6 Ways Hillary Can Win Over Bernie’s Base
Sanders as VP? Renouncing Wall Street? Bernie-or-busters share their thoughts on what, if anything, it will take to convince them to fall in line.
Jane Bang sports a tattoo on her forearm at a campaign rally in Santa Monica, Calif., last night. Photo by Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
For one more night, Bernie Sanders refused to go quietly. Last night, he commanded the stage in Santa Monica after losing the California primary, declaring his campaign’s revolution was “more than Bernie” and vowed to continue fighting. Even though both math and media had confirmed Hillary Clinton’s inevitable nomination, Sanders bypassed the opportunity to concede, waiting nearly 15 minutes to even mention his opponent. He said he’d called to congratulate her, and the booing crowd drowned out his voice. Right now, the Sanders die-hards are pretty bitter, and it seems like they might never turn around.
Never say never.
Let’s take a deep breath and travel back to 2008. Barack Obama had clinched the Democratic nomination for president, and Hillary Clinton supporters, after a long primary battle that got extremely nasty, were livid. “I’ll never vote for him,” went the refrain. They felt robbed, like the electorate and system had stifled their candidate’s destiny. Many Hillary supporters pledged to sit the election out. That obviously didn’t happen—which proves that post-primary emotions run high, but come November, common sense will kick in. A May poll from the Washington Post/ABC found that about 70 percent of voters who supported Bernie during the primary season say they’ll switch their allegiance to Hillary Clinton. If she can find a way to persuade even a small portion of those remaining Bernie-or-busters to support her at the polls, she should expect to find herself on the path to victory.
Appeal to the optimists—not just the pragmatists.
Voters are propelled by personality-based emotions, by how they feel someone will reflect their interests rather than actual policies. Though Bernie Sanders has held public office since 1981, he represents political purity. His policies––the $15 minimum wage, the free college tuition, the destruction of banks––are a socialist ideal, the kinds of ideas I dreamt about during my Critical Theory era. To his supporters, he’s a visionary. While Hillary Clinton’s platform seems more calculated, more grounded in years of backroom negotiations and policy wonkery, she has certainly moved closer to Sanders in an attempt to appease some of his voters.
Don’t forget healthcare.
I asked writer Jad Kamal, a pragmatic Sanders supporter, if he was ready to jump to the other side. “I am going to vote for Clinton, and I hope that fellow Sanders supporters will, too,” he told me. “I never ‘switched,’ exactly: I had always felt I would vote for her if she won the nomination. With a Republican-controlled congress, I am terrified of a Trump presidency––or any Republican presidency, really. Terrified for the dying person who will no longer be able to keep seeing their specialist or afford their medicine once Obamacare is repealed. Terrified that the climate scientists screaming and waving to save all of our lives will be screaming to a deaf audience. Terrified that women who need access to healthcare, not to mention a little respect, won't get it. I would never, ever vote for Trump.”
Consider Sanders as your VP.
There are more than a few lofty demands necessary to earn their transition to Clinton. The biggest of which seems to be: make Bernie Sanders the vice presidential candidate. “It wouldn’t be the same as him being nominee, but I’d definitely be in favor,” said Wallace West, a diehard Bernie supporter. Twitter user @NygtMarina took things a step further. “Being very serious here, the only way I would vote for Hillary in November is if her platform includes all our concerns AND Bernie is her VP.” Thousands of social media posts say the same thing: Make Bernie VP, and we’ll quiet down.
Come clean—or at least clarify.
The anti-Clinton camp is fixated on her family’s power, on how dishonest she can seem when responding to scandal. Many, taking a page from the Trump supporter handbook, think she is a pathological liar and on her way to imprisonment. “The only way I'd vote for Hillary is if she publicly admitted to all of her lies during her political career,” said another supporter who didn’t want to be named but volunteered for the Sanders campaign in New York. “I’m not cool with voting for a person who has repeatedly been under criminal investigation.”
Make Bernie your bro by July.
What remains to be seen is how Sanders will use the Democratic convention in late July. Philadelphia will either become a city of unity or one of protests and distraction. Eight years ago, Clinton used the convention to heal primary wounds and bring the party together. “It is time to take back the country we love, and whether you voted for me or you voted for Barack, the time is now to unite as a single party with a single purpose… We are on the same team,” she said. “None of us can afford to sit on the sidelines.”