If we’re going to be honest, there’s one thing a Clinton supporter could always say to us, to which we really had no answer: “Bernie promised he’d support Clinton if he didn’t get the nomination, and that’s what he did. Why don’t you?” And they were right, more or less. That’s what he said, and that’s what he did — a man of his word, as we already knew him to be. So why didn’t we flock to Clinton when she won the nomination as the Democrats expected us to? Why did so many of us bust instead, or transition to third party candidates?
Back when Bernie made that promise, the primary season was fresh out of the bag. Clinton had just dazzled the cameras and engorged the media at the congressional hearings on Benghazi, and also seemed to have put the issues of her e-mails and server to rest, for all political intents and purposes. Progressives had no reason to snap off at the point of Bernie’s promise; it actually seemed reasonable. But then two things happened: the rest of the primaries, and the Internet.
Since Bernie’s promise, the primaries were unashamedly manipulated to Clinton’s benefit by the DNC. That manipulation was emboldened by CNN and MSNBC, whose virtual blackout of the Sanders phenomenon and unabashed Clinton slants made it quickly obvious that they were Clinton’s flagships. And then came Wikileaks, proving these accusations true, ultimately exposing such corrupt players as Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Donna Brazile. Bernie continued to reiterate his promise in the midst of all that, and many of us began to realize that pulling that promise back wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, given the underhandedness with which the primaries were taken from him. But it was also becoming evident that Clinton was worse than we had thought. While Republicans and Democrats were still poking the dying embers of Benghazi, Progressives were learning of and getting outraged at the depths to which the Clinton machine would sink, and the details and disastrous effects of her political career. And then it wasn’t just that the primaries had been stolen, it was that they were stolen by a human monument to all that is wrong with politics today, the hands-down poster child for everything Bernie had railed against. But Bernie still kept his promise.
Progressives were in disbelief. How could he keep that promise now? Some of us fully expected him to announce that, after the corruption put on display during the primaries, he’d be taking the Revolution to the Independent ticket, maybe even choosing to bolster a third party’s profile. It seemed like it would be just desserts for the DNC, and to be the obvious direction for the movement that had been cast aside. But he kept his promise and there we stood, mouths agape, watching Bernie stump for Clinton to tiny crowds, looking at him as though he were a man shackled by invisible chains, some believing he was even under a cloud of threats to his safety from the Clinton machine. Whatever the reason (which was, most likely, the strong convictions of a righteous man), Progressives realized they could not follow, and moved to those places they felt best embodied their view of the Revolution. Some went Green, some went Libertarian, some even went Trump. We now know that many just went quiet, Progressives and Democrats alike, to the tune of nine million registered Democrats (some, Progressives who had registered Democrat to vote for Bernie) who stayed home on voting day. But their common bond was that none could sleep at night if they were to cast their vote for Clinton.
Did Senator Sanders foresee the Tsunami of information that would be exposed regarding Clinton’s corruption? Doubtful. Could he have predicted the sheer volume of the undemocratic chicanery that would be leveled against him in the primaries? Probably not. Could he have guessed that his movement would become so strong, such a living thing, that it would wander from his guidance when it seemed he was leading the flock off a cliff? Not likely, and all of this happened after he made that fateful promise. He did come out the other side with his word intact, and as the de facto returning king of the Progressives, but to maintain his integrity and his influence became a juggling act that ultimately failed. There are some places a flock won’t follow, and “off a cliff” tops that list. Hopefully, we won’t hear a promise like that again. But if we do, we had better believe it. Because no matter what we think of his support of Clinton, he is a man of his word.