A plea to young Bernie supporters
© Greg Nash

From mentions of Lucifer on-stage to accusations of high treason and repeated chants of “lock her up!”, this year’s Republican National Convention amounted to little more than a cacophonous kumbaya of Hillary hate. A convention so offensive and tasteless was to be expected, as the Trump campaign has long realized that the most effective means of uniting a radically divided Republican party would be the rallying around a common hatred of Hillary Rodham Clinton. This has been going on with increasing fervor since Trump became the nominee, and we can expect the trend to continue until November (and beyond). What may be more surprising, however, is another source of vitriol towards Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPelosi on power in DC: 'You have to seize it' Cuba readies for life without Castro Chelsea Clinton: Pics of Trump getting vaccinated would help him 'claim credit' MORE: young progressives.

I should know.


One year ago this July I founded my university’s chapter of College Students for Bernie SandersBernie SandersOn The Money: Yellen touts 'whole-of-economy' plan to fight climate change | Senate GOP adopts symbolic earmark ban, digs in on debt limit GOP lawmaker demands review over FBI saying baseball shooting was 'suicide by cop' House Dems to unveil drug pricing measure ahead of Biden package MORE (CSFB). Over the course of the school year, I worked with other students to organize rallies and debate-watch parties, attend fundraisers, distribute Bernie merchandise, and to galvanize a strikingly popular Bernie movement on a campus in a staunchly conservative state. The role placed me in a large online community of young Bernie supporters on Facebook and Twitter, including some exclusive groups dedicated to leaders of the hundreds of CSFB chapters across the United States. Naturally, these platforms spawned a tremendous wave of fervor for Bernie’s campaign, and, at times, an equally fervent response to his adversaries. But to my great surprise, over the course of the year, the bulk of the vitriol fell not on Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzChauvin likely to face uphill battle in expected appeal Senate GOP keeps symbolic earmark ban Senate confirms Gupta nomination in tight vote MORE or Donald TrumpDonald TrumpUS gives examples of possible sanctions relief to Iran GOP lawmaker demands review over FBI saying baseball shooting was 'suicide by cop' House passes bill aimed at stopping future Trump travel ban MORE, but on Hillary Clinton.

I myself voiced outrage at the Democratic National Committee’s unfair treatment of Bernie during the primary process, as well as the tilted superdelegate system that gave Hillary an enormous advantage from the start. But what I saw among my zealous Bernie colleagues was often far worse. It was in some of the more radical online groups that I first heard mention of “Hitlary,” and saw a startling number of young progressives declare that they would be willing to let Donald Trump win the election before seeing Hillary Clinton become president. I’ve seen many adamant Sanders supporters express their intention to stay home on Election Day in November. This is a deeply disturbing trend.

Even now, after disbanding my university’s chapter of CSFB, I speak about my continual devotion to Bernie Sanders. I believe that he would have made the finest candidate for the presidency in this election cycle. I share in the pride of Bernie’s success, rising from the position of a fringe candidate to a serious contender for the Democratic nomination in a matter of months. And I strongly believe that Bernie’s platform held a magnifying glass over a number of progressive issues that would have gone mostly without mention had it not been for his run.

At the same time, I would urge my fellow young progressives to realize that Bernie Sanders’ exit from the race does not mark the doom of progressivism in the United States. I would remind them that in their overlapping time in the Senate, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders voted 93% similarly on a plethora of issues of progressive consequence. Meanwhile, Donald Trump has leveled repeated, degrading attacks against women, racial and religious minority groups, LGBTQ individuals, and the physically disabled. Trump has called for a ban on Muslim immigration to the United States, and the surveillance of all Muslim American citizens via an online database. He plans to deport 11 million ‘illegal’ aliens, and to build a great wall along our nation’s southern border to prevent the entry of “killers and rapists” (lucky for us, Mexico will be paying for the wall). Meanwhile, earlier this year Trump’s running mate Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceHispanic Caucus energized by first Biden meeting Simon & Schuster rejects employees' call to drop Pence book deal Jeffries roasts McCarthy over Waters: 'Clean up your own mess' MORE demonstrated his willingness to shut down the government in efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, and was a chief architect of the nation’s first “religious freedom laws,” which allow for businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals.

Trump’s positions on fiscal and foreign policy are equally frightening. His proposed tax cuts would represent a huge win for the wealthiest individuals in the United States, including himself. In fact, they would be twice as extensive as those made during Ronald Reagan’s presidency. And just this past week, both Donald Trump and Mike Pence called for a U.S. pullback from NATO on the grounds that some members are getting, “a free ride.” Trump’s foreign policy proposals have earned him the admiration of at least one foreign dignitary: Vladimir Putin.

Hillary Clinton and Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineSenators in the dark on parliamentarian's decision Progressives put Democrats on defense Senators reintroduce bill to block NATO withdrawal MORE have stood for decency and respect for diversity. They have offered extensive policy analyses of the major economic, social, and foreign policy issues confronting our nation, in stark contrast to Trump’s ego-centric and unsubstantiated pledges that he alone can fix everything. For progressives to back Trump (or by extension, to oppose Hillary) would be to severely undermine the groups they purport to help: the struggling middle class, the LGBTQ community, heavily indebted students, undocumented immigrants, women, and minority groups. A Trump victory would shatter our great nation’s reputation on the international stage, and seriously endanger our most valuable alliances around the world. This would be the bitter and ultimate irony of Bernie’s candidacy, and the greatest affront to everything he stands for.

I dream that eight years from now, I will be able to offer my support to a new progressive firebrand to build on a Clinton presidency. He or she would champion the causes of reducing wealth inequality in the United States, expanding social programs to end poverty, broadening access to healthcare, reducing student debt, and reforming our slanted electoral system, among others. The enabling of such a candidate would be in no small part due to Bernie’s legacy. My nightmare, however, is to have to support such a candidate in four years’ time.

In the wake of the recent WikiLeaks release of emails showing the DNC’s efforts to undermine Bernie, we can expect the Trump campaign to work tirelessly to further alienate Sanders supporters from Hillary’s cause. Some particularly vehement supporters of Bernie have already camped out at the Democratic National Convention, echoing the same cries of “lock her up!” that we heard last week in Cleveland. We cannot allow this to happen. Bernie has given us an ideal to strive for, but we mustn't let our enthusiasm for that ideal blind us to the larger picture. We cannot gamble Bernie’s accomplishments on our collective disdain of establishment politics. Let’s rally around Bernie Sanders’ endorsement of Hillary Clinton in the coming months, and help elect a Democratic candidate with decades of public engagement to the office of President of the United States. If we do not, all of our efforts will have been in vain.

Alex Amari is a rising junior at Rice University in Houston, Texas, and former president of Rice Students for Bernie Sanders.