Reaching Out to Bernie Supporters: A Primer

Now that the Democratic National Convention is over and Hillary Clinton has officially accepted the party’s nomination, millions of people are celebrating the historic event. But not everyone is #WithHer. There are millions more people who still #FeelTheBern and are feeling rather burned by actual proof that the DNC never treated Bernie Sanders fairly. (First tip: Don’t argue this point with Bernie supporters. Even Harry Reid admits this is true. If you’re short on time, scroll down and scan the numbered list for more tips, but I hope you’ll read the whole thing.)

DNC Protest - Photo by Michael Flanagan

Photo of Bernie Sanders supporters at the DNCC by Michael Flanagan

And yet there has been a mass shaming of Bernie supporters who can’t feel excited about Hillary’s nomination. We’ve been called – and I’m pulling all of these phrases from people I’d chosen to follow on Facebook and Twitter because they were supposed to be my friends – sore losers, rowdy frat boys, delusional, crybabies, spoiled brats, uninformed, ridiculous, whiners…I could go on, but I really don’t want to. It’s been eye-opening to see how arrogance and condescension can change someone you thought you knew into one of the people you start to feel harassed by. They may not mention you by name, but you know they’re talking about people like you in a completely insulting manner.

Some people claim we should have “gotten over it” by now because we’ve had since June 7 to process it, but these people don’t understand just how much Bernie supporters had their hearts and souls behind this man and everything he stands for. Admittedly, some people legitimately didn’t understand how the nomination process works, and they thought there was a chance that the roll call vote could tip to Bernie’s favor at convention. Before you start thinking of these people as stupid, remember that most people aren’t as politically informed as our readers here are. Even those of us who did know understand how the nomination process worked, we held out a shred of hope for the slim chance that Hillary might be forced to drop out of the race. Some people believed she should have dropped out after the FBI findings were revealed, indictment or not. More people believed she should have dropped out after the #DNCleaks began to be revealed. Again, arguing this point will get you nowhere.

There is a spectrum of Bernie supporters, but if you decide to be reductive, you’re going to push even the most reasonable people away. I consider myself a reasonable person, and I have resigned myself to voting for Hillary despite my deeply held issues with her, but make no mistake – I am still a Bernie Sanders supporter. I’m just following his lead.

Rules for Productive Interactions with Bernie Supporters

  1. Stop pointing out how much of a disaster Donald Trump is. Most of us are perfectly aware of the dangers of a Trump presidency. We don’t want reasons why Donald Trump can’t win; we want reasons why Hillary Clinton should win. But also be aware that your “pros” may be our “cons.”
  2. Stop referring to any criticism of Hillary as “sexist” or a “right wing talking point.” Many of us have completely legitimate reasons to criticize Hillary. Most of us know that Benghazi was a manufactured scandal whose blame really lies on Congress’s failure to adequately fund embassy security, among other things. Some of us have voted for her in the past and changed our opinions in recent years after looking more closely at her record. Again, your pros may be our cons. That does not make us sexist or brainwashed by the GOP. We just have different priorities and perspectives.
  3. Understand that we are grieving a real loss. You know how proud you felt when you witnessed Hillary accepting the nomination, because it was the culmination of everything you’ve been hoping for over the last year? Think about having all of your hopes and dreams sucked out of your very soul instead, and that happening only days after learning that the people with the power did absolutely everything they could to ensure your dreams were crushed. And you’re being told that you aren’t allowed to talk about it, to mourn, to express your sadness, to express your anger, to just “get over it” and get behind a woman you don’t like and don’t trust. Which leads me to the next point…
  4. Understand that many of us will never like or trust Hillary. You may not care about Hillary’s Wall Street ties, but millions of people do. You may not think it was a big deal that Hillary’s surrogates told us we weren’t “real feminists,” that we were going to hell, or we were just following Bernie because that’s where the boys were…but that was highly offensive to many of us. And it’s not something we can forgive or forget. You cannot make us like Hillary or trust her. Many of us who have already decided we will vote for her are going to spend a great deal of time and energy calling her out on what we perceive as her shortcomings, to “hold her feet to the fire” to ensure that the compromises she and Bernie negotiated are more than worthless words on paper. We are going to hold her accountable to ensure she follows through, that she doesn’t try to block or undermine the platform changes we won. If we’ve admitted that we’re voting for her, don’t chastise us for trying to keep her honest.
  5. Remember that there is a great privilege divide that initially separated the two campaigns. Socioeconomic status is a primary source of conflict between Hillary supporters and Bernie supporters. Things like #FightFor15 and single-payer healthcare are not merely academic issues for us; a lot of these ambitious progressive goals may literally be life or death in the next 4-8 years for us or for someone we love. But socioeconomic status isn’t the only demographic difference. There is a real concern about intersectionality that requires more than a handful of people from a minority group used as stage dressing during the convention. (That’s going to be a separate post.)
  6. Acknowledge that Bernie and his supporters got a raw deal. Especially if you ever accused us of being conspiracy theorists. Or naive. Or any other form of denigration. Apologies would go really far. I’m hoping some of my friendships can be mended, but I need some people to admit they were unfair in their judgment of us, in their accusations laid against Bernie supporters in general, in buying the manufactured media narrative about Bernie supporters and holding it against us.
  7. People need time. We’ve got all of August, September, and October for Bernie supporters to wrap their heads around political reality. The newly politically active among us may take longer to weigh our idealism with our pragmatism. Preaching the Gospel of Hillary can wait. And honestly? Most people will come around on their own, and many bristle at being told who they “should” vote for, no matter how awful the Republican nominee may be.
  8. Not everyone can be convinced. And yet…there are those who will not be swayed from their #NeverHillary stance. Those who vote for Trump in protest are those who can never be “converted,” as they were supporting Bernie more as a rejection of the Establishment and less for his message of love and lifting everyone up. I will never understand them, and you shouldn’t try to. Others will vote for a third party candidate or write-in Bernie’s name. While it’s not what I would do, it is not for me to judge them for it. I’m angry, too: at the DNC, at DWS, at the members of the media who were complicit in ensuring Hillary’s coronation. Some people feel like voting for Hillary, no matter how pragmatic, would be rewarding the DNC for being corrupt. I’m not convinced they’re wrong about that, but I’m trying to keep my eyes on the bigger picture.

Remember that no one owes their vote to any given candidate, no matter who they’re running against. Voting is voluntary, and every vote must be earned. And it’s not just Democrats heading to the voting booth in November. While some of the tips I’ve given may sound “harsh” or “entitled” to you, it’s reality. I’m telling you from what I’ve felt in my heart, what I’ve heard from various Bernie communities online, and what I’ve been told by Bernie supporters in real life, by protesters, by other attendees at the DNC, and by actual Bernie delegates themselves. Work with us where we are, not where you want us to be.

Author: Christina Gleason

Christina Gleason is a professional copywriter, editor, and blogger. She is also a Corporate Neurodiversity Consultant, offering video courses and consulting to businesses who employ people with autism and other neurodivergent conditions. Her personal blog can be found at WELL, in THIS House.

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  1. I would add that it’s important to say on which specific new positions Hillary supporters will hold her accountable and call on Bernie voters to support their efforts. For many Benie voters it was never just about this election, it was about continued engagement. Getting Hillary elected is not the most compelling motivator for Bernie Supporters.

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  2. I am 64 and I have never encountered a candidate who was perfect. Even Bernie, especially on education. I supported him as long as I could. Now I move to plan B.
    Staying home and moping is not an option. Demanding that Hillary become Bernie ain’t-a-gonna happen. So I will swallow hard, go in and vote for Hillary. And yes, the primal reason is that she is not Trump.
    Because I do demand sanity in my candidates. Let’s all suck it up and move on. What say?

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  3. Jill is closer to Bernie than Hillbot and look at the polls she is not far behind. I love Bernie but if we cannot have him as a president’s then let’s not vote for a person that stole the votes from Bernie. Let’s make US a better place for all and Hillbots are not the answer.

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  4. This is one of the biggest sacks of shit I have read in a long time! How about this, Hillary and the DNC are lying cheats that stole this elecetion. They have lied to everybody event our service men and women. These sleazy corrupt sum bags are traitors to all the peole that have fought and died for this country. It is outrageous that there are people stupid enough to vote for this FBI investigated, corrupt, lying, wall street POS. People that vote for this thing should have to wear a botton, so every time she is involved in a scandal, we can dump a sack of shit over their head. Her supporters should also have to drink the water polluted by her 100% pro Franking polices.#HillarySucks #NerverHillary!!!

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  5. There is really nothing anyone can say to me to persuade me to vote for Hillary. Nothing has changed. The DNC leaks are still out there and prove what we have been saying for months, something was not right with the primaries. She still lied, cheated and conspired with the DNC ans MSM to steal this election. SHe still flip flops her positions and never really answers a question without loading her answer with multiple only ifs. People still dont trust her, she has low favorablility numbers and poll numbers even though she has spent millions on tv ads in all swing ststaes while Trump has spent little. All of her super delegates know how corrupt she is and voted for her anyway. In my opinion voting for her is equal to approving of what she, the DNC and the MSm has done. I can not do that becasue for me nothing has changed.

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  6. I voted for the Honorable Dr. Cynthia McKinney in 2008, Dr. Jill Stein in 2012, and will vote for Dr. Stein again in this upcoming election. I support feminism, not imperialism and neoliberalism.

    Had the Democrats managed to nominate Senator Sanders, I would have settled on voting for him. Instead they’re proferring another right-of-center, hyper-violent, nativist, genteel racist as an alternative to the far worse GOP candidate. Neither Trump, nor Clinton could ever earn my vote—the former for what they say, the latter for what they have done.

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  7. In other words – if you really want to win over Sanders supporters You might contemplate one little word:
    — Respect!

    If you do not treat us with that then you will not get it back.

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  8. Do not follow Bernie’s lead here…as he stated several times during his campaign…
    To ignore him if he ever tells us who to vote for.

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  9. In terms of “holding Clinton’s feet to the fire”, my question is “how do we do that”? From her rigging of the primaries, it’s obvious that ethics or laws have no effect on her. So are we supposed to offer her a couple of million per issue that we want her to follow through on? Also, you do realize that Clinton is neither a “liberal” nor a “progressive”, so we would be fighting just to pull her back to the center from the right. Clinton needs to apologize for her part in rigging the primaries and there needs to accountability, otherwise, why vote if the system is rigged?

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  10. #3 – you assume Hillary supporters really poured their hearts and soul into her nomination. They didn’t.

    If you look at the reason they shame up and the headlines, you pointed part of it out – she’s female. This isn’t being sexist, it’s being realistic. Many Hillary fans had no emotional attachment to her as a person, they just looked at her gender/sex.

    It’s understandable they’re happy over that, but they are not nearly as involved in anything else about her as us Bernie supporters are, were or will be. Just like Obama did with the Black community, you’ll probably see a lot of that same guilt and scorn start crossing over into Hillary voters in a few years if she wins in November, as her true colors and policies play more of a role than her gender.

    BTW How in the hell can you possibly vote for that evil, incompetent, sadistic, lying, double crossing bitch? (or if you like, I can use “asshole” if the bitch word is too gender biased for Hillary fans?)

    You mention every reason in the world to not vote for her, after you admit that you will vote for her. This is akin to getting lectured about drug use by a drug addict snorting a line of coke.

    You’re not obligated to vote for one of two parties if the other party has just as much opposition as yours. People on the Republican side hate Trump maybe even more than we hate Hillary. This is the once in a lifetime election where 3rd parties are primed to take over, but people are too afraid of the smoke and mirrors game the other side is playing.

    An advantage of being an Independent – I subscribe to cross-platform ideas. I can agree with Republicans some times as well as Democrats, despite being staunchly Liberal. It also means I actually listen to their end of the spectrum and know for a fact that Trump infuriates the majority of them to the point where they’ll stay home or vote for a Libertarian. These are the same people who also liked Sanders, may have even voted for him come November in a non-Clinton rigged process.

    There’s no good reason to vote for Clinton and if you use the “Jill Stein (or whichever candidate you prefer) has no chnace.” argument, you’re using the EXACT SAME ARGUMENT THE DEMOCRATS USED AGAINST SANDERS a year ago.

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  11. I can’t wait to read your post about using minorities as stage dressing.

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