This Tuesday as six more states voted, Hillary Clinton made history as the first woman to ever win a major party nomination for president in the history of the United States. Although she has so clearly won by the tried and true method of getting more votes, there are still many democrats that do not believe she won fairly or is deserving of the nomination.
Before I go on, let me put in a mandatory #notallberniebros statement. The vast majority of Bernie Sanders supporters accept the election results. Bernie Sanders, his campaign, and his supporters made a serious and formidable opponent to Clinton and although he came in second, by running he was able to pull Clinton to the left on a handful of important policy positions, will have a say in the democratic party’s new platform, and showed that candidates that run to the left have a viable position with a lot of popular support behind it, something that could encourage future leftish candidates. His supporters might be disappointed that he won’t be our next president, but most understand that Clinton won legitimately. The vast majority of Sanders supporters will likely be supporting Clinton in the fall. These are not the Sanders supporters that I am talking about in this piece.
There is a subset of Sanders supporters who do not accept that the primary is over. They believe that Hillary Clinton stole the election from Sanders. They believe the election was unfair or fraudulent. They want to try to convince superdelegates to switch their vote to Sanders in order to give him the nomination over the wishes of the voters.
I don’t think anyone would disagree that the democratic primary process is convoluted and at times inequitable. A fairer system would have delegates assigned closer to the proportion of votes they actually got. In some cases this would benefit Clinton but in others it would benefit Sanders. A fairer system would allow for open primaries with less restrictions on who is allowed to vote. This would likely benefit Sanders since many of his supporters are not registered democrats. A fairer system would get rid of all caucuses, since less people are able to participate in caucuses due to their time commitment and other factors. Making caucus states primary election states would likely benefit Clinton. The fact is, even if we made the process more fair, Clinton would have still won. There is no “fairer” election in which Sanders would have won.
When people say that Clinton stole the election or that Sanders is the true winner, what they are really saying is that Sanders may not have had the most votes but he had the right kind of votes. This is a theme that has been running through the entire primary. Sanders supporters tell female Clinton supporters that they are only voting for Hillary because she’s a woman. They explain away the fact that black voters are voting for Clinton in droves as black voters just being ignorant when it comes to politics. It’s not surprising that now that Clinton has won the primary on the backs of woman and POC, those same people would loudly proclaim that Sanders is the true winner. They haven’t respected the votes of women and POC through the entire process, so why would they start now?
These same people who ask for a fairer election want to tip the election in favor of white male voters. They believe that Sanders’ voters, which are made up disproportionally of white men, should count for more than the votes of people who voted for Clinton. In a piece this week at The Daily Beast, Barret Holmes Pitner wrote about the white entitlement of Sanders supporters, saying that “the entitlement to believe that you should always win allowed them to overlook how the system in many ways has always been unjustly rigged in their favor because they’re white.” I couldn’t agree more. This is the same entitlement that allows the white, male Sanders voter to believe that his vote should count more than the votes of women and POC who he believes are voting only out of ignorance or identity politics. In his mind, only white men are “unbiased” when it comes to politics, so his vote should be considered more important. Hillary Clinton may have gotten more votes overall, but she lost the white male vote and that’s what really matters. Under that criteria, it makes sense that they would also believe that the superdelegates should override these votes at the convention and give the nomination to Sanders.
It’s time we face the fact that the ability of Sanders supporters to proclaim the whole system rigged because their candidate didn’t win is rooted in misogyny and racism and entitlement. Clinton won and she won legitimately. For all the privilege that white men have, having their votes weigh more isn’t one of them. They can’t win a presidential election on their own. If they could, Mitt Romney would have been our president for the last 3 years and Donald Trump will be our undisputed next president. White men may have oversized influence on US society but they represent only 35% of the electorate.
Luckily the vast majority of Sanders supporters do not fall in this camp. They recognize that Clinton won and they will be supporting her in the fall and helping to defeat Trump. Let’s hope that the subset of Sanders supporters who refuse to accept her nomination and will switch their support to Trump or sit out the election entirely is small. I know I am looking forward to electing the first woman president of the United States come November.
Featured Photo by Michael Vadon