A cheat sheet for those who find that they aren't getting anywhere using phrases like "Bernie Bro," "entitled," "sexist," "It's not about you," "naive," "grow up," "Nader voters," "preening asshole," "pasty-faced Jill Stein supporters," "Hillary's actually almost like Bernie," etc.
They say: I’m so psyched to vote for Hillary.
You say: Me too! Let’s get out the vote.
They say: I supported Bernie, but I’m good with Hillary too.
You say: Thank you! (full stop)
They say: I supported Bernie, and Clinton and the current Democratic Party don’t share my ideology or my priorities – but I’ll vote for Clinton over Trump.
You say: Thank you! (full stop)
They say: I fucking hate what the Democratic Party has become and seems determined to keep on being. Clinton’s actual record – not her resume – makes me puke. Sanders was the Democrats’ put-up-or-shut-up moment, and they squashed the progressive revolution like a bug. And now they want my vote. I swore I’d never get shamed into voting for them again... but I will vote for her in order to vote against Trump effectively. But Jesus Christ, do I wish I could register a protest vote instead.
You say: Thank you! I'm sorry about the cheating in the primaries. And, if Clinton is tanking or dominating in your state just ahead of election day, don’t hesitate to use that opportunity to record a protest vote for a third party. It won’t change the election, and you won’t feel dirty.
They say: There’s no way I’m voting for Clinton. I no longer see the Democratic Party as the lesser of two evils, and enabling them yet again is as irresponsible as voting for Trump. People like me have been making this same compromise for 40 years, being told every four years that it’s never been more important to give in and vote for the Democrat. And mostly we do vote for the Democrat.
You see where that’s gotten us. They’re now struggling to beat an insane maniac racist fascist idiot billionaire playboy TV celebrity – based largely on the fact that he says “You’ve been fucked by the establishment” to Americans who have in fact been fucked by the establishment. It took two parties to lead us to this place, and I’m not endorsing either one again. This election is basically proof of the two-parties/one-destination theory. It’s like the grim punchline to 40 years of neoliberal collusion with the Republicans.
You say: Thank you for all those votes for my party that you didn’t really want to cast. I can only imagine how hard that must be. Like it would be for me, if both parties wanted to ban abortion. I’d still feel like I had to vote for the one that shared some of my positions - but I’d throw up a little bit every time. And I can easily reel off a list of things the Democrats have actually done or not tried to do that go against my values and policy priorities.
I get it. But I honestly also think that Donald Trump isn’t even from that two-party/one-party problem you’re talking about. You said it yourself: The two parties created a situation where Trump could rise - and hijack one of the parties. He’s the nightmare baby of the situation you’ve described. The scales have been tipped so hard against the 99% for so long, in so many ways, that straight-up fascism is now taking root among the angry masses.
So, I ask you to consider voting against fascism and an obvious lunatic this year as the much greater of two evils. Trump is not the usual right-of-center Republican counterpart to the usual left-of-center Democrat. This isn't the usual battle between two parties you don't like. Racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, the vilification of Muslims - hate - are hallmarks of the Republican Party, but Trump has succeeded in making them great again - giving permission for them to pour out, to be acceptable, to be the explanation for why people are struggling to get by. If Bernie was the best possible manifestation of a populist moment, Trump is the opposite, the worst possible eruption. He's capitalized on the moment in Sanders' absence, and I admit that Clinton was a poor choice to channel this moment's energies.
I beg you not to make this election the one where you leave the building - even if you see Clinton as exactly what you desperately want to say no to. Don't do it this year. Protect populism from Trumpism. Let Clinton's election walk us away from this particular ledge, simply by not being Trump. I know you don't want to continue to enable the Democrats, but given your values, and the people you want to see get a better deal than they've gotten, this really might be the election where the only mandate is not-Trump.
The last few years have been a watershed moment for so many subordinated groups in the U.S.: a widely beloved, two-term, first black President, police violence front and center with massively more white people chanting WTF and Black Lives Matter, the concept of institutional racism now openly discussed, the spectrum of LGBT identity widely embraced, violence and legislation against that spectrum loudly condemned, the catastrophe of immigration law, inhumanity, and brutality for Latinx a core site of election-year dispute between the two political parties.
The advances have been huge, so the backlash has been massive, extremist, even terroristic. The voters that Trump can totally depend on in November are that backlash. If he is defeated, the Democrats can roll in with a moral mandate of "love trumps hate," and at a minimum the gains made so far will stand, and the intense focal points of police brutality/BLM and immigration will not be flipped from civil rights/social justice issues to law and order issues. This election has become the pivotal battle of multiple civil rights movements that have finally, really, caught fire, or caught fire again, in this decade, in the climate of a Democratic President. The next four years, specifically, matter immensely to them. The wave of virulent hatred that Trump will ride in on will attempt to extinguish every one of those fires. None of their lives will matter to the White House or to any house of Congress with a Republican majority.
They say: Sooner or later, you have to give Americans permission to try to break the Democratic Party, if they're going to continue to be something that lots of us view as half the problem. Casting them in the best possible light, they've failed to stop the enemy. There wouldn't be a staggering 1%/99% divide, measured by all the important numbers, over multiple decades, if they'd been up to the job they keep applying for in a two-party system that they energetically enforce. When do we get to break them, if they don't actually succeed in turning the values they always enumerate into a reversal in the direction of our country at the economic, 99% vs. the 1% level? At the money-decides vs. the-people-decide level? At the military vs. domestic spending level? In terms of disempowering multi-national corporations and a monied class that just makes money on money, siphoning our wealth into their pockets, while feeding nothing back into the ecosystem (taxes, good jobs, cleaner water, CO2 reductions, affordable healthcare, the possibility of retirement, etc.)?
These are the powers that finance both political parties, and both parties have demonstrably served them well. We have so obviously been strip-mined into poverty and powerlessness that we're no longer just trying to slow or stop something; we have to reverse direction, fast. The Democrats have never shown any signs of doing that. Obama hired big banks to devise a plan to bail out big banks after big banks destroyed the economy in 2008, permanently fucking the lives of millions of Americans. The banks ended up getting a gazillion dollars of our money that was never repaid to us, while their profits soared and they remained barely regulated, and the millions of fucked lives remain fucked. HRC's campaign is bankrolled by big banks and other corporate and multi-national interests, and her VP pick was advocating for reduced bank regulation on the day she named him.
Is your position that I never get to vote for an independent party until it's a sure thing that they will beat both the Republican and the Democrat? Until those third parties are automatically on the ballots in 50 states, automatically in the debates, magically covered enough in the media to be as visible and viable as Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum? Even the Democrats oppose this kind of open election system, because it can only hurt them.
They've even made Ralph Nader voters their permanent scapegoat for their party's pathetic double losses to George W. Bush - their permanent case for why we can never, ever, vote for an independent candidate in a Presidential election. They don't try to remind us of, nor have they taken any action based on the fact that it was corrupt voting systems that delayed the determination that Gore actually beat Bush in Florida in 2000 and won the Presidency - that Nader voters did not decide the election or cause it to be thrown into Scalia's hands. When the truth was finally established, after 9/11, the Democrats didn't make any noise. They were too busy voting for war on Iraq and the Patriot Act, along with the Republicans. Today, our voting systems remain totally, demonstrably cheat-able (if you believe in science)... but Nader!
The Democrats have immense power as one of the only two games in town, and this year we saw how hard they wielded and protected that power to crush Sanders and turn his supporters into pariahs. Unable or unwilling to be the actual opposite of the Republicans, the Democratic Party deliberately convinced its own, enthusiastic voters that progressives are the main problem. Progressives are the ones who supposedly elect Republicans, not Republican voters, not the Democrats' failure to actually be the party of anti-corporate/populist/pocketbook positions, policies, and goals that always poll above 50% across party lines. I'm old enough to remember when the phrase "the Democratic base" referred to progressives, rather than to people who call progressive voters entitled, naive dickwads. How do you make a progressive independent party and candidate viable, without knocking out the Democrats' teeth by refusing to vote for them?
You say: I have no good answer to that. I can't promise that I'll ever endorse your decision to vote independent. I know you've been tormented by your choices for many elections, and every time we tell you that you have to vote for the Democrat. And now we're telling you that you really, really, really have to vote for the Democrat.
But, if the question is can a Trump Presidency break the Democratic Party, then I think the answer is no. They’d still be there in four years, maybe even running Clinton again, maybe even moving farther to the right to court 2016 Trump voters. They’ll certainly spend four years vilifying all rebel progressives like you for their votes this year. Sanders himself will become the new Nader in the Democratic conversation, even though he told his supporters to vote for Clinton. There's no other way to interpret their simultaneous strategy of treating you like shit, right through the convention, and advancing the thesis that everything depends on you. They're setting you up to take the fall if they lose. It's obvious. I've even helped them do it with some of my social media posts. I'm sorry. I'll stop doing that.
Nonetheless, I think that four years of a Democrat will provide more fertile ground for the Sanders Revolution to mature and grow in power – down-ticket and as a cohesive movement. I see your social movement as being similar to those currently being waged by women/BLM/Latinx/Muslims, and you have to avoid being snuffed out, just like them. If we get Trump, the only narrative you’ll get is “Trump is the devil,” and any attempt to critique the Democrats will be regarded as marginal, entitled, beside-the-point whining, seen only in blogs and occasional, dismissive stories in the major media. You’ll have no leverage, no platform to advance the revolution. But if Clinton is elected, you’ll still be a movement that matters, who can critique the shit out of her and the Democrats for four years, while smart, charismatic progressives like Tulsi Gabbard become more powerful forces to potentially lead the revolution. Wouldn't it be more helpful for you to be able to say, "Look at how ineffectual and/or wrong the Democrats are!" based on four years of Clinton, than to try to battle the Democrats during a fight to deny Trump a second term? Stop Trump on 11/6 and declare all-out war on the Democratic establishment on 11/7.
They say: I’m not voting for Clinton/the Democrats, and nothing you say or do, or that Trump says or does, will change my mind.
You say: I’m sorry I can’t change you mind. I hope Trump doesn’t win your state by a hair. And please do vote for the Democrats that you like down-ticket. Thank you for your time. I'm moving on to someone whose mind I might actually change.
They say: I’m voting for Trump.
You say: I know where you’re coming from. I hate Clinton too, but Trump honestly scares the shit out of me. My friends and I have been looking at Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, who speak truth about what has happened to people like you and me, but who seem way smarter, more together, and predictable than Trump. Clinton might win if we vote for them, but we’ll at least have four years to put the Republican Party back together and get a good candidate in 2020.
Author’s note: Some have misunderstood the premise of this. I certainly am not telling anyone what they can’t say, whenever they want, to whomever they want, about the election or anything else. This FAQ is only intended to articulate ways to shift votes to Clinton by: a) Just saying thanks (full stop) to people who are already voting for her (don’t engage their hate of the Democrats or try to sell Clinton, whose actual record progressives probably know better than you); talking to hardcore progressive holdouts in ways that speak directly to what they’re holding out over (without ignoring, let alone denying, the truth of their objections); and c) steering Trump voters toward independent parties, so the Trump vote declines. And if you want to know my personal position, it's most of them, above, on both sides of the Democratic Party/Progressive divide, and all things considered, I'm voting for Clinton. I'd love to ensure that she and the Democrats have the necessary rope to hang themselves with or vindicate themselves with ahead of the mid-term election and the next Presidential election in 2020. The ideal event on 11/6/16 would be a massive turnout that puts the Democrats in charge of the Executive branch and one or two houses of the Legislative branch, so that their perpetual cry of, "It was the best we could do, because Republicans" is eliminated.