I have SO MANY friends — fellow Bernie supporters — telling me the New York primary was stolen. No, wait — STOLEN!!!. There, that’s it. The primary was STOLEN!!! because it was a closed primary, and registered Independents couldn’t vote in it, and nobody told them they had to switch their registration six months before the primary, and it’s Hillary’s fault because she’s the Establishment Candidate ™, and the New York Democratic Party set the rules to help Establishment Candidate ™, and it’s just not fair to Bernie, and so democracy is dead!
I declare, I’m increasingly embarrassed by my fellow Bernie supporters. They’re right that the New York Democratic primary rules are fucked up and need to be changed, but in order to change them — well, it requires a bit of work. First, you have to be a Democrat. This is pretty basic. Registered Independents or Republicans don’t have much say in how Democrats set up their primaries or caucuses. Second, after you register as a Democrat, you have to attend a lot of meetings and listen to a lot of arguments. That takes time and a certain amount of commitment.
It’s important for Bernie supporters to understand the current rules for the NY primary were established about a century ago, when things moved more slowly and there were more political parties and ‘party-crashing’ was more common and sometimes included actual violence. The rules weren’t implemented just to obstruct Bernie.
Just as important, Bernie supporters need to understand that Bernie has benefited from closed events. Most of Bernie’s victories have been in caucus states, and caucuses are always closed. Always. Registered Democrats only, thank you very much. Registered Independents and Republicans, sorry guys — you’re just not welcome. Colorado, Kansas, Wyoming, Nebraska, Washington, Maine, Alaska, Hawaii — all Bernie victories, and all closed caucuses.
And hey,let’s face it, caucuses are the least democratic way to select a candidate. Primaries are much more fair and representative. Caucuses actually discourage voters, because they’re so time-consuming. You’re a nurse working second shift at the hospital? Sorry, caucuses are generally held in the evening, so you don’t get to vote. You have a couple of young kids and can’t afford a baby-sitter? Sorry, unless you want to deal with young kids who are forced to sit in a crowded room for two to three hours with no distraction, you don’t get to vote.
It’s disingenuous for Bernie supporters to complain about New York’s closed primary when so much of his momentum has come from closed events. It sounds like whining. It IS whining.
While we’re at it, let’s look at those open primaries — the ones where Independents (and lawdy, even Republicans) could vote. The fact is, Hillary has won more of those primaries than Bernie. Yes, most of them were in the South — and a lot of Bernie supporters dismiss them for that reason. As if Southern Democrats aren’t real Democrats. As if winning in a poor, under-educated, racially diverse state is somehow not as worthy as winning in a more economically sound, whiter, better educated state. As if Hillary’s victory in, say, conservative Mississippi is less valid than Bernie’s victory in conservative Kansas.
And that’s why — as a Bernie supporter, as somebody who caucused for Bernie in the first (closed) caucus, where Bernie got his first victory — I’m writing this. I support Bernie, but I’m just not willing to be hypocritical about it. I won’t complain about closed primary losses while I celebrate closed caucus victories. I won’t whine about registered Independents being unable to influence the choices of a political party they haven’t joined. I won’t attribute Bernie’s losses to conspiracies, and I won’t make excuses for why Bernie isn’t winning.
Here’s the thing: Bernie may not be winning the 2016 nomination, but he might be winning the future of the Democratic party. And that’s just as important — in fact, probably more important — in the long-term.
I say Bernie ‘might’ be winning the future, because my impression is that a lot of his supporters — the ones who are concocting conspiracy theories to explain why he’s not doing better — will abandon politics if Bernie doesn’t get the nomination. And if that happens, then the rules for primaries will stay fucked up for the foreseeable future. Worse, any hope we have to radically change the way politics are handled in the U.S. will fade.
Bernie’s campaign was never about Bernie. It’s always been about change. Change for the better. And there won’t be any change for the better in the future if we lie to ourselves about the present.