An Urgent Reminder to Bernie-or-Busters: Democrats are not the Problem, by Chelsea Levinson

“I will never vote for Hillary Clinton. I’m Bernie or bust. No way I’m voting Democrat. We need to show the Democratic Party that the status quo isn’t working,” an acquaintance commented publicly, on a Facebook article about the need for Democrats to unite in November. I’m not sure if he realized that everybody on Facebook could see his comment, or that many in his feed likely did. I doubt it would matter to him, in either case.

Reading his words, I had to catch my breath. Fear-driven anger rose up in my chest as I contemplated whether to ignore or confront him. How could he? I thought. How could he let the GOP win? Doesn’t he know my fundamental rights; my very personhood is at stake in this election?

Ultimately, I decided to ignore him. Getting into long-winded arguments with fellow progressives throughout the Democratic primary has become far too time and energy consuming for me. Hillary Clinton seems to inspire limitless suspicion and anger among many on the left. The impossible and unfair standard to which she is held has catapulted me into a deep election depression. While some criticisms of Clinton’s record are fair and valid, much of this anger towards her seems to be irrational. An entire generation of progressives has never lived in a world where Hillary Clinton’s credibility hasn’t been under constant attack by the GOP. Reading left-leaning comments sections across the Internet, one would think that Hillary Clinton, and Hillary Clinton alone, had led the nation into war in Iraq, plotted mass incarceration, written and passed the 1994 Crime Bill, created income inequality, invented fracking, and forced the U.S. into trade deals that shipped off our well-paying jobs to the lowest bidder. Of course, none of this is true, and most of this rhetoric ignores the GOP’s (not to mention other Democrats’) role in these policies.

Day after day, I see relentless posts demonizing Hillary Clinton, her “baggage,” her Wall Street ties, and her hawkishness. The curious thing I’ve noticed about many of these Bernie-or-busters is that, in their frenzy to “expose” Hillary Clinton, they’ve grown remarkably silent when it comes to the terrifying rhetoric, policies and behavior coming from the GOP. Some have even gone so far as to claim that Hillary Clinton is really a Republican, or that there is no discernible difference between her policies and those of the GOP. As Trevor LaFauci writes:

“Try telling that to the 4.3 million people in 22 states whose Republican governors are denying them Medicaid. Try telling that to the women in 22 states who have had new provisions put in place to limit access to abortion services. Try telling that to the transgender community who faces discrimination in North Carolina as well as seven other states considering bathroom bills denying this population basic human rights and dignity. Try telling that to low-income and minority voters who will face new voting restrictions in 17 states for the first time in a presidential election. Try telling that to environmentalists who have had research and development stalled thanks to an entire Republican Party that refuses to acknowledge man-made climate change. And try telling that to your fellow Americans who believe that immigrants and Muslims should not be discriminated against simply because of who they are, where they come from, and what they believe.”

The personal is political. And for millions of people who have something to lose this upcoming election, this is very personal. If Donald Trump is elected, I am terrified of what will become of a woman’s right to make her own reproductive healthcare choices. I am afraid that the repeal of Obamacare would leave some of our most vulnerable citizens without healthcare coverage. I am extremely worried that minority, immigrant and LGBTQ people will face irreparable harm.

It is frustrating to be told that issues most important to me, like reproductive rights, are distracting from the “serious” issues facing our nation. It is painful to learn that for many on the left, moral purity and “teaching the Democrats a lesson” should trump the protection of my rights of bodily autonomy, not to mention the rights of vulnerable people across this nation. I am beyond angry over the implication that Democrats, who are the final barrier protecting our most fundamental rights from constant rollbacks by the GOP, are the problem.

Democrats are not the capital-P problem. The GOP is slowly and systematically passing laws in order to shut down abortion clinics across the U.S., including those in blue states. In January and February of this year alone, 353 abortion-restriction laws were introduced into state houses. And according to a report from the National Partnership for Women & Families, a whopping 70 percent of those laws were based on false information. One Indiana law even requires women to pay the cost of a funeral for her fetus if she aborts or miscarries. Republicans are chipping away at women’s healthcare rights at every single level of government: local, state and federal.

The antidote to these rollbacks of our rights is not, as the Bernie-or-busters suggest, to teach Democrats a lesson. Electing fewer Democrats so that maybe they’ll adopt a more progressive platform in the future has never worked. In 2000, when Nader supporters refused to vote for Gore because he was too corporate, we got a disastrous Bush presidency — a mess we’re still cleaning up today. As flawed as Al Gore might have been, one can’t deny that as president, he would have actually done something about climate change and he most likely would not have thrown us into a military quagmire in Iraq. In 2010, when disillusioned Obama supporters didn’t get the change they wanted immediately, they stayed home during the 2010 midterm census election, and allowed the GOP to sweep the House. This historic shift in the House caused the political gridlock we all wring our hands over today. Refusing to vote for Democrats only puts the party farther behind the 8-ball, and more likely to have to play the dirty GOP-defined game to catch up. Allowing Trump to take office won’t prove anything to Democrats, other than the fact that progressives would rather collectively take their balls and go home rather than roll up their sleeves and do the hard work of pushing the nation forward.

Remember: every ounce of political capital expended defending against attacks on our rights means less capital to go towards achieving our progressive goals. We must remind ourselves who really stands in the way of a future we can believe in, and elect more Democrats.


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Chelsea Levinson, J.D., is a Telly Award-winning media content producer who specializes in research and writing. She has helped develop and produce over 500 digital videos, and her writing has been featured on Thought Catalog and HyperVocal. Previously, she was a legal and policy researcher, specializing in labor, gender and reproductive rights. She researched for and contributed to Babygate: How to Survive Pregnancy and Parenting in the Workplace.