Today Matters, Even If Bernie Sanders Was Your First Choice. Here's Why
For the first time in our nation’s history, a woman is the presidential nominee of a major political party. I realize that lots of people are not thrilled about this — not the fact that she’s a woman, though of course we have those people in great numbers, as well — but the fact that she is not Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. It's no secret that Hillary Clinton hasn't been the biggest crowd-pleaser of candidates. She's got record-high unfavorable ratings for Democratic candidates going back to 1980, according to FiveThirtyEight (though Donald Trump's are still higher).
Even though he's pretty consistently trailed Clinton in terms of popular votes and delegates, Sanders inspires people — people who don’t normally look at politics and feel inspired — in an intangible, unquantifiable way Clinton hasn't. That's why I understand that to accept his defeat hurts more deeply than it would if he were any other kind of candidate. But I genuinely hope that sting doesn’t entirely cloud the Sanders faithful from witnessing this moment in history and appreciating it for what it is, because this moment in history is very cool.
If you’re a Sanders supporter — the kind who wants what’s best for the nation, not the kind who’s about to run crying to Trump out of spite because you want to watch the world burn — and even if you really, really hate Hillary Clinton, you can still appreciate this moment. You can be gratified, relieved, inspired by the fact that we may soon have a female president — even if she’s not the woman you would have chosen — the same way many Clinton supporters in 2008 could appreciate the power and significance for our nation to elect a black president.
Symbolic victories are not everything; I don’t usually put much stock in them at all. But on platforms as large as this, they matter. The act of setting precedents matters. Taking the first step in changing the oppressive norm, that matters. That’s its own kind of revolution.
I’m not saying this to patronize Sanders fans; I once was one myself, and I realize that if you felt anything resembling the Bern, that the gratification of a female nominee, even a female president, will register as secondary and tangential to what could have been. If you really hate Clinton, it might not register at all. But I hope it does. I hope you can think back to what it means for the black citizens of this country to see a black man in office, and know that even if you really, really (really) hate Hillary Clinton, there are women — and men — in your life to whom this moment matters deeply. Hate Clinton individually if you must, but value the door that she’s opening.
I would never make the argument that if you didn’t support Clinton in the primaries, you’re sexist; that would be simply stupid and reductive. But even if you're not with her, I encourage you to at least try to appreciate what this means for the future opportunities of more than half our nation’s population — yes, even if they hate her, too.
Hate Clinton if you must, but don’t waste this moment in history by being mad about it. Clinton winning the Democratic nomination is a first. It will never come again — which is great, because it means in the future, when woman after woman is selected to represent a major political party in the race for president, it will just be the new norm.
Image: Bustle/Allison Gore