I get it if you are angry that your preferred candidate didn’t do as well as you would have hoped last night. Mine didn’t either, and I’m also really disappointed. But can we please stop repeating those grating nails-on-a-chalkboard talking points about how “the establishment” stole another election from Bernie?
No one forced anyone to vote for Biden. Please don’t erase the agency and free will of millions of voters who chose to cast their ballots for him. Biden held a lead among African-American voters, women, college graduates and older voters. His massive support among black voters, long recognized to be the backbone of the Democratic Party, is undeniably impressive. Just as it would be completely out of line to question the intellect and motives of younger voters, non-college-educated white voters, men, and Latinx voters, all of whom Sanders carried on Super Tuesday, it is similarly out of line to assume that the groups who showed up for Biden did so because they are “low-information voters,” are invested in maintaining the status quo to preserve their own privilege and power, or were manipulated by the DNC (all three are real accusations I’ve seen thrown around on social media today).
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As a Warren supporter, I get it. I have long thought that my reasons for supporting Warren were stronger and more persuasive than the reasons other people gave for supporting other candidates, but that’s not how elections work. You don’t win based on idealogical purity; it’s about who can get more votes. And I guess because my preferred candidate did poorly, I am in a unique position to be able to reflect on that issue. I don’t like how things turned out for Warren, but I refuse to assume that voters who supported someone else are dumb, are less engaged, have nefarious motives, or irresponsibly voted based solely on high-profile last-minute endorsements. Do I think sexism played a role? Absolutely. But there’s not a comparable factor at play between the two old white guys at the top. This is electoral politics 101; the candidate who won simply did a better job persuading people to join his team.
Second, let’s talk about the “Democratic Party establishment” for a moment. Y’all, “the party” is made up of hundreds of thousands of folks like you and me who volunteer and hold small unpaid positions serving on their local county committees and who run for local office as Democrats. “The party” is a bunch of people who get out and knock on doors, attend meetings, donate to candidates, volunteer to make campaign calls and show up to vote. Of course there are influential leaders, elected officials and donors. Of course there are power plays being attempted and competing ideological factions trying to gain the higher ground. But Mike Bloomberg’s big flop last night, Hillary’s loss of the nomination to an outsider named Barack Obama in 2008 and Bernie’s success in two election cycles so far should be a hint that “the establishment” doesn’t actually control how regular people vote.
Joe Biden won Arkansas by 18 points despite the fact that some members of the “Democratic Party establishment” here in Arkansas endorsed Warren, Buttigieg, Bloomberg and Sanders. He won because people got out and voted for him, period.
It’s fine to think that people should have voted for someone else, but it is not fine to assume that you actually know better than than those voters do about why they voted the way they did. And it is absolutely offensive to view those voters as somehow less worthy of deciding this primary than you and your friends. If the candidate who is ultimately able to persuade more people to vote for him turns out to be Bernie Sanders, I’ll say the same things to bitter Biden supporters who question the validity of his win. But right now what I am seeing are a lot of angry Bernie supporters casting doubt on the legitimacy of Biden’s win last night by attacking the intellect and the motives of the voters who supported him, and that’s a circular firing squad that will only help get Trump re-elected.
So here’s my humble suggestion that maybe you should think twice before tweeting about how all those other folks would have voted for your guy if they were just smart enough to figure out what is best for them. That’s not only a terrible way to persuade people to join your team, it is also incredibly offensive to the real people — more than 70 percent of African-American voters in some states — who used their life experiences and intellect to decide to vote for Biden.