How Dare Bernie Run!

“I wish he’d go away already.”

From fellow Democrats, the refrain’s relentless. Why’s Bernie running? Why won’t his naïve supporters get real? Some of my female friends supporting Sanders are implored with special force and added frustration: Get in line! The socialist has no chance. He’s unrealistic.

But is he really? Much of Sanders’s platform, the aspirational parts diverging from Clinton’s, are already reality in Northern Europe. Marijuana decriminalization. Death penalty abolition. Free or nearly-free college. Single-payer healthcare. What’s more, they have surprising amounts of cross-party support, united by a populist public that’s becoming increasingly convinced that party elites only pretend to care about their well-being.

So is it we, Bernie’s “naïve Millennial supporters,” who are shooting too high? Or are Clinton and her annoyed supporters shooting too low?

The arguments utilized by the Clinton campaign are familiar, of course, simply because they were wielded against then-Senator Barack Obama in 2008. Back then, she suggested Obama was naïve and unrealistic. Inexperienced. When criticized during debates on questionable votes or opaque “transparency,” she habitually hedged to the inspirational fact that she’s a woman. Finally, she made the electability argument, except in 2008 it involved a disturbing subtext tying the President’s supposed electability problem to his race. (A thesis obliterated by massive victories in white states like Iowa.)

I’m no #Berniebro. They annoy me. I respect and stand in awe of Hillary Clinton. There is no one–no one–who is better-armed with foreign policy knowledge than the Secretary. I firmly believe she is the best-prepared candidate on either side to responsibly take on ISIL. So right now I’m not entirely sure who I’m voting for between the two, and if Bernie loses, I’ll immediately shift my vote to Hillary. No Republican comes close–in competence, experience, and (yes) political ideology.

Yet as a progressive, liberal Democrat, how can I not support Bernie? How, when unlike Hillary he’s against the death penalty? How, when unlike Hillary he wants to put a complete stop to misguided attempts to ruin lives over marijuana? (Marijuana!) How, when unlike Hillary he pushes for campaign finance reform not only verbally but also concretely, by foregoing a Super PAC? How, when unlike Hillary he’s pushing forcefully for a higher minimum wage? How, when unlike Hillary he’s playing on our hopes for a better future instead of our fears that this future is unattainable?

While I respect Hillary Clinton, I agree with Bernie Sanders on far more, and I’m glad he’s forced a complacent Democratic Party to introspect. Fellow Democrats, Bernie is airing an important message: Economic equality is vital to liberty. Leveling the playing field is integral to Democratic goals, from the fulfillment of the #BlackLivesMatter movement to lasting gender equality.

So you ask us: “How dare Bernie run?” You imply: “How dare you, a Democrat, support his run?” My answer, aside from pointing out that this is a democratic election rather than a Democratic coronation, is simple: I support Bernie Sanders because he supports me. He shares my outlook, my goals, my aspirations, and those of millions of other Millennials.

That doesn’t mean I dislike Hillary. It just means I like Bernie.

This post was also published in The Huffington Post.

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