When Bernie Sanders entered the presidential race on April 30, 2015, everyone praised the fact he would help push Hillary Clinton, the pre-anointed Democratic candidate, further to the left, away from her center-right position she had been known for.
Sanders quickly put those claims to rest, making it clear he was entering the race to defeat Clinton and win the White House. He quickly quieted the critics who said a democratic socialist could never compete with the likes of Clinton, and packed stadiums and arenas drawing crowds no other candidate from their party could compete with.
As the campaign raged on through debates and town halls, Clinton’s moderate positions were regularly highlighted by Sanders and her progressive stance called into question. Clinton responded to each critique by later changing her position to match Sanders.
Now, in the aftermath of Super Tuesday, and even with Sanders surprising victory in Michigan, the media is handing Clinton a clear victory and telling the public she is the Democratic nominee, many are praising the job Sanders did in pushing Clinton to the left and asking Sanders supporters to fall in line with the rest of the Democratic Party and fully support Clinton. When voters push back, they are reminded that Clinton has adopted Sanders position, so it is safe to vote for her.
Voters should not simply fall for this tactic, however, as Clinton has only played lip service to Sanders ideals and has no proven track record of supporting them if she is elected to office. Sanders positions are built on decades of activism and working in politics, his views evolving naturally and never at the pressure of donors or the need to secure voter approval.
Sanders voted against the Iraq war while Clinton fully supported it, later saying she thought it was a mistake, and followed that mistake up by pressuring the Obama administration to overthrow Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, a move that would lead to the massive growth of Islamic State terrorists. All of this while trying to convince voters she is not a war-hawk.
She has waged her own war on the middle-class, the very people she swears to defend in the Oval Office, but rejects Sanders call for universal healthcare, instead claiming the government must continue to expand on the Affordable Care Act, forcing middle and working class families to continue to manage premiums that are still out of their reach, copays that keep them from visiting the doctor. Her campaign to discredit Sanders vision went as far as to send her own daughter, Chelsea, onto the campaign trail to tell potential supporters that Sanders wants to overturn Obama’s healthcare law, just like the Republicans.
When it comes to low-wage workers, Sanders has made it clear he is campaigning for no less than raising the national minimum wage to $15 an hour, a living wage, helping ensure no working person, no family, is forced to live below the poverty line. Clinton has refused to adopt this strategy and has instead said she will only fight to raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour and wants states to do the rest if they wish to see $15.
Clinton is not Sanders and is not adopting Sanders policy ideas, regardless of what the media and her supporters are telling voters. Sanders supporters are under no obligation to fall in line and support a war-hawk who is waging her own battle on the middle-class. They should instead look at Clinton’s record on their own and decide if they believe she is the right person to run this country. Some may decide to go with the strategic vote to ensure Republicans stay out of power. This is a decision for the individual voter to make, not for the Democratic Party. The party is benefiting from the legions of young voters brought to the party for the first time by Sanders and his campaign message. His supporters do not become the right of the party if Sanders were to drop-out and Clinton becomes the chosen candidate that Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the DNC has been pushing for.
Voters owe the Democratic Party nothing, but if the party wishes to survive after Sanders, it owes the voters everything.