The Bernie or Bust pledge makes Bernie Sanders the idol of a movement, not a facilitator.

No one could have predicted that the 2016 race was going to create so much controversy in the Democratic party. At times, it seems like Bernie Sanders and Clinton supporters belong to different parties as opposed to the same. And given the reality that some Sanders supporters are disaffected independents, it might as well be half way true.

But at the center of the controversy, is the Bernie or Bust pledge. This pledge, which was started by Citizens Against Plutocracy, has the purpose of creating  “leverage on Democratic primary voters and insurance against corrupted super delegates ‘pledged’ to another candidate before one primary vote is cast”. In short, it is a tactic that was created to counter the rigged Democratic Party process by holding hostage other Democratic voters with this threat: “If Bernie doesn’t get the nomination, say hello to President Trump!”

In the beginning I toyed around with this idea, mostly because of my political beliefs. Money in politics has been an issue that I have been deeply interested in since I was a freshman in college and watched “The Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Politics”. This documentary opened up my eyes to the corrupt influence that money has on campaigns, how business elites have undermined democracy through their oversize political-economic influence, and the human rights catastrophes that naturally follow when big business has too much power in any political system.

A corrupt political system is the root of the some of the greatest injustices of our nation. The fact is that the influence of money in politics has often stood in the way of progress. Whether it be in healthcare, reforming the criminal justice system, gun control, predatory lending practices, or even the much dreamed of “world peace”, the biggest adversaries of progress have always been corporations who profit from an unjust system.

So when Bernie Sanders comes along, a politician who has never received money from those same business elites that undermine our democracy, against a candidate like Hillary Clinton, who has deep ties with this same system, it is obvious for a person of my political persuasion who the better candidate is. So for a time I considered writing in Bernie Sanders if he did not win the nomination, or even better, vote for Jill Stein.

But I am not a person who is thick headed (which I have sadly found to be the case of many “progressive” Sanders and Clinton supporters), and I listened to fellow progressives and considered the possibilities of defecting and raising the possibilities of a GOP victory. And the truth is, that there is much at stake in 2016. Addressing the issues of climate change, woman’s rights, LGBT rights, education affordability, gun control, immigration, criminal justice reform, and that vacant seat on the Supreme Court will all be put under peril if a Republican becomes president because of a Democratic party exodus.

Of course, the Democrats may not be perfect on many of these issues. For one, Clinton still has a nuanced view on fracking when scientists have clearly reached a consensus that it is dangerous for the environment, and hence for human kind. But whatever progress we have achieved under President Obama will only be held back under a Republican president. Even if a Clinton presidency doesn’t fight enough for the radical progress that many of us want, it will be much better than a stone age Republican Presidency.

This brings me back to the most important issues I care about: money in politics and income inequality. The fact is that both are made worse by the other. The more inequality there is, the more influence the rich have on a political system to create laws and deregulation that will further harm those who are at the bottom. And with all due respect to Clinton’s progressive credentials, when she has received so much money and support from that same system, it is hard to believe her willingness to address this issue.

Bernie Sanders is the one candidate who has always been consistent on money in politics, which makes him the ideal candidate for people like me. But at the same time, we have to recognize what the Bernie Sanders movement is actually doing. Yes, electing Bernie Sanders as president is the implied objective, but this movement is bigger than just electing him to the White House. Through his whole campaign, Sanders has continued talking about the need to start a political awakening, and making “Not me, Us” one of the center tenets of his campaign message. All his campaign ads and speeches are about “bringing people together” to fight for a better tomorrow with a progressive president who will spearhead this movement.

While Citizens Against Plutocracy has made clear that having this revolution is necessary to reform our political system, the Bernie or Bust pledge sends out a message that our political call for reform depends on the presidency of Bernie Sanders. And as I have written before, the reform that many of us want will not come through the “messianism” of a leader, but through the mass awakening that Bernie Sanders is calling for. And the Bernie or Bust pledge makes Bernie Sanders the idol of our movement instead of a facilitator.

So if Bernie doesn’t win, why should those who care about a corrupt political system vote for Hillary? When it comes to campaign finance reform, who will be the better facilitator? Clinton or Trump?

Many might say: Why not Trump? After all he has called out Wall Street and has never received money from them. If there’s a better option to taking on the system than Bernie Sanders, it would be Trump. Right? But that is far from true. Trump is as big a weasel as you can get. The only reason he has talked about income inequality and taking on Wall Street is because he knows that the working class has felt cheated by the system. As his recent abortion comments show, Trump is guided by what he needs to say. In terms of his principles and what he stands for, it is hard to say what he will fight for if he wins the presidency, other than his one consistent stance on targeting Muslims and Hispanics.

If Bernie doesn’t win, I will vote for Clinton because I want campaign finance reform. Cognitive dissonance? No. The following passage from “Third Parties Don’t Work: Why and How Egalitarians Should Transform the Democratic Party” by G. William Domhoff helped me feel less bad about voting for a Democrat like Clinton with deep corporate ties.

“Although most egalitarians think liberal politicians should just stand up for what they believe in, and take the consequences, they are better thought of as the egalitarian activists’ negotiators and diplomats within a democratic system.

Yes, they should have strong liberal principles, but they also have to know when to do battle and when not to, and when it is time to cut a deal. Their goal is to win the best they think possible for their side at any given moment, and to be back for the next round.

The crucial point for egalitarians is this: the liberals among politicians can only prosper when the egalitarian moral activists and their social movements have made better deals possible, either by causing the election of more liberals or by forcing the moderates and conservatives to accept a deal they don’t like in order to avoid losing the next election.”

Regardless of whether Bernie wins or not, it is important that those of us who want to reform the system continue pushing and fighting for this change to reform our political system. And while much can be questioned about Clinton’s flip-flops, the fact is that Clinton is still a Democrat, and the Democratic base is looking to a much more left wing future. Now that the conservative hijacking “Third Way” wing of the Democratic party is starting to fade, there is a surging young electorate and working class coalition that feels betrayed by the party and that shares more things in common with the Bernie Sanders message. Especially for the young voters, many of us who grew up with fewer opportunities because of the greed of Wall Street that almost destroyed our economy.

Which is why, despite her ties with our corporate political system, it is a better bet to have Clinton in the White House than any of the Republican candidates. Because if Democratic voters rise up and demand reform to a corrupt political system, no amount of money can get in the people’s way. Just ask Jeb Bush if all that Koch money helped him stop Trump.

And if Clinton and the Democrats hope to hold on to their base in the near future, and the new coming generations that will be able to vote withing the next 5 years, such as High Schoolers for Bernie Sanders, the Democrats will have to start evolving and give in to the change that many of these new voters are asking for.

Of course, this column is written as conditional on Clinton winning the nomination. Even though Bernie Sanders needs about 70% of the remaining delegate count to win the nomination, my hope is that Sanders can pull tremendous upsets in Wisconsin and my home state of New York. But if Bernie doesn’t win, remember that Hillary is still a Democrat, and the Democratic base is growing much more liberal and skeptical of our political system. And if Hillary wants to get a second term, she is going to have to answer to her base, not the corporations. Which is why our movement and call for reform needs to get stronger to change America, and it will not depend on one single person in the presidency.

Just remember one thing. Politics is born out of protest, and protest is born out of the people.


  1. One of the reasons I have supported Sanders is that Clinton has always been 100% unacceptable to me on a moral and policy basis. I have consistently voted and sometimes volunteered Dem for 28 years, but I cannot and will not vote for her under any circumstances. Sanders is the last chance I’m giving the Dems before voting and volunteering Green. This party and 28 years of lesser evil voting have never delivered anything except betrayal of the working class. I increasingly regard participating in the Democratic party as something evil; it doesn’t represent me one bit more than the GOP. Trump? Even as a gay voter, I prefer absolutely anyone to Hillary Clinton.

    • #BernieorBust puts the “establishment” DEMS who are trying to rig/fix the primary on notice….they do so at their own peril…$illary is UNACCEPTABLE to me so I’m #NotThisWoman #NeverHillary #ReleasetheTranscripts #StillSanders #BernieorBust

  2. I do like the idea of putting a nail in the coffin of the ‘lesser of evils’ arguments. At some point we have to break away and give ourselves more options. This will be painful. But it seems that every time I’ve voted, someone said I threw my vote away… It would be nice to not have to any more. Maybe this is the first step of that process?

    • I am a ‘dissatisfied independent’ in a blue state. This pledge does certainly create leverage for me, within the Democratic Party. I wouldn’t call myself ‘thick-headed’, just ‘peppered with years of experience and disappointment’. There is always much at stake. So the argument loses value to me. It’s not like I can suck it up this year, but won’t have to next time. I want to end the cycle of political violence. I will not fear fear itself. I will not give up my hope for fear of Republicans.

      Clinton has in fact done well by women and children here and abroad, but also within the context of the ‘allowable’ (and corrupt) current political and corporate process. I’ve had enough, and it’s been that way for me for a while now.

      Imagine now that all that enthusiasm that is motivating to get into politics, we let that go and (wo)man-up, and nothing happens. Do they become apathetic again. Or if they do actually make a difference (even a negative one), how would that affect engagement? I have been a part of political movements that don’t risk the current system… they weren’t that effective.

      As to Bernie as a facilitator, I personally see him as a symbol. It’s not ‘Bernie or Bust’ but Progressives Now, or MediaStopIgnoringMe, or ItAintYourPartyDLCitsOURS.

      Who will better campaign finance reform. I’ll take the leap and say Trump. Clinton is dependent on it, Trump isn’t, and it’s an area where he can bask in the love of voters (he really really likes that)

  3. I have watched the differences between idealism and pragmatism for quite some time. The problem is this, you can have ideals, but without the resources and the commitment and the just plain getting things done, your ideals are candles in the wind. Yes I have issues with Hilary Clinton, but I feel that the passion and courage and idealism of Bernie Sanders better serves progressive politics by using the energy he has generated to elect a Democratic Congress. I have re-registered as a Green for this reason: it is impossible to make the environment the issue that it needs to be within the existing two party structure. My evidence — Flint, Michigan and Agoura Hills, California (and the horrible failure of the electric power system just outside of San Francisco, a few years back). As both poor and wealthy communities are now suffering horribly because of infra-structure neglect and environmental hazards, it is time to stake out the high ground and bring people together around these issues.

  4. BULLSHIT Naive Cop-Out!!!
    You are supporting a continuation of a Status Quo Establishment that will NEVER change the System as long as they keep winning the Support of people like you. The ONLY change will come through Revolutionary actions… and “Bernie or Bust” is exactly that.

    It is NOT Messianic, It is a prediction… Elect Bernie now,, because you will Never get a better Chance later!!

    Wake up, before Revolutionary change, which will happen, comes NOT through the Ballot Box!!

  5. I cannot add to the above, only applaud it over and over. You have to play the hand you have. Not the one you wish you had. If any sane person does not lose sleep picturing Donald TRUMP oe Ted Cruz in the White House, then they need to have their brain tested.

    • If “practical” people keep supporting “the lesser of two evils”, nothing will change. The vote is not between Republicans and Democrats. Both of those parties have been bought by the bankers. Hillary is the candidate we are being handed by Wall Street and big pharma. Trump is just to scare us into voting for her. Morons, who can’t see the obvious, corrupt scoundrels, and cowardly conservatives afraid of change will vote for her. If Hillary is the candidate, I will either write in Bernie or vote Green.
      This is do or die.

      • That thinking gave us Bush instead of Gore. The results were tragic. We didn’t get Kyoto and we did get Iraq. There is a huge substantive difference between Clinton and either Cruz or Trump. I gave and continue to give to Sanders. I will vote for him. I am more aligned with him. But I will not willfully be complicit in the election of Cruz or Trump. That is what you are doing.

        • What gave us Bush instead of Gore was main-stream media corrupted by money. Now we have the internet. We can get unfiltered news.
          Just keep kissing the … ring … of the candidate annointed by those in power, even if you have to hold your nose, and they will continue to present you with the choice between the criminally insane skunk and the merely corrupt, wallowing hog. We just don’t have time for gradual change.

  6. Excellent editorial Mark. If we allow Republicans to win, we have a better chance to lose everything we’ve fought for in the last 70 years, and even less of a chance to revert that trend, going forward.

    • You’re afraid to lose everything. The key word is “afraid”. You think Hillary will protect you from her campaign contributors?

      “Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
      O’er the land ruled by greed, and the home of the slave?”

      Go kiss the ring, then, of the “leader” the powers on high have chosen for you.

        • Hillary vs. Trump is rabies vs. ebola. Rabies takes longer to develop but is invariably fatal. Hillary is the candidate anointed by Wall Street and big pharma. They anointed her, and Bill, with cash. We are presented with a “choice” between the grotesque and the corrupt, so that we will accept the lesser of two evils.
          Madam Hillary takes the money and we get screwed.

        • A quick resolution, while I’m still young enough to survive it. This “death by a thousand cuts” is agony. af

Leave a Comment