(TFC) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Signs reading “Bernie or Bust” created a sea of blue throughout Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park and the streets of Philadelphia last week during the Democratic National Convention. Supporters of Sanders refuse to unite with the Democratic Party behind official candidate Hilary Clinton; but will Bernie’s marginalized supporters find it in themselves to unite with the rest of the left? Or was the Sanders movement just a flash-in-the-pan?
Sanders’ supporters have cried-foul nearly the entire course of his campaign– and now rightfully so. Voters across the board already knew Bernie’s grassroots campaign barely stood a chance against the establishment candidate and money thrown behind her. But emails recently leaked via Wikileaks proved what everyone pretty much already knew all along: Hillary was the presumptive Democratic nominee as far back as May of 2015. The events that transpired throughout the campaign since have reflected that fact. But enough about corruption in the Democratic Party. Let’s take a look at the Sanders supporters: a group who has the potential to help the Left become a significant force in American politics. So will they seize the opportunity? Or will they simply fizzle back into obscurity until another major election rolls around?
Here’s a break-down of the pros and cons I witnessed throughout the time I spent on the streets at the DNC.
CON: No real message behind the Sanders Movement besides “Bernie or Bust”.
Everyone had their own niche Bernie t-shirt in every color and style, some even had jumpsuits with Bernie’s face all over them. All signs read “Bernie” or “Bernie or Bust”. Some signs had crossed out “Bernie” and written-in “Jill Never Hill”. The unorganized chants during their protests were about the same: “We won’t vote for Hillary”. The Sanders Movement certainly reflects frustration with the Democratic Party and hope for change, but aside from electing Bernie or Jill, they aren’t exactly clear on the changes they would like to see: always pointing to Bernie’s platform for answers or reaffirming contempt towards Hillary Clinton. Supporters have thrown their weight behind Sanders himself (or now Jill) instead of the actual issues. I saw very few signs in FDR Park this week with slogans concerning actual issues Sanders has tried to address. No “Fight for 15” signs, no anti-TPP signs. There were no Sanders supporters passing out flyers explaining why it is so important to get money out of politics or make college affordable. The movement seems to begin and end with “Bernie or Jill but Never Hill”.
CON: Inability to unify with the rest of the Left.
Sander’s supporters have already made it clear that they won’t unite with the Democratic Party behind Hillary Clinton but they might not be able to find it in themselves to unite with the Left either. While attending a demonstration and march organized by Workers World, I noticed that some Bernie supporters had gotten word that the delegates were starting to vote. About 100 of them abandoned the socialist demonstration and proceeded to march towards the Wells Fargo center chanting “we won’t vote for Hillary” sporadically. At least they took-off with some of the Workers World signs, which included much more powerful messages than just displaying a candidate’s name. Either way, this reinforces the idea that the Bernie supporters are able to unite behind a candidate but maybe not so much a real leftist movement.
PRO: They are a force to be reckoned with; and they know it.
The Bernie supporters know that without their vote, Clinton will probably lose to Trump in the general election. They wouldn’t have even showed up in Philadelphia last week if they didn’t believe in themselves as a “movement”. And let me tell you, there were a lot of them. Some of them had driven halfway across the country; some were sleeping in tents in 90 degree heat and a few thunderstorms. They are certainly aware of the power they hold as a group, they just need to channel it in a more productive way; and maybe learn how to organize themselves a little better.
PRO: Some have woke up and moved on.
On my last night in Philadelphia I attended the Socialist Convergence which included panels from many prominent leftists. What I didn’t expect was to see the 100 degree room filled with so many people wearing Bernie shirts. Maybe it was because Jill Stein was scheduled to speak, but I’d like to believe this was evidence of something much more promising: a willingness to learn and be part of a larger leftist movement. While a fair amount of Bernie supporters might fizzle out until next election with a sense of contempt, I hope that a fair amount will feel empowered enough to unite with the the Left. I hope this is evidence that they will continue to seek positive change for the issues Bernie has presented to them. They’ve been marginalized and essentially pushed-out of the democratic party, I just hope they are able to keep the momentum going.