Bernie Sanders
Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

“Just one more thing: you know, I’m just as fearful [as you are of] Donald Trump, but, you know, but when it comes to that, I’m not exactly sure I’m down with Hillary [Clinton]. I’m gonna sit this one out, I think. I’m really gonna sit this one out, I think.”

“Luis,” a Bernie Sanders supporter, to host Brad Friedman on the “BradCast” on KPFK-FM, Los Angeles, California, June 15, 2016

Can somebody please explain what was ever accomplished by not  voting?

Two weeks ago, I noted that it was a shame to see Bernie Sanders “fall into the same intellectual abyss that the progressive radio host Sam Seder fell into three years ago, during the special election to fill the seat left vacant by the passing of New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg–the intellectual abyss that prevents one from recognizing the moral difference between a imperfect Democrat and a dangerous Republican.” To his credit, Sanders is now trying to figure a way out of that abyss, but some of his supporters still aren’t bothering to do so.

Supposedly committed progressives who refuse to vote in the general election because they can’t get over Sanders’s failure to secure the Democratic nomination are morally indistinguishable from the conservatives (such as former Bush speechwriter Peter Wehner) who refuse to vote in the general election because they believe that Clinton and Trump are equally loathsome. Do Sanders supporters who say they will not vote in the general election really believe that the Vermont Senator was the victim of a conspiracy by the “Democratic establishment” to deny him the nomination? I don’t deny that Sanders was the recipient of unfair treatment by the mainstream press–a problem that would have only become worse in a general election–but the argument that the primary game was rigged against Sanders by the “Democratic establishment”  is dubious at best. Had Sanders and his advisers bothered to develop a strategy for appealing to voters of color, he would have defeated Clinton soundly in the primary.

Why, exactly, do these Sanders supporters plan to throw a non-voting hissy fit? Are these folks going to continue to pout and moan if Clinton wins on November 8 without their assistance? Do these people realize just how obnoxious and offensive they sound to people who don’t believe the Clinton-as-horrible-hack-and-corporate-comforter thesis? What’s the difference, in terms of logic and maturity, between the Sanders dead-enders and the folks who were bamboozled by Brexit?

It’s as though the folks who casually suggest that they will not vote because their preferred candidate will not be on the general-election ballot have forgotten about everyone who fought and in some cases died to secure the right for all Americans to vote. It is unconscionable to abandon this right out of spite.

Remember when right-wingers threw a fit over a radio ad the Missouri Democratic Party ran in the fall of 1998, warning of the problems that would occur if progressives, particularly progressives of color, chose not to vote? As the New York Times reported that year:

The Democrats have not been timid either. In Missouri, the state Democratic Party has begun running a radio commercial with a bald appeal to blacks: ”When you don’t vote, you let another church explode,” the narrator says. ‘”When you don’t vote, you allow another cross to burn. When you don’t vote, you let another assault [weapon] wound a brother or a sister. When you don’t vote, you let the Republicans continue to cut school lunches and Head Start.”

One wonders if the Clinton campaign will attempt to run a new version of this ad, this time aimed not at progressives of color but at the self-righteous Bernie-backers who think they’re too good to vote for anyone besides Sanders, who seem not to care about the vulnerable people who would be hurt under a Trump Administration, who have forgotten that progressives aren’t supposed to be elitists. Then again, the Clinton campaign probably won’t bother, reasoning that the folks who need to hear such an ad won’t be able to do so, since their heads are in a location where it’s hard to hear anything.

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D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.