Yesterday, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said that, without a doubt, if November’s Presidential election comes down to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, he plans to vote for Clinton. This definitive “yes” ends weeks of speculation as to whether Sanders will drop out of the race and endorse Clinton. Though he stopped short of fully endorsing Clinton, the message to his supporters was loud and clear: Anyone is better than Trump.
It’s one we all need to hear and understand. With the Brexit vote allowing the UK to leave the EU still ringing in our ears, it is becoming increasingly clear that Trump’s xenophobic agenda lives and flourishes all over the world and that means he realistically might become our next president. Unity matters now more than ever. Clinton and Trump are not “the same”—not by a long shot.
The Sanders dream is about working people. He wants to see students graduate from college without crippling debt. He wants to see healthcare treated as a right and not a privilege. These ideas will be advanced, albeit slowly, by Clinton. They will be dead in the water with a Trump presidency.
Clinton already advocates "debt-free" public college, and has pushed for the federal minimum wage to be $12 an hour, allowing for individual states and cities to bump it to $15. Trump, on the other hand, wants to keep minimum wage where it is right now at $7.25 an hour and believes the Department of Education, which gives federal aid, should be "largely eliminated.” He wants to privatize student loans and push students toward higher earning majors.
His rhetoric is frightening.
Those who support Sanders may not get the full picture of what they hoped for, but just plugging the numbers makes it clear: Clinton and Sanders are far closer to one another than Trump is to either of them. And that is to say nothing of the other things Trump is advocating: building a wall between Mexico and the US (that he claims Mexico will pay for), banning Muslims from our country, “taking out the families” of terrorists (a war crime, by the way), and other xenophobic, racist policies that would reverse so many years of progress in this country.
The Republican party is in crisis. Our whole government is in crisis. We've seen it in the past few weeks, like when a 15-hour Filibuster on the Senate floor yielded a vote that was incomprehensible: suspected terrorists can't fly on airplanes, but they can buy guns. A sit-in protest on the House floor was dismissed by Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan as a “publicity stunt.” Have we lost all sense in this country?
Sanders’ message appeals to many voters, especially those of us under 45 who are swimming in debt and wary of the “same old” candidates. Some voters drawn to Sanders' anti-establishment appeal might be drawn to Trump's. They might say that Clinton and Trump are basically the same—but it isn't so.
Sanders and Clinton differ on the means, but they want the same things: more money in the hands of the middle class, a shrinking of the growing income inequality in this country, and improved opportunities for young people. Their biggest difference is in approach. Sanders takes a more aggressive, confrontational approach to big business and corporations, while Clinton prefers to work with banks and use their money to further her cause.
Clinton is pragmatic. Sanders is passionate and sweeping. But we must look deeper. Last night’s vote in Britain makes it very clear: These are scary times. The opportunity to unite is now. Sanders acknowledged that the end is near when said he would likely not be the nominee. He didn’t drop out, but he did say:
“I am going to do everything I can to defeat Donald Trump."
Listen to him. Hear him, despite any disappointment you may feel. Trump must be defeated and we can’t do that without unity. If Sanders supporters hope to see even a fraction of their hopes realized, they are going to have to fight for the Democratic nominee (no matter who she is). It’s going to be a big one, but remember our common platform: Keep Trump from ever having access to the nuclear codes.