The internet is ablaze today. Sanders has announced that he is suspending his presidential campaign; this has turned many a comment threads into steaming piles of vile nonsense. It hurts to see, I think for any of us.
Unless, of course, you are (somehow still) a Donald Trump supporter. Then this is all plays out as a symphony to your ears, a Hans Zimmer arrangement called “Facts Be Damned”, or something. Regardless, this article isn’t for you: enjoy the victory of the day.
I am, what appears to be, a rare breed. I have been following Senator Sanders nearly since I immigrated to this country 14 years ago. I am a big a fan of him as one can get, and I lie to the left of him on the political spectrum. (This will confuse many, but that means that I am a capitalist, though just barely, and less so with every passing year capitalism fails to serve the vast majority of people it presides over).
I think Joe Biden is, in a word, t̶r̶a̶s̶h unelectable. I think there’s a credible allegation that lay against him, albeit somewhere between assault and rape, and I think the dismissal of such is a disaster for the #MeToo movement, which now sees its actors retreat from their “trust women” position to deafening silence.
I think most every policy he has is just more of the failed neoliberalism that has all but stagnated the middle class and destroyed the working class support for the Democratic party. And I think that, unlike with Hillary Clinton where you could draw some lines to show she may lie just left of center, I don’t see anything on Biden’s platform that resembles anything of a “leftist” agenda. He looks and feels a lot like Ronald Reagan.
And on November 3, 2020, I will vote for that man.
It is wildly unclear how many are in my position. The Democratic party hopes it’s a lot — more than the Clinton attempt. The internet — and my own feelings, a vote for Clinton coming more easily than one for Biden — tells me that I am a more rare specie.
But if we are to defeat Donald Trump this November, then it will be required that some number of Sanders supporters cross the aisle. (I know what that term means; the aisle between progressives and establishment Democrats is exponentially wider than the aisle between Democrats and the Republican party.)
And it is required. As much as you may hate the “Bernie Bro”, you need them, at least some of them. So instead of hurling threats and promises at each other, let’s all agree on a few things.
Small agreements pave the way to larger reconciliations. Just try to be heard.
First, they don’t owe their vote to anyone, or anything. And no, if they don’t “fall in line”, that doesn’t mean they want or are responsible for a Donald Trump victory. It is up to any candidate to present a value set, policy and agendas that align closely enough to the majority of voters. This is an imperfect system, surely, but it’s the best we’ve got. If someone feels that Biden does not represent them enough, that’s okay. They’re allowed to feel that way — and that doesn’t make them a Trump supporter, knowingly or otherwise.
Second, they are not responsible for Clinton losing, nor will they be responsible if Biden loses. This is really just a different take on the first point, but it’s important enough to say twice: a vote is not owed. Casting blame — especially before an election — is not a good look, and sure to win over few minds.
That said, let’s jump in and see how we can best round up some votes.
DO: Ignore the Assertions They’ll Never Vote for Biden
Especially in these next weeks, with tensions high from both a pandemic and yet another disappointing primary performance from our political hero, allow plenty of space for Sanders supporters to be upset. It’s a lot to take. If you’re not a Sanders supporter, its unlikely you realize the magnitude of the loss that we feel on days he does not prevail; because we believe that the Democratic party is broken, relying too much on neoliberalism than actual populist, progressive ideas (which are hardly radical), Sanders strikes us as one of the few within Washington D.C. that are truly with us. In many ways, save for collapse or revolution (or both), many of us feel that Sanders is our only hope, that any other Democratic nominee serves to merely slow the bleeding of America, well short of healing her wounds.
So be patient, and be kind.
What’s the sense in challenging a “#NeverBiden” person anyhow? If they are that adamant, and all you have is to resort into panic, doomsday threatening, name calling, vile ultimatums (“Is that what you want?!”), do you really think that will sway that person, that day? Of course not. If will only further entrench them in their position. It will only serve as another drop in the “establishment Democrats are also my enemy” ocean.
Be the bigger person, and be willing to walk away. If you can’t win today, don’t ruin tomorrow’s chances.
DON’T: Threaten Them
They don’t owe anyone their vote. It’s not their ‘fault’ if Donald Trump gets reelected because they voted for someone else (or not at all). And threats are a terrible way, psychologically speaking, to change minds. Change should be facilitated, not demanded.
Think back to your favorite, and least favorite teachers. I’d bet there’s a high correlation between those that laid out bread crumbs for you to enjoy the journey of your own conclusions, and who your favorite teachers were. Just as the ones that were rigid and demanding correlate to those that you despised. Follow up: which do you think you learned more from?
Don’t be Ms. Birkhelm shouting at a student to think like her; be a Mr. Milkovich that gently steered free minds to sound conclusions. Breadcrumbs, not demands.
DO: Draw Differences
It doesn’t take much looking or thinking to find differences between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. That’s part of what frustrates those in the Democratic camp (How can you not see how much worse this is?). And I actually agree here — even with my leftist leanings, willing to abandon nearly all that is neoliberalism — I think that Trump is a far different monster, and one worth combating.
I often used an analogy when trying to court Sanders supporters for Clinton. Standing on Earth, it’s easy to look out at two stars and conclude they are pretty close together. It’s also very likely that those two stars are exponentially further apart than the Earth and the closest star.
Sanders is miles from Joe Biden, on just about every issue. For someone that supports Sanders — especially those just entering the political conversation — it’s hard to tell that Biden and Trump are actually vastly different, because their differences are not as clear as someone who just knows Sanders.
So softly draw out the differences between Trump and Biden. While I don’t aim to insert my values as anyone else’s, I can tell you a good start would be the Supreme Court, with Ginsburg and Breyer both likely to retire in the next 4 years. The environment is another topic where, despite Sanders being much stronger, Trump appears committed to destruction, while Biden appears ready to “hold the line”. (A fair observation: climatologists sternly warn that ‘holding the line’ for much longer will result in ruin.)
Right now, the entire establishment feels like the enemy. Softly remind them there are important differences.
DON’T: Try to Change Minds
If the goal when starting an interaction with someone that’s bearish on Biden is to get them to commit to a vote, you’re going to be disappointed, and susceptible to lashing out in frustration. A vote is not a worthless commoddity, it is 100% of our voice in democracy. The idea that one could change their vote in a brief internet exchange should be absurd enough on the surface, so the demand that it must change their mind is preposterous, and they’re right to reject it as such.
Once you shift your goal from trying to change a mind to simply being heard, you’ll have a higher success at both. By not fearing the deflation of defeat, you’ll better be able to score little points that, hopeful, stick with that person.
Use an old sales tactic: get a yes out of them. Once you’ve facilitated a calm exchange, ask a very simple question to get an affirmative action. Do it lightheartedly, with some personality and as friends would. “I mean, I think we can both admit that Sotomayor is a hell of a better justice than Kavanaugh, yeah?”
Small agreements pave the way to larger reconciliations. Just try to be heard.
DO: Encourage Them To Vote, No Matter What
Even if you find yourself at an impasse with a #NeverBiden voter, gently ask them to commit to one thing: participating in democracy. They, after all, lie to the left of both options, and should then apply pressure down the ballot that could help us both in this cycle, and for years to come, as we hopefully take control over all branches of government.
By getting them to the polls, we keep them in the every shrinking part of the population that votes. And that’s powerful, in a country that has such terrible turnout rates. We have to, collectively, #MakeVotingGreatAgain, and if we can do that by encouraging those who are nearly disenfranchised with it all to get out there, hopefully they’ll tell one or two others to join them.
And who knows, maybe if these next 7 months they are treated with respect, consideration, and not dismissed, maybe in the quiet privacy of that voting booth, those breadcrumbs will lead to a tick in the best box to defeat Donald Trump.