Still, I am pretty far to the left of the party on most of the substantial issues, especially economic issues, so you would think that I would be a lock as a Bernie Sanders supporter. But I'm not -- in fact, I'm still very much on the fence regarding whether I will vote for him or Hillary Clinton in the California primary. Fortunately, this is several months away (March 2016), so I have plenty of time to decide. Somewhat ranty aside: I hate that we've already been thinking about this for a year. Whenever Canadians talked about their most recent election cycle, and the long and unbearable slog of a 78-day campaign, I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry. It seems like the new election cycle starts on the first Wednesday in November now, as if we will never escape it (just as it is no longer never not Hugo Awards season, but that's a whole other voting/campaign drama that I'm not getting into right now). It's always the electoral cycle, which means nothing ever gets done -- every single person in office has their eye on the next campaign. I've enjoyed the new, "gives no fucks" President Obama far more than I did his "trying not to upset anyone" President Obama who was in charge from 2009 through last year's midterm election. I don't know how to change that, though, besides dismantling the 24-hour news beast which is always looking to be fed. End somewhat ranty aside. As I consider my options, I offer this advice to all the Sanders supporters I know: as you spread the word about your candidate and how much you love him, consider your target audience.
It seems to me that the strategy of Sanders supporters so far has been to reach out to disaffected voters: younger people who have never voted, independents, and others who feel like no one in politics is standing up for them. I am all in favor of this type of outreach! I think it's really important, and something that the Democratic establishment has not done very well in the past. But it won't be enough. If you want your man to win the Democratic nomination, and especially the general election, you are going to need the support of people who are engaged with the party establishment, and to win over not only undecided voters, but some percentage of people who currently support Hillary Clinton.
Here are some ways not to try and win me over:
- Painting Hillary Clinton and the Democratic party as evil conservative forces that must be destroyed. This is a bad strategy for several reasons, first because you are going to alienate those of us who identify with the party and/or Clinton as a candidate. Second, putting these kind of wedges between the left and center-left is bad for the general election, when we need to come together behind whoever wins the nomination. I can't believe that anyone who supports Sanders would rather see any of the GOP candidates in the White House than Hillary Clinton. Finally, it's just not true. Like most Democrats, Hillary is center-left, and she's actually more liberal than Sanders on a few issues (gun control, abortion, civil rights in some areas). If you look at her actual positions and record, she and Sanders are really not that far apart.
- Confusing Hillary with her husband. Hillary Clinton is not Bill Clinton. She has her own viewpoints and way of doing things, and showed her own style of leadership as Secretary of State. And she is NOT responsible for anything he did while he was in office. (Even if she publicly supported his initiatives at the time -- could the First Lady have realistically done anything else?) This is a terribly sexist thing to do, because it suggests that she doesn't have ideas of her own and/or that he's really going to be in control if she's elected. So just don't do it.
- Just -- anything that comes off as sexist, okay? We had enough misogyny in the 2008 campaign. There's no reason to sink to it.
- Anything that's not focused on the issues, really. I said up above that Hillary and Bernie aren't that far apart, but they're far enough apart that there is a meaningful conversation to be had about their differences. They have different priorities, and different ideas about the details of how they would tackle the problems this country is facing. If that were the conversation, I'd be dreading the all-out primary season a whole lot less. </ul>
I'm sure I'll have more to say about this in the coming months (and months and months and months), but I'll leave it here for now. I look forward to an actual productive debate on this topic. Let's hope that's even vaguely possible.
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