As the Democratic Primary is coming to a close just ahead of the Democratic National Convention in July, it may be time to ask ourselves: Are we as Democrats and Progressives causing divisiveness on the left?
We all know well that the current state of the Republican Party is not the healthy, unified version that party leaders are pushing. The presumptive nomination of Donald Trump has left their party a fractured and vulnerable shell of what it was, and any claims and arguments otherwise just continue to ring a hollow, carved-out sound.
The Democratic Party, however, appeared to be interested in remaining unified throughout a passionate and vigorously contested primary. However, after months of huge grassroots support, substantive debates, and each candidate standing their ground on issues and policy platforms—it seems that somewhere along the way, these factors began turning inward and the candidates turned against each other instead of remaining only in favor of their own ideas. I understand that this is nothing new, but I do believe that many may have thought earlier on in this race that it may never have to reach the point where the Democratic Party would turn on itself. I am not comfortable, and believe it wouldn’t be entirely justifiable, to blame this on any candidate, or media outlet or any one source of tension that has worked its way into the feelings and thoughts that have sparked this debate.
I think, ultimately, that it’s safe to say that this is no time, with Trump’s sights set on the White House, for the Democratic Party, and for Progressives who have supported either candidate to lose it’s focus.
I am not writing on the basis of supporting any specific candidate, but as a concerned member of the Democratic Party, and Progressive movements and goals that have been sought after for many years before, and will be for many years after this election. This is bigger than one election year, and one candidate.
There are things that, whether you have fervently supported Hillary Clinton, or Bernie Sanders, at this point in the race we all need to evaluate and consider in the interest of the party’s presumptive nominee, and in moving Progressive ideas forward past the convention in July and toward November.
We should remember that Hillary Clinton has been under fire from the Republican Party and Conservative hit machine for nearly three decades, and that at some point, some of that rhetoric has worked its way not only into the consciousness of those who oppose her, but even into the consciousness of those who stand closely with her on many issues. It has, in fact, worked its way into the American consciousness itself. Whether they be entirely false narratives, or concerns with a source of validity, but have been amplified to a totally unnecessary extent, it is important now that we evaluate concerns honestly and decide what they mean to us as voters, and what we can or cannot live with.
Now, just as Clinton has been through these attacks from an opposition, it is worth noting that Bernie Sanders has had his share of critics as well. Those who have for years been negatively referring to him as a “Socialist”, or “too radical” and we need to be careful to discern what is a true concern, and cut through what is just harmful rhetoric.
I think it is important to highlight here the things on which both candidates and many different groups within the party have been united on, as unity is the thing that the Democratic Party needs most at the moment. Let’s draw the line where it truly needs to be drawn.
Things such as their voting records in the Senate have been a huge focal point this primary, and after all of the discussion of the votes that divided them, the fact is that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders voted together in the Senate 93 percent of the time.
You have heard by now, undoubtedly, about the few things they disagreed on. The authorization of the Iraq war is one that divides many supporters, a vote that Clinton refers to as “a mistake.” It is important to note that this was not a vote for or against the war in Iraq; it was to give the president authorization to go to war as a last resort. This authorization came at a time when it was discussed as being used for leverage against Iraq.
These disagreements have been highlighted plenty. Of course, one could argue that the things they disagreed on may be the cornerstones of strongly held beliefs by certain voters. If that is so, understandably, that may be where you draw your line.
Clinton also voted for the Wall Street bailout in the form of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Sanders voted against it, not in total disagreement, however, but saying that this was “still short of where we should be.”
The truth is that both Sanders and Clinton voted in favor, or against things that they now reconsider.
Sanders has recently reconsidered his 2005 vote on giving gun manufacturers immunity and has taken steps to support newer legislation to repeal parts of the law.
Both Sanders and Clinton have fought for Universal Healthcare for decades, and both have supported the Affordable Care Act. Sanders also voted for the reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program in 2009, which in its original incarnation, Hillary Clinton was very much a part of and strongly supported as First Lady.
Sanders referred to Clinton as “one of the brightest people in congress” in 2008 and voted in favor of confirming her as Secretary of State.
Let us ultimately remember that both Sanders and Clinton have pledged to work together regardless of the outcome of the convention in July to be sure that Donald Trump does not reach the Oval Office.
We can move forward hoping that calls for unity are being heard. This is about testing the mettle and merit of democracy and of voters all across our country. Friends, we’re in the fight and this is no time to lose focus.