Last May, Bernie Sanders promised a political revolution. What a year it has been.
Donald Trump was openly ridiculed when he announced his campaign but he is now the presumptive Republican nominee, the first with no government or military experience since 1940. Sanders himself has had the strongest presidential campaign of a self-proclaimed socialist since Eugene Debs in 1912.
Yet, Hillary Clinton now has the pledged delegates to be the Democratic nominee, and some blame Sanders for extending his campaign to the last primary next week or even to the convention. That should not be a surprise; Sanders does not come across as a quitter. Should we have expected any less from an American politician who went on national television and proclaimed himself a socialist? Sanders and his supporters need space and cooperation, not a lecture and admonishment.
Despite Clinton’s lead in the popular vote, many Sanders supporters claim that the primary process is rigged and undemocratic. They are right to an extent; super delegates are not very democratic and proportional voting is better than winner-take-all.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
Yet, Sanders supporters are not being entirely fair either; a team cannot reasonably complain about the rules halfway through the game.
Imagine the Panthers claiming that field goals were not fair since they helped extend the Broncos lead. Some supporters urge Sanders to strong-arm the Democratic National Committee into nominating him by threatening an independent bid. There are now calls to back Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Stein has even suggested Sanders join her on her ticket.
It may be better to vote for Stein than not vote at all, yet what is intriguing are the Sanders supporters who are drifting towards Trump. These voters want to send the establishment a message. Unlike Bernie’s original message, this one is fueled by spite and anger.
Unlike Stein, Trump’s progressive credentials are non-existent. Republicans and Democrats alike have called him unqualified and a liar. It should be a slam-dunk for the Democrats but their nominee has an enthusiasm problem.
Sound familiar, Kentucky Democrats?
Attacks on Clinton focus on trust and Clinton’s 40 years in the public spotlight. If people worry about her then they should find little solace with Trump. Clinton apologized for her mistakes; Trump acts as if his never happened. Sanders supporters who were drawn to the senator’s “bigger than me” movement should find little in common with the one-man show that is the Trump campaign.
Trump may say what no other candidate will, but that does not make him a prophet.
An incremental movement is not as sexy as electing a socialist president but it is what the voters have voted for, liberal smugness aside. It is clear that the Democrats have plenty of work to do if they want to regain the working-class vote, critical to redemption in Appalachia. The defeats of former Attorney General Jack Conway, who ran for governor, and Auditor Adam Edelen, who ran for re-election, said as much.
The drubbing of the Kentucky Democratic Party, by new Gov. Matt Bevin, has hurt its standing as one of most successful in the southeast. Kentucky Democrats can overcome those challenges, but they should be wary of Trump’s snake oil.
Let’s be clear: If you have reservations about Clinton, you should certainly sort those out. But know that Trump’s revolution is not comparable to Sanders’. Trump has recently turned to the donor class that Bernie has pilloried. He has attacked immigrants, legal and illegal, that Bernie has embraced. He calls for a world with more nuclear weapons not fewer.
This would all certainly be a revolution, just not the one that Sanders promised.
Vishnu Tirumala of Corbin is a University of Louisville junior studying political science and philosophy.