I’m American. I live outside of the US. Believe me when I say that I feel your pain and fear at the prospect of a Trump presidency. Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen an increasing groundswell in my social media feeds of non-US progressives calling for Bernie Sanders to do the right thing, drop out of the race, and support Hillary Clinton. Staying in the race until the convention, the conventional wisdom goes, will only split the Democratic party and ultimately benefit Trump. So…Sanders should do his duty to both party and country and capitulate.
I’ll be blunt: that’s big talk from those who live in countries where citizens are offered the opportunity to vote for progressive and/or leftist candidates on a regular basis.
Would the same global progressives who critique Sanders be quite so critical if the situation in the US were mirrored in their own countries? If they were, election after election, denied the opportunity to vote for a candidate that came even close to representing their own ideological position? If they were presented with only two (corporately-owned) candidates every four years, both of whom would be considered politically right and center-right in virtually every other democracy in the world? Then, when a candidate finally came along, would they want that candidate to drop out of the race (even before technically eliminated) in order to benefit a competitor they do not favor?
I doubt it.
Sanders can be painted as stubborn and selfish for not formally conceding to Clinton, but it is worth considering the possibility that this stubbornness is an understandable response to political and media machinery in the US that has systematically worked against progressive candidates like Sanders. And, let’s not pretend that the Democratic party itself isn’t part of that problem. For many US progressives, watching Sanders going all the way to the Democratic convention will be symbolically important. Yes, Obama has now come out and supported Clinton (and Sanders has all but conceded), but the Sanders campaign has at least shaken a Democratic party increasingly disconnected from the progressive worldview it purports to represent.
Sanders is a response to an uncomfortable rightward Democrat drift crystallized for many in the form of Hillary Clinton. As awful as the notion of President Trump may be (and it is truly horrific), it should not blind us to the fact that progressives in the US deserve viable candidates who, win or lose, will go the distance and challenge political orthodoxy.
For those progressives outside the US who are able to vote their conscience on election day, that is a fact worth remembering.