also denies statistics, facts and cold hard data when it comes to things like Medicare For All. Like Trump, Biden chooses to deny science when he perceives that it is in his political interest to do so.

    And finally, let us not forget that Biden is on the record saying that a woman does not have the right to decide what happens to her body when she is pregnant. Let us also remember that Biden supports the Hyde Amendment TO THIS DAY, which means he opposes helping poor women control their bodies through Medicaid.

    In addition to the above, I would also point out that BOTH Biden and Trump are compulsive if not pathological liars – i.e., both lie constantly and even when they don’t have to. And both are sociopathic narcissists who must constantly self-aggrandize, and many of their lies are told simply to make themselves look better. In this I would argue that they are almost identical.

    It’s sort of like saying Hitler is bad so we must all support Mussolini. And I say we fight all fascists because they are fascists.

  8. Thank you, Sarah Newman, for saying explicitly what a lot of Naderites want to whitewash out of history: that the primary goal in 2000 was not to elect Nader, but to smash Gore (“crash the party”). Say that today and you are met with chants of “Nader myth! Nader myth!” But it’s true, and it is all there in Nader’s book, “Crashing the Party.” The theory, which has proved about as valid as it did in 1932-1933, when the German Communist Party was teaming up with the Nazis to try to destroy the Social Democrats, is that at the end of the day, the Left will wind up on top, and that it is necessary to take the long view. “Out of the mire grows the lotus,” as that keen political thinker Susan Sarandon said, after the election.

  9. A common misconception made by “Blue No Matter Who” advocates about Sanders supporters is that we consider Bernie as the only solution. We don’t.

    Contrary to the insulting suggestion in this letter that we regard Bernie as a “messianic figure who could do no wrong”, we were the first to criticize Bernie about his initial statements regarding the Venezuela election, “Russian interference”, and aid to Israel. He is a man who has flaws like any other person. Most of us agree with the policies he advances. He is a voice for achieving what we expect our government to provide, and that is why we support his candidacy for any office.

    Joe Biden does nothing for voters. He never has, and he has made clear that he never will. Many who refused to vote for the lesser-of-two-evils in 2016 did so as a strategic move. Entrenching bad politicians and allowing them to appoint more like them enforces a long-term systemic problem in our government. The DNC broke every promise it made to progressives in the Unity Reform Commission agreement. It’s been caught rigging caucuses and primaries this year, as well as orchestrating a smear campaign against progressive voters. Now it wants our support.

    Job Biden is a racist, a misogynist, a molester of women, a corporatist, a liar, a plagiarist, and a war monger. You cannot convince people otherwise when the evidence comes from the very words and deeds of the man himself. And no one has the right to demand that survivors of sexual assault accept the additional trauma of voting for a person who has been credibly accused of rape.

    Vote as you see fit, Sarah Newman. It’s your right. But vote-shaming progressives will not endear them to the DNC or to Biden. Many are actively campaigning for downballot progressives, including congressional candidates. Our government consists of more than the Executive Branch. It’s unfortunate that the leadership of our party refuses to represent the interests of the people.

  10. I’m in CA. The electoral college will vote Dem regardless who I vote for. I will not vote for either rapist. Period.

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