When I became a Bernie delegate to the Democratic National Convention, my candidate was behind though the race was not yet settled. I saw Bernie greeted with exuberant enthusiasm everywhere he went, while Hillary was greeted with nods and polite applause. Hillary had the powerful and well-oiled machine while Bernie had the energy and excitement.
I knew that if Hillary were to win, she would need to harness and redirect the energy and excitement of the Bernie supporters to win the general election. And if Bernie were to win, he would need the organizational and political skills of the Hillary supporters to win the general election.
Since the weeks leading up to the convention, the “theme” of my mission as a delegate was to find a way for everyone to go home happy. I started by asking local Hillary supporters, “What can Hillary do to make sure we Bernie supporters can go home happy?” After all, if Bernie were ahead, I would want to find a way for Hillary supporters to go home happy, as we would need their support in the general election.
My mother taught me to “treat others the way you would like to be treated.” On nearly every issue, the platform committee gave us what we want.* Nearly every speaker on the convention podium heaped praise upon Bernie Sanders, his campaign, and the issues we fought for. In reaching out to us for help and support in the general election, they acknowledged and even adopted HYUGE parts of our message to the country. I think it’s fair to say that (with a few exceptions) they treated us the way we’d like to be treated.
(* I know, the anti-TPP plank got rejected even though the vast majority of the party supports that position. Obama wants TPP, so he was spared the embarrassment of his party standing against him.)
So to the “Bernie or Bust” crowd: How about a bit of reciprocation? How about a gesture of Good Will? We got a lot from them, can’t we have the decency to say, “thank you”?
If we had won, how would we feel if the Hillary supporters booed every time Bernie’s name was mentioned from the podium? How would we feel if Hillary supporters stormed out of the arena once Bernie’s nomination was official? How would we feel if Hillary supporters vowed to fight against us in the general election? I don’t think we’d feel that that was supportive or helpful, and we’d wonder why people that agree with us on 90% of the issues are fighting against us.
Try this scenario: You have a neighbor who lets his cat run loose, and you have a problem with that. One day, your neighbor invites you to dinner at his house to discuss dealing with a hospital that wants to tear down half your neighborhood, an issue with which you and the neighbor are totally in sync. So when you sit down in your neighbor’s living room, do you work together to deal with the hospital, or do you scream in his face about his loose cat?
In my younger days, I traveled tens of thousands of miles as a hitchhiker. Sometimes I would find myself in a car with someone I completely despised, yet I had to find a way for the next few hundred miles to be a pleasant ride for both of us. So my strategy was to find things to talk about that we agreed on. In the process of working together on what we agree on, we develop lines of communication to respectfully discuss the things where we don’t agree.
In the course of these hours, I may not turn a conservative bigot into a rainbow-flag-waving progressive, but I will help him/her (usually a ‘him’) become a better person.
So we don’t agree with everything Hillary stands for. I get it. But we can work with the party on the things we do agree on, and in the process we have an opportunity to make progress on the rest. And we must press for this progress – politely from the inside and otherwise from the outside – before and after the election.