In order to sustain the momentum that Sanders has built for a political revolution, we have to continue to attract new people to the cause, regardless of the outcome of the primary and general elections. Should Sanders win, this will occur naturally as Clinton supporters grudgingly fall in behind him like the faithful party members they are. If he loses and Hillary goes on to win the general election, it will be much more difficult to convince Clintonites to join the effort. They are, after all, pretty much by definition willing to settle for whatever the party can give them. How else could they enthusiastically support someone who represents everything the other half of the party is revolting against?
They are also very angry that Sanders continues to use his campaign to criticize the party, which they see as irresponsible since it boosts chances of a Trump victory. As usual, supporters of the Democratic status quo want to blame those who refuse to go along for the results of their complacency.
It’s obvious that the division between Sanders supporters and Clinton backers is growing, even while the Democratic establishment is demanding that the party come together to prevent a Trump presidency. Clinton supporters are alarmed and angry that Bernie’s legions do not bow down defeated, or at least be grateful for a symbolic place at the table in July. After all, they would line up behind Sanders if he had beaten all odds and prevailed despite the systemic disadvantages he faced. They cannot understand how any Democrat could consider not voting for anyone with a D after her name if it meant keeping a Republican out of the White House.
Given this simplistic view of politics, Clintonites conclude that Sanders supporters are just being unreasonable. They attribute the anger they are seeing to youthful naïveté, misogyny, or the fact that Sanders continues to express anger at the Democratic status quo. Only the latter argument has any serious basis, but only a blind partisan would argue that criticizing what the party has become is a bad thing. In fact, their failure to acknowledge the validity of Sanders’ critique is the real source of his supporters’ anger.
If Clinton’s advocates cannot be made to understand the central importance of Sanders’ challenge to the corruption of the system, we must look elsewhere to build a movement that continues when the Sanders campaign ends. Should she prevail in November, it may actually be easier to recruit Trump followers to the cause than her supporters. Not being blinded by the corporate media spin on Wall Street’s darling, Trump’s fans may be more amenable than Clinton supporters to the idea of working together on issues on which most Americans agree. Trump and Sanders supporters already have in common that they both reject the Duopoly leadership. Both are increasingly aware that Duopoly politicians are subservient to interests other than our own. Given the positions Trump has taken, it is clear that his supporters are not as ideological as progressives typically assume Republicans to be. If we can learn to stop thinking in partisan terms, we can find common cause on many issues. In addition to mutual contempt for the Duopoly establishment, there is widespread nonpartisan agreement many critical issues that Trump and Sanders support and on which Clinton’s record is at odds with public opinion.
It’s time to abandon the assumption that politics is a battle between fundamentally opposing forces of the right, represented by Republicans, and a left represented by Democrats. This simplistic dichotomy is so deeply engrained in Clinton supporters that they cannot comprehend why Sanders and his supporters are challenging what the Democratic Party has become. Their identification with the party brand is so strong that many question whether an independent progressive like Sanders is a “real Democrat,” but fail to ask themselves how they define the term. They assume that any politician who calls herself one is, regardless of how much her neoliberal and neoconservative record resembles that of a typical Republican. For many such Democrats, the choice is not which candidate best represents them but whether that candidate can prevent the dreaded outcome of a Republican in the White House. They consider themselves on “the left” simply by virtue of party membership.
In contrast, Trump supporters do not identify with the Republican Party, even if most are members. Among them are many who might be persuaded to consider the Sanders message, if their candidate does not win and they face four to eight years of Clinton. Sure, some are just attracted by racism and many by his willingness to say whatever foolish thought crosses his mind, but many Trump enthusiasts like some of the good ideas he claims to support. Many of his positions echo those of Sanders: opposing free trade, ending policies of regime change, mandating a living wage, restoring civil liberties, having a more balanced relationship with Israel and most importantly, campaign finance reform. A great many people are impressed by the fact that Trump’s campaign is largely self-funded. True or not, they see this as evidence that he is not beholden to special interests. Those who think these issues are important are people who may be able to understand that “making America great again” has nothing to do with making it whiter and everything to do with ending corruption of government by special interests.
The average Trump booster may even be more ready for political revolution than some Sanders supporters. All of them firmly reject the Republican establishment, while many Sanders supporters are ready to vote for Clinton she wins the nomination, despite the fact that she stands for everything Sanders is fighting against. Those of us dedicated to bringing about political revolution know that it begins with challenging the corruption of the system. That starts by refusing to vote for any politician who is the clear choice of the same interests that back both Duopoly parties. Maverick status is another thing that Trump and Sanders share. If we stick to issues and not personalities, there is a chance that we can overcome the suspiciousness that the corporate media and politicians have deliberately created between us and work together toward the common goal of establishing representative government in the US.
It is the opposition to being led by politicians who put the interest of the economic elite over those of average Americans that should bind people from across the political spectrum in this common cause. When 80% of Americans have expressed opposition to Citizens United, it seems obvious that we should be able to work together to do something about it. That is exactly what the Sanders revolution is all about. If we want politicians to represent us, we have to stop applying ideological labels to ideas that can lead to solutions to problems that affect us all. “Conservative” and “liberal” should be relative terms, not absolutes. If we don’t allow others define what we are supposed to believe, we can find that consensus necessary for true representative government. If we can make it that far, we can then decide through the democratic process what kind of country we want to be.