For Some Of Us, Bernie Or Bust Isn't "Silly"

Some people might look at this story and do a double-take. If Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination and Bernie Sanders supporters refuse to vote for her, aren't they worried about enabling a Donald Trump presidency? Don't they know how terrible Trump would be for America? Here's the thing: There are some Sanders supporters — many of them white men — who would refuse to vote for Clinton for sexist reasons, or even go so far as to vote for Trump out of spite. But marginalized voters might also say #BernieOrBust, and for us, it's not so much about privilege as it is about understanding that voting for a "lesser of two evils" candidate doesn't mean much as a marginalized person.

Suppose Clinton wins the nomination and, as some polls indicate, a number of Sanders supporters choose not to vote for her; would it be their fault if Trump is elected? Or would it be the fault of Clinton and a Democratic Party establishment that has failed for years to address the needs of marginalized voters, of people who are seeking radical social and political change? This isn't just about the principle of the thing. Trump talks a lot — about how he would like to ban Muslims, about how he would build a wall, about how abortions should be criminalized.

But for many people in the United States, these manifestations of marginalization are already a reality. The Obama administration has deported more people than any previous president. Predominantly black and Muslim neighborhoods are constantly under surveillance, and black and brown people are disproportionately criminalized and killed. News flash: These policies aren't exclusive to Republicans.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images

#BernieOrBust might not be the best way to argue that. He's not a perfect candidate, after all, and many of the people supporting him are marginalized people who are further to the left than him on issues like guns and Israel, and as a result we're already compromising on him. But for the first time since the 2008 elections, marginalized people see a candidate we can at least be somewhat excited about — we're not just voting against another candidate, but for someone who for decades has addressed issues that pertain to us. And while Clinton may be your quintessential establishment liberal, the policies she's supported both at home and abroad indicate that she has a record of oppressive policies toward marginalized people.

As secretary of state, Clinton advocated for a hawkish approach to foreign policy. More recently, she has repeatedly condemned the BDS movement and has vowed to develop even closer ties with Israel, despite Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine and attacks on Palestinians. On the subject of the environment, Clinton will not say outright that she would condemn fracking, despite it being a significant contributor to climate change — something which, again, disproportionately impacts communities of color and indigenous communities in island nations and coastal regions. She refused to support marriage equality until it would have been politically dangerous not to do so (not that marriage equality does all that much for the rights of queer and trans people, but her heteronormative stance was telling).

Clinton has had a number of clashes with Black Lives Matter activists over significant issues like the 1994 crime bill and the War on Drugs. As recently as April 7, former Bill Clinton unfathomably defended his wife's infamous "superpredator" comment in a confrontation with Black Lives Matter protesters on the campaign trail, saying:

I don't know how you would characterize the gang leaders who got 13-year-old kids hopped on crack and sent them out on the street to murder other African-American children. Maybe you thought they were good citizens. She [Hillary Clinton] didn't. ... You are defending the people who kill the lives you say matter. Tell the truth.

Clinton has been repeatedly called out for her oppressive policies both at home and abroad. For example, before Honduran indigenous rights and environmental activist Berta Cáceres was murdered on March 3, she singled out Clinton and her attempts to impose elections for legitimating and institutionalizing the 2009 coup. And here in the United States, civil rights advocate Michelle Alexander wrote an op-ed in The Nation about why Clinton doesn't deserve the black vote.

If it isn't obvious by now, the system as it stands was never meant to serve marginalized people.

For a marginalized person to decide to stay at home instead of voting for Clinton over Trump, or to vote for the Green Party's Jill Stein, is not a stance resulting from privilege. It is a recognition that trying to operate within the current establishment simply isn't an option anymore. An alternative might be to focus on local politics as a more urgent front, because in the eyes of many marginalized voters, Sanders' candidacy is a way to change how the system works, and if it fails, then there is no point investing more hope and labor into a corrupt and oppressive establishment.

If Clinton loses to Trump in November, just remember: It is not the fault of a marginalized person who refuses to vote for someone invested in their oppression. It is the fault of a two-party system that prevents real change. It is the fault of white moderates like Clinton who — in aiming to please "everyone" — continuously uphold the status quo. It is Trump's fault for being terrible. #BernieOrBust may be a sexist temper tantrum coming from some people, but for many marginalized folks, it's an understanding that the "lesser of two evils" argument is no longer a valid one, and that ultimately, we will have to work outside the system if we even hope to stay alive.