For Sanders supporters, a vote for Clinton means giving into fear

The voters who back Sanders don’t see his ideas as unrealistic.
The voters who back Sanders don’t see his ideas as unrealistic.
Image: AP Photo/Evan Vucci
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What are you asking me to do when you ask me to vote for Hillary Clinton in the primaries over Bernie Sanders?

I’m going to set aside all of the standard issues I might have with Clinton. This isn’t about policies with which I disagree, or the fact that she’s never met a war she didn’t like, or that she has turned her back on her own policy goals for the sake of political expediency, or that I have the real sense she sold me out three times today before I even got out of bed. Push all of those issues off to the side, and focus on the ask .

You are asking me to consciously give up on any hope I may have of living a sane life in our country. To vote for Clinton in the primaries, I would need to believe that the establishment on both the right and the left have so thoroughly strangled the political system that it is no longer “reasonable” to even try for reform. I have to be so scared of political opponents gaining power that it is worth it to sacrifice even the hope of being able to get ahead, have a savings cushion, access health care, send our kids to college, retire, or just not feel like we’re constantly living on a knife’s edge, all because of fear of a potential future.

If this doesn’t make sense to you — if you think it is reasonable to fear the opposition more than hope for having a better life — then I’m guessing you live a fairly comfortable life and don’t feel strong motivation to change it. Perhaps it’s been a long time since you had to decide not to take your spouse to the emergency room because you were worried it would wipe out what little savings you have. Maybe you don’t have full-blown anxiety attacks every time you see that your medical insurance company has sent you something in the mail.

Do you remember the last time you cried thinking about how you can’t afford to get a job, because it will knock you off of the meager insurance assistance you have and put you even further behind than you started? Would your place of employment and the welfare of hundreds of employees be ensured if only we could sort out the insanity that is private health insurance? Has there been a time in your life when nearly all of the stress you experience in life comes, one way or another, from trying to navigate the private medical-industrial complex?

If these situations don’t sound familiar to you, maybe you don’t really understand what you’re asking of me when you advise me to make decisions based on “practicality.” And notice, I’m not even saying you’re wrong. What I am saying is that for me to choose Clinton over Sanders right now is to literally choose to give up on the best chance we have ever had to finally become a reasonable, civilized nation, and say instead “No, we can’t do it, I am too scared of what might happen.”

If we don’t elect Sanders, but at least we try, then maybe someday — four years from now, eight, maybe when my kids are grown, who knows — we will make progress again. But to lay down now and accept the position that our political system is so thoroughly bankrupt that I should drop any expectation of living beyond paycheck to paycheck in order to prevent something even worse from happening … well, that’s it. It’s over. The powerful can sit back and relax, knowing that if we didn’t stand up now, we never will . They know their manipulations work. Their place in life (and ours) is set. We shut the door, and I embrace the hand-to-mouth class status we’ve tried to move out of for so long.

I hope you see why I can’t go there, and I won’t. I will continue to fight for Sanders. And if he doesn’t get the nod, then I’ll hold my nose and vote for HRC in the general election because, yes, God knows we can’t let the opposition win. But don’t be confused about why (according to some analyses) I would risk a Trump presidency. Don’t question my motives. Don’t think that I lack understanding of the situation we’re in — I know very well what situation I’m in. Do not ask me to give up now. I will say no.