Can the Democrats Win Without the “Berniecrats”?

Bernie Sanders supports display signs at his rally in Portland, Oregon, on August 9, 2015. (Photo: Benjamin Kerensa)Bernie Sanders supporters display signs at his rally in Portland, Oregon, on August 9, 2015. (Photo: Benjamin Kerensa)

The mainstream media is not calling her the “presumptive nominee” just yet, but Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) are acting like the nominating convention in Philadelphia is a mere formality. But can they win a general election without the support of Bernie Sanders’ supporters?

So far, there is no indication that they even want the support of either Sanders’ supporters or even independents. And that may doom an unpopular candidate in November, even against someone as disliked by many Americans as Donald Trump. While Bernie Sanders has attracted millions of new people to the Democratic Party, the party elite has shown no desire to include these voters.

DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz is recommending 25 at-large appointments to the party’s executive committee. In early May 2016, she forwarded only three of the 40 names that the Sanders campaign recommended for the key committees, while installing Clinton supporters in leading positions. One of them — former Rep. Barney Frank, a virulent opponent of Sanders (and now an official of a big bank) — will be heading the key rules committee. Another, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, a senior advisor for the “Ready for Hillary” political action committee, will be heading the platform committee.

Rejecting Progressive Ideals

For at least a decade, Hillary Clinton has been condescending toward progressive Democrats who work towards social change.

“Rather than engage younger voters, Hillary Clinton’s campaign often appears to do the opposite.”

In April 2016, she snapped at a Greenpeace activist who simply asked her if she would commit to refusing donations from the fossil fuel industry. “I’m tired of the Sanders’ campaign lying about me,” she said. Despite a report from The Washington Post downplaying the contributions, Clinton’s campaign and the Super PAC supporting her have received a total of $6.9 million from the fossil fuel industry.

In addition, Hillary Clinton has rejected other progressive groups, such as MoveOn.org (with 8 million members), saying, “They know I don’t agree with them” in a recording from a closed-door fundraiser. Last November, she snubbed them again, declining to participate in a candidate forum they hosted (only Sanders and Martin O’Malley agreed to answer questions from MoveOn members).

Condescending Attitude Toward Young Voters

Throughout this campaign, Hillary Clinton has shown a disdain toward younger voters. After the incident with the Greenpeace activist, she claimed that, “Young people don’t do their research.”

Meanwhile, in stumping for his wife, Bill Clinton has blamed millennials for the loss of the 2010 election and joked that they “would shoot every third person on Wall Street” if Sanders were elected. Bill Clinton further endeared himself to Sanders’ supporters when he was photographed campaigning inside polling stations in Massachusetts, which is a violation of state law (a lawsuit was filed against him in March). The former president also antagonized Black Lives Matter activists by shouting down protesters of his 1994 crime bill.

Rather than engage younger voters, Hillary Clinton’s campaign often appears to do the opposite. One of her Super PACs, David Brock’s Correct the Record, is spending $1 million on social media to coordinate attacks on Bernie Sanders’ groups on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other sites.

Election Fraud

Perhaps the most important reason young voters feel alienated from the democratic process is that many are unable to vote in the primary elections. Some can’t vote because of closed primaries that don’t accept independents, but others actually had their votes purged or not counted. In Illinois, a watchdog group reported criminal federal election violations in Chicago, where votes for Sanders were allegedly erased.

“Marginalized and dismissed as idealists, Sanders supporters are passionate about issues on which they find Hillary Clinton wholly unconvincing.”

The group Who’s Counting reported Chicago officials tampering with the totals that arrived by paper ballot to match the machine’s numbers (this is known as “fraud”). Vo ters in many state primaries registered as Democrats in time to vote in the primaries, but were mysteriously removed from the rolls and couldn’t vote. In Brooklyn — where Sanders was born — 125,000 voters were inexplicably purged from rolls, and 3 million voters (27 percent of all registered) in New York were disenfranchised because of the state’s closed primary system. With this kind of disenfranchisement, it’s no wonder Sanders’ supporters feel the system is rigged.

As Tim Robbins points out in his Huffington Post op-ed, Democrats have been crying foul about Republican strategies to restrict voting rights for decades. But why, he asks, do Democrats tolerate irregularities in their own primaries? While Bernie Sanders and President Obama have commented about how our election policies are making it difficult for people to vote, Hillary Clinton has not commented on the primary irregularities, nor called for election reform in the Democratic primaries.

In fact, DNC Chair Wasserman Schultz recently said that if it were up to her, she would exclude all independents from voting in the Democratic primary.

Snubbing Independents

Perhaps this is one reason why a recent poll found that Hillary Clinton’s favorability rating among independents is at an all-time low, dropping 15 points in the last four months. Sixty-two percent of independents view her negatively. And a recent poll shows 45 percent of Sanders supporters say they would never vote for Hillary Clinton in the general election, with many making it clear they are “Bernie or Bust.” More than 16,000 have already indicated their interest on Facebook to “occupy” the Democratic National Convention in July as a protest movement. That number is growing, and will grow more dramatically if Clinton fails to receive the requisite number of pledged delegates and has to rely on appointed superdelegates to win.

How does any presidential candidate expect to win a general election without the independent vote — the largest voting bloc in the United States?

Marginalized and dismissed as idealists, Sanders supporters are passionate about issues on which they find Hillary Clinton wholly unconvincing: climate change (she’s against a carbon tax and flip-flopped on key issues such as the Keystone XL pipeline and fracking); foreign US military intervention (Clinton actively supported interventions in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Honduras); government spying (she supported both Patriot Acts), free trade deals (Clinton supported the North American Free Trade Agreement and TPP); and breaking up big banks. By downplaying her cozy relationship to Wall Street and refusing to live up to her word and release the transcripts of her three speeches to Goldman Sachs that netted her almost $700,000, Clinton has bolstered critics who call her dishonest and untrustworthy.

Bernie Sanders has run his campaign on the assertion that big corporate money buys off candidates, and Hillary Clinton is one of the biggest beneficiaries from Wall Street, fossil fuel companies and media conglomerates. These industries know they can receive key appointments in federal agencies that regulate them if Clinton becomes president. In denying the role of big money in her own campaign, Clinton is not only being disingenuous, but also insulting the intelligence of voters. As a result, she may have a hard time winning them over in November.

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