Yesterday Maryland democrats organized a luncheon to bring up almost 800 local leaders and activist for the Democratic National Convention. One of them is a dear friend of mine and really wanted to see President Obama’s speech from the floor. With expected speeches by Vice President Biden, Dr. Jill Biden, Tim Kaine, and President Obama the floor was expected to be packed. Few times in life are we blessed enough to be a blessing to other people. I try to take advantage of that opportunity every time it arises. I gave her my credentials. Doing so also allowed me the time to do something I really wanted to do anyway, hear directly from members of the #BernieOrBust group. So I did.
Tuesday as some of them walked out of the convention, I met a guy who for some reason walked up and told me, “you cannot win without us”. That was a funny statement, because in essence they are saying they know if they don’t vote for the nominee it helps the GOP, but they are willing to do that because they’ve lost a primary. We talked a little more and he gave me his card. Giving up my credential allowed me to text him and ask to meet for lunch. He brought along some friends. Over burgers at Bobby’s Burger Palace we talked politics and the Democratic Party. Here is what I learned.
They Aren’t Democrats – Not before and not now
I met with a group of about ten of them. Imagine sitting down with a group of people who do not look like you, talk like you, and hate you for two hours over food. That is how I felt going into the meeting. However I just had to know. One of the first things we talked about is their history with the party. In a group whose ages ranged from 18-72, that history was spotty at best. None of them considered themselves Democrats and only four had ever voted for the Democratic nominee in any election. In a convention that is more diverse than any other before it, this group reflected poorly on the inclusion they said we need.
This Isn’t About Values, It is About Trust
One thing that continues to amaze me is this values discussion. Sitting on the floor of the convention, engaging in talks on Facebook or twitter, or just meeting a Bernie Sanders supporter will show you just how passionate they are. They profess to care deeply about their values and aren’t interested in compromising…at all. I asked how they could seriously consider doing anything to help Donald Trump. The facts couldn’t be more clear. A vote for Donald Trump will lead to a more unstable world, fights to cut wages for the poor, efforts to ban immigrants, horrible relationships with our neighbors to the north and south, more racial tension, and an exit from the stage of leadership on climate change. Their calls to tax Wall Street, to raise taxes on the wealthy, demand for universal health care not only would be rejected, he would do the opposite. How could they not see this? I found out they know. They do see it. However this isn’t a battle about values, this is an issue of trust. They do not trust Hillary Clinton and therefore they cannot vote for her. Never mind what they know to be true about her history and her record. The 30 years of conservative attacks on her character and record have not only worked for Fox News viewers, they worked on this crowd as well.
They Don’t Represent Who They Say They’re Fighting For
One of the main things I hear a lot from people who support Senator Sanders is their concern for the poor, for blacks, for Hispanics, for women, for people around the world. I’ve always found that to be interesting. On Monday the main group of about 30 folks who led the boos and shouts during the floor speeches were made up of mostly young, white, single, straight, males with no children. On Tuesday when I stood in the hall as about sixty-eighty of them walked out (don’t believe the hype it was not anywhere near 1,000) I noticed the same thing. This group had a few more women though. So I had to ask, how can you profess to speak for a group of people who you do not represent and often is not even in your ranks? Hillary Clinton overwhelmingly won black voters, Hispanic voters, women voters, older voters, she won big in urban communities and places we Democrats say we care about. Let me kid you not when one of the older white women said, looking me right in the eye, it is because so many of those voters (I assume she meant me as well) were brainwashed and too afraid to leave the plantation. What? I’m like okay.
This conversation was very enlightening for me. I value listening to people who disagree with me. I see their voice as one that must be heard, even if we disagree. What I now know though is that there is very little we can do to win over this wing of the left. However for the 80-90% (depending on what poll you read) of Bernie Sanders supporters who will support the nominee, it is important that we listen to their real issues, understand their real values, and do what we can to make them feel included.