This Wednesday, July 13, Bernie Sanders endorsed presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. In the following hours, reactions to the news varied. Some Bernie supporters took the news in stride, some expressed various levels of dismay and a few took to social media with theories about his true motivations. None of these reactions seem unusual for the trends of this election, and given the high levels of young voters supporting Sanders this might even have been easily predicted.
The 2016 Presidential election marks the first time many young millennials have been deeply invested in the national political process and the influx of novice voters is evident in the responses that have evolved, particularly in the scrutiny of Hillary Clinton. Skepticism about a political candidate – any political candidate – is a wise choice; unquestioning support of political leaders leads to a biased population and ultimately to a country that functions poorly. But skepticism must be tempered with willingness to reach acceptance, and should never be confused with denial.
When Bernie supporters react with disgust or outrage to his endorsement of Clinton, seeing it as a betrayal of his ideals (and implicitly, his supporters) and in that outrage decide to cast a third-party ballot or to abstain from the election completely, that it their prerogative as voters. But it also reflects that ideals may have distracted from understanding the political process.
Idealism can be a powerful force and can lead people to test the strength of their convictions. But when held as an uncompromising tenant of belief, it can halt progress as certainly as unbridled cynicism. The danger through either option comes with inaction is seen as more purposeful than adaptation to new circumstances. Through this election season, that trend of stagnation has been demonstrated by novice voters, and it worries me for the immediate future.
Generally, time and experience temper all things, and political convictions are no exception to that. Yet in four months’ time, I worry that there will be a core group of voters who, in their determination to not ‘settle’ for a candidate will be deeply upset by the outcome of this election.
In the realm of presidential politics, nothing is done without some degree of motivation and strategy; Sanders’ endorsement of Clinton is no different. Rather than Sanders’ supporters despairing because they see a departure from his campaign promises and political platform, they should look to the ways in which Clinton’s platforms have been drawn to the left in response to Sanders and the block of supporters his liberal stances gathered.
Perhaps many of these novice voters and Bernie supporters will still decide not to support Hillary Clinton. Motivations for casting a ballot vary, and if a voter decides to vote third-party that choice is theirs to make. But voting has tangible outcomes, and voters who have not seen the first-hand application of this may fail to realize the influence of their choices come November.
Generally, if the primary candidate you support does not win, then the next-best outcome is that their policies have a tangible influence on other candidates. That is evident in Clinton’s stances on the minimum wage, affordable higher education and healthcare: her platforms reflect a movement to the left, closer to the positions of Sanders throughout the campaign trail.
A political endorsement can be what it appears as, with no Freudian secondary messages. In light of an evolving political position, Sanders placed his support behind Hillary Clinton and touted her as the best candidate for President. In the midst of election mudslinging it can be difficult to remember that changing positions and platforms do not always reflect negative attributes of politicians, but can demonstrate an ability to evolve in response to voters, the conditions of the country and other political pressures. Over the course of the last few days, those qualities have been demonstrated by both Clinton and Sanders, and both politicians should be commended for that, no matter who you support.