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Your privilege is showing

| Thursday, February 27, 2020

I typically get a lot of pushback from the more conservative readership to my columns, but I decided to piss off the opposite faction today: Bernie or Busters!

Twitter is a tough place to be right now. While I wholly support Senator Bernie Sanders’ candidacy and am planning to gladly support him if he ends up winning the nomination (and it looks like he most certainly will), I struggle reading the intense and targeted criticism of anyone who offers any commentary to complicate Sanders’ rise. 

For example, a few days ago Sanders tweeted, “I’ve got news for the Republican establishment. I’ve got news for the Democratic establishment. They can’t stop us.” 

An accomplished broadcast journalist, Soledad O’Brien, quote tweeted Sanders and commented, “(The Senator from Vermont working extra-hard to elect Trump.)” 

While I interpreted O’Brien’s tweet as a commentary on the electability of a Sanders ticket which bases itself on rejection of the establishment, many others failed to see it this way. The replies to O’Brien’s tweet were honestly shocking.

Porochista Khakpour tweeted, “Your unprovoked cruelty has become hard to stand. I admired you for ages. Seeing you act this way for me is the greatest tragedy of this election. I know I don’t matter to you but I am begging you to stop trolling & trying to hurt people here just because you have followers.” 

In another exchange, a user tweeted “I really wanted to believe you were a real one. Damn” before another user responded “Soulisdead O’Brien?” 

It’s extremely reasonable to push back on O’Brien’s assertion that Sanders requires the support of the Democratic establishment to win the election, but this primary has been transformed into a fight for the soul of liberal America. And maybe that’s a good thing. Perhaps a moral message with a future-focused vision is what we need to win this election. After all, that’s what President Barack Obama had in 2008. 

But I can’t see this type of division and negativity as anything but harmful. Aren’t we all on the same team here? Democrats, progressives and never-Trumpers may have different approaches and aspirations for who should occupy the Oval Office, but in the end the worst-case scenario for everyone is another four years of President Donald Trump. 

What if, by some crazy happenstance, Sanders doesn’t win the nomination? What then? We still have a moral obligation to “vote blue, no matter who.”

Unfortunately, a shocking number of people riding the “Bernie or Bust” train would disagree with that sentiment. While I admire the passion of Sanders’ supporters in this primary race, part of that passion needs to be redirected to the real goal at hand. Can we really afford to “bust” in this election? Are our only viable options Sanders or another four years of Trump? No. 

Sanders might be your favorite candidate, but you will undoubtedly embody the face of progressive privilege if you refuse to reorient your loyalty to another candidate on the bizarre chance that Sanders fails to secure the nomination. 

There is far more at stake in this election than the dream of a new progressive political system. While that’s a major part of Sanders’ mission, we also have to consider the fate of undocumented immigrants, the destructive effects of climate change, people deprived of access to adequate health care, victims of mass incarceration, the fact that our appellate court system will be conservative-leaning for the rest of our lives — the list goes on and on. To refuse to vote for any other candidate out of protest against the Democratic establishment and their efforts to prevent a Sanders presidency is to abandon these common causes that are definitional of Sanders’ campaign in the first place. 

Sanders’ campaign slogan is “Not me. Us.” And that’s what this election has to be about. We need a candidate with a moral mission and true vision who can turn out enough voters to actually take on Trump — and Sanders might just be that candidate. But he’s not the only candidate in this race who could create positive change. 

Literally anyone else currently running is better than the deranged lunatic occupying the Oval Office. 

So — if you’ve made the statement “Bloomberg is basically Trump” or disqualified Warren for taking money from PACs, think again. That’s the exact kind of privilege that caused people to stay home in 2016 and lost us the election. We can’t afford to go down this same road again — the stakes are far too high and way too real. 

After this last debate and Sanders’ impressive showing in Nevada, we might not have anything to worry about, but we can’t forget that the goal of 2020 isn’t creating a new America. It can be that, but on an even more basic level, our goal is avoiding another destructive four years of Trump. 

Jackie O’Brien is a Notre Dame senior studying political science and peace studies, originally from the Chicago suburbs. When she’s not writing for Viewpoint, you can find her attempting to complete the NYT crossword, fretting over law school applications or watching RuPaul’s Drag Race. She can be reached at [email protected] or @im_jackie_o on Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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