A Fractured Left

After Hillary Clinton’s double digit win in New York last night, the path for Bernie Sanders to win the Democratic nomination for president is impossible. The delegates aren’t there for him. Even more so, Clinton is ahead of him by double digits in a number of the states that vote next Tuesday, including delegate-rich Pennsylvania. I will state for the record that I have always liked Bernie Sanders. He has been preaching about money in politics for years. That said, I have been appalled by what I have seen on social media, especially after Clinton’s victory last night. The Democratic primary has turned into name calling and growing divide between Clinton and Bernie supporters. Some of his supporters feel as though she has not won any of the races legitimately, as though there is some big DNC conspiracy to ensure she’s the nominee. Meanwhile, I have seen some of his supporters declare that they will vote for Trump or Cruz because they can’t stomach voting for Clinton in the fall. This especially boggles my mind. Hillary never would have been my first choice for the Democratic nominee. That said, the Democratic bench was never going to be that deep because in the last few mid-term elections, Dems got obliterated, thus they don’t have a farm league at the state or national levels to groom into major presidential contenders, unlike the GOP, who controls majority of state legislatures, the House, and the Senate. With that said, there is a major difference between Hillary and Trump and Cruz. On women’s issues, Hillary has always been pro-choice and a supporter of equal pay. She is also more liberal on immigration than Obama. In addition, she favors a major raise in the minimum wage, to at least $12. Trump, meanwhile, runs around the country talking about a wall, banning Muslims, and punishing women for having an abortion. Cruz is even more extreme. So while Hillary may not be my first pick, I understand that the differences between she and whomever the GOP nominee will be, most likely Trump, are quite stark.

My fear right now is that this election, on the Democratic side, is going to be a redux of 1968 or 1980, when the party was so fractured that it handed the White House to the GOP. Recent polling shows that between 25-35 percent of Bernie supporters state that they won’t back Hillary Clinton if she is the nominee. Now, I will point out that in the heat of the 2008 primary between Obama and Clinton, polling showed that about half of her supporters said that they would not support him if he won the nomination. Ultimately, the party came together. However, this feels… different. Some Bernie supporters feel as though Clinton is everything wrong with the system, everything Bernie has been railing against. To them, she represents big money in politics, someone who can be bought and sold and changes positions when it is best for her to do so.

I also question if Bernie supporters will back her because some of them have no loyalties to the Democratic Party. Their man is not even a Democrat. He was always registered independent in Congress, called himself a Democratic Socialist, but caucused with the Democrats. During this campaign cycle, meanwhile, he hasn’t done much for Democrats down ballot, even though the “revolution” he speaks of would only be possible with a Congress far, far more progressive than its current make-up.

In 1968, at the height of Vietnam, the Democratic Party was split in SO many different ways. Eugene McCarthy, a socialist, ran. Bobby Kennedy ran, and establishment candidate Hubert Humphrey ran and ultimately won the nomination after Bobby Kennedy was gunned down. Humphrey ultimately lost the race to Richard Nixon, but it was one of the closest elections in our country’s history. Nixon ran on a platform of law and order and ending the Vietnam War, even though he escalated it once in power. However, after major riots, blood shed, and heads cracked with billy cubs at the Democratic Convention that summer, it’s no surprise Nixon won. The country yearned for some type of stability after a turbulent decade and an especially turbulent year. It also didn’t help that the Dem party was split so much, between three candidates initially and then two after Bobby was gunned down. In 1980, meanwhile, Ted Kennedy challenged Jimmy Carter in a primary and seriously hobbled him in the general election. As a result, Ronald Reagan was elected.

I would like to see the Bernie people get seriously engaged, long-term in the process. That means voting for Hilary if she is the nominee, but keeping pressure on her to pull her to the left and propose progressive solutions to get money out of politics, create a more stable Middle East, and create more economic equality, ideas that are central to Bernie’s campaign and his supporters. In addition, I want to see his supporters get active in grassroots activism, such as unionism and the fight for $15 campaign. I want to see them more beyond presidential politics and work to seriously remake the Democratic Party in the image of FDR, Bobby Kennedy, LBJ, and some of its other leaders of the past. That also requires working for down ballot candidates and reshaping Congress.

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About Brian Fanelli

I'm a poet, teacher, music junkie and much more. My first chapbook of poems, Front Man, was published in 2010 by Big Table Publishing. My full-length book of poems, All That Remains, was published in 2013 by Unbound Content. My latest book, Waiting for the Dead to Speak, was published in the fall of 2016 by NYQ Books. My work has also been published by The Los Angeles Times, World Literature Today, Harpur Palate, Boston Literary Magazine, Kentucky Review, Verse Daily, Spillway, Portland Review, and several other publications. My poetry has also been featured on "The Writer's Almanac" with Garrison Keillor. Currently, I teach English full-time at Lackawanna College.
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