Last week marked the unofficial end of the rivalry between Hillary Rodham Clinton and that ever cantankerous Senator Sanders. In a speech delivered before the people of New Hampshire, who voted in his favour, he addressed the question of his movement’s future and where his loyalty lay. I watched this as it streamed live on Facebook, torn between the body language of the two figures at the podium and the incoming flood of knee-jerk reactions from half-wits and the odd informed. Many complimented this change in tone; it had after all been a long and arduous primary season. Others lamented however Bernie’s decision to stand by the Devil and surrender everything he had ever stood for. And that’s where we stop because (and I’ll put this plainly), Bernie didn’t sell out. Here’s why:
- He won on the issues- if you listened to Clinton’s speech, which directly followed Sanders’ endorsement, you will have noticed how clever SNL were with their skit on Clinton becoming more and more Sanders’ like (to the point where Kate McKinnon ended up with a bald cap). At first, I gave her the benefit of the doubt on the assumption that she just isn’t as conservative as the uber-liberals have suggested. When it came to Wall Street however and her bargaining plea to overturn Citizen’s United, it became clear that she was taking note of the issues that prevailed in the debates, brought about because of Sanders’ longstanding rhetoric. She delved into college fees and global warming too, which made for a nice combination, leading me to believe that she has moved far more to the left than even the most hawkish of critics could have guessed.
- It’s not just about the Presidency- Sanders’ movement and the rise of the Left cannot solely rely on an office tampered with more than ever. It needs to endure beyond one or two terms into a progressive model by which the future of the Democratic Party can be shaped. Yes, Hillary has, in many senses, won the battle but the future could be Sanders, so long as the issues on which he based his candidacy, continue to resonate. As mentioned above, I think they already have to the point that Hillary can’t afford to ignore them. As well as that however, he can also serve as a highly influential figure outside of the White House. Who, for example, had more of an effect on American culture in the 1960s than Martin Luther King? Has Jimmy Carter not accomplished some of his best work out of office? The presidency is a convenient altar, through which many channels, from foreign aid to educational reform, can be distributed but as Bill Clinton himself has noted, it’s also prey to circumstances beyond a president’s control (e.g. 9/11).
- Trump must be defeated- I’ll admit that this is not my favourite argument as I do not believe elections should be contested on the basis of fighting against, rather than for something. It is an important one though and whether it depresses you or not, voting for the lesser of two so-called evils is still worthwhile. Bernie’s candidacy, has gone as far it needs to, in my opinion. With the Democratic National Convention coming up, it has become clear that his issues and supporters will not simply be sidelined but incorporated into the party’s agenda for the coming years. For now, he needs to ensure, if his own visions are to be realised though, that this party does as well as it can come November. Otherwise, the country will head in the exact opposite direction with Trump.
- Listen to the speech again- Sanders didn’t have to necessarily endorse Clinton but it was the responsible thing to do; what purpose would their rivalry have served after all? Not enough to sway you? Listen to the speech again then and tell me where exactly he abandons the principles on which he built his campaign? Still not enough? Take a trip through his YouTube interviews and go back to a year ago when he expressed his admiration for Hillary Clinton whilst acknowledging their differences of opinions. Granted, the race heated up and nostrils flared during the primary season but the gulf in rhetoric that existed between their camps, was never as deep as many of Sanders’ less reasonable supporters suggested. He fought a good battle and we can only admire him for what he did but that battle is over now and at some point, you have to concede and look to the positives.
It’s undoubtedly sad to see Bernie leave the race; he shook things up and set the country’s vision towards a better tomorrow, in a manner we just couldn’t have expected over a year ago with the “inevitable” Clinton candidacy. His role however in this race will at least go down in the history books and his role to come will remain that of an inspiring spokesman for a disenfranchised generation.