Listen, I like Bernie Sanders as much as anyone. If it wasn’t for him I would not be engaged in the political process, so if for no other reason this election cycle has been a win.
In many respects, even though he isn’t going to be the Democratic nominee for president, he has already won.
That’s what’s gotten lost over these last few days during the various dramas of the Democratic National Convention, and last couple months in general since he’s more or less been eliminated from contention: Bernie was never supposed to be here in the first place. He was never supposed to make it this far, or this exceedingly close.
A year ago, during some point in July, I was sitting in the back seat of Trey’s car. He and his then-fiancee and I were about to go to Downtown Los Angeles to pick out and get fitted for suits for their upcoming wedding. She asked me, “Who do you want to be the next president?”
“Uhh, Bernie Sanders,” I responded. I had to think about it for a second because his name didn’t come to me right away. Also I didn’t know if I was living in some bubble where only I knew who he was.
“Okay, good,” I think she said.
Over the course of the next year, leading up to now, Bernie Sanders somehow became an important piece of my life, both in the words I’ve used in this obscure space of the Internet to my overall worldview. Which looks even stranger now that I see it written in front of me.
I wasn’t unlike most people my age in that I had essentially given up on politics. Or at least the idea that I should care about politics. At the end of the day I generally believe I am a non-factor in the bigger scheme of things. What I think and how I act really doesn’t mean very much. And it shouldn’t.
It’s only when you have a heavy dose of people like me — 13 million of us, in total — that made a candidate such as Bernie Sanders real, and worthwhile to the national discourse. And as it turns out, the vast collection of us represent the Neo-Progressives. We aren’t a dying breed of fly-by-night supporters who are destined to fade away once Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump becomes president. Instead we are a snowball. The movement is only going to grow stronger in numbers and louder in voices.
We aren’t, however, immune to wanting instant gratification. This is 2016, after all. Because Bernie lost, many of his backers are protesting during the Democratic National Convention, still rejecting the idea of a Hillary Clinton presidency. The romanticism of being the underdog — the one thing that we all latched onto, that we thought would inevitably propel Bernie to being the Democratic nominee — has become our great downfall.
It appears we are incapable of giving up.
So when Sarah Silverman, a Bernie supporter, told the crowd at the DNC, “To the Bernie Or Bust people, you’re being ridiculous,” she wasn’t wrong. It isn’t something any of them wanted to hear, but it’s true. Bernie lost. Hillary won.
The staunchest Bernie person may think her comment is one of a traitor, or a sellout, but it’s entirely an reasonable position. If the main goal is to keep Donald Trump out of the White House — which it should be — then the only alternative is Hillary. Yes that sucks. No that doesn’t seem fair.
But fair was never what any of this was supposed to be about. When Bernie Sanders originally declared he was running for president, it was on a random lawn in front of a microphone and like 12 reporters.
No one could have imagined that, over the course of the next 15 months, he would be escorted around with a secret service detail. That he would be greeted as a celebrity on his return visits to Realtime with Bill Maher, or that he’d be performing rallies across the country in front of a record amount of people. More than even Barack Obama during his iconic 2008 campaign.
Did he really lose?
What essentially happened was Bernie cashed in on a 15-team parlay. He doubled down on hard 20 and drew an ace. Versus every possible odd, with the entire media and political establishments actively working against him, he created a race opposite the front-runner and came within four or five percentage points from drawing even.
Perhaps because I’m a sports fan — and make no mistake: politics are the ultimate sport — I view these types of things more philosophically. Winning and losing will always be the name of the game, but surpassing expectations mean a greater deal under certain circumstances. And Bernie surpassed any relevant expectation.
I think what makes Bernie’s loss more painful to his supporters is that we felt like he was right. He was the one true candidate, the held the needs of the people above all else. And there was a time, particularly after all the southern states had voted, that it appeared like he had a path toward victory.
Those are what sting most, that he was the best choice and looked like he had a good chance of winning at one point.
But he isn’t really a Democrat. He ran as a Democrat, but he’s still an independent. His followers aren’t really Democrats. They are an entirely different sect altogether. You could call them Progressives, or New Dealers, or what have you. They are further to the left than Centrists like Hillary Clinton, who is much further left than the Theocrats of the Republican Party.
So it’s going to take time. But the great victory for Bernie Sanders during this election cycle is drawing millions of people like me into his new party, and that number is only going to rise once Hillary gets elected to office and all the Democrats who voted for her realize it’s just business as usual. Nothing is going to change.
I’m playing the long game here, and I’m fine taking small victories where they come. Because like I said, it’s a snowball. There are 13 million of us now, but in two years? Four years? Eight years? That number is going to grow significantly.
Hillary claims she’s a “Progressive who gets things done.” We aren’t convinced. I’m not convinced she’s a Progressive at all, aside the fact that she was born a woman and is the first woman to be the nominee of a major political party in the United States. Big fucking deal.
But I’m also real enough to accept defeat as it comes, and that’s what this is. I’m not kicking and screaming into the night, as it was always a long-shot that my candidate was going to win.
We made it this far, and we still have a long way to go. If this, however, is the starting point, then there is still very much to look forward to.