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OP-ED: Democrats, Get Behind Hillary

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By Josh Inocéncio

On March 1, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton trounced Senator Bernie Sanders in the South, scoring huge primary gains in states like Texas. With post-Super Tuesday contests, her lead is only growing, particularly in states with high Latin/o and African-American populations.

And now, with Hillary’s 1,130 delegates and super-delegates over Bernie’s 499, the quest for the Democratic Party’s nomination is all but decided. Sure, there are narrow windows of opportunity for Bernie to launch a last-minute surge that cracks through Hillary’s formidable lead, but this scenario appears bleak given the polls in upcoming states and that there wasn’t much new information to distinguish the candidates at Sunday’s debate in Flint. With fewer chances for Bernie to wrest the nomination from Hillary, it’s time for his supporters to thread their momentum from the democratic socialist to the progressive who gets things done.

Across the aisle, the Republican Party is nearly in shambles as rank-and-file voters propel a real-estate mogul turned reality TV star with no substantive or realistic policy proposals to the nomination. If Trump continues to win delegates in the primaries, the startled Republican establishment may organize a brokered convention this summer where Washington insiders appoint Senator Marco Rubio, former Governor Mitt Romney, or House Speaker Paul Ryan, which would further anger Republican voters already despairing over their party’s lackluster leaders. As Democrats, we can seize the opportunity now to rally around Hillary and stand in solidarity while Republican factions bicker.

The issue, of course, is that fights between Hillary’s supporters and Bernie’s supporters are devolving into nastiness worse than the fractures between Hillary and Obama in the 2008 primaries. While chatter surrounding a brokered Democratic convention has died down after Hillary’s recent wins, we will be wounded if we don’t unite and learn how to compromise. On social media and on the streets, I hear many Hillary supporters voice their willingness to support Bernie if he’s the nominee, considering there is so much at stake with healthcare, LGBT rights, climate change, etc. if a Republican finagles his way into office. However, many of Bernie’s most devout followers are pledging to renege on civic duties and stay home during the November general elections if Hillary is the nominee.

This would be catastrophic for progressive gains made in the Obama years. I understand that the popular vote in presidential elections matters little against the Electoral College, but the momentum from voters driving a candidate into the White House is influential for electoral votes. As the New York Times reported this week, Latin American immigrants are naturalizing and registering to vote in droves to stop Donald Trump this November. “The pace is picking up by the week, advocates say, and they estimate applications could approach one million in 2016, about 200,000 more than the average in recent years,” Julia Preston writes. Regardless of who the nominee is, these fresh citizens are organizing because they realize the stakes for themselves and their communities.

However, many (white) diehards in the Bernie camp aren’t sharing these sentiments. No, Berners, your candidate may not win the nomination this summer—in fact, he almost surely won’t. But many of you would rather stay home this November and abandon allies who need you rather than vote for Hillary whose policies, really, aren’t far away from Bernie’s. And while Hillary has championed Democratic principles for years (albeit with mistakes included), I certainly credit Bernie with pushing her further left. Regardless if he’s not the nominee, he’s already made an indelible dent on this race—and Berners should celebrate that.

And believe me, I understand why Hillary’s ties to Wall Street make voters uncomfortable. But remember, prior to Bernie’s entrance into the presidential race, Hillary was already discussing campaign finance reform to get big money out of politics at an Iowa town hall the weekend of her announcement, even pledging to support a Constitutional amendment if the Supreme Court doesn’t overturn its disastrous Citizens United ruling.

Look, I went to Bernie’s Dallas rally in July, I felt the Bern like many Millennials in Texas, and I roared my voice hoarse holding up “Bernie for Texas” signs with one of my best friends. I enjoy going to rallies and celebrating the fierce fighters representing Democrats (even Martin O’Malley!). And while I contemplated every candidate this year, I ultimately decided to rally around Hillary. Her proposals are more nuanced, her foreign policy experience is formidable, her support from Democratic senators is deep, her commitment to LGBT people is now unwavering, to name a few.

I know many Bernie supporters aren’t members of the Democratic Party—they’re first-time voters or independents who are finally interested in presidential politics. And I thank Bernie for galvanizing these individuals to participate in our republic’s processes. However, given the wide gap between Hillary and Trump (or Cruz) and the damage a Trump presidency would unleash on domestic affairs and our international involvement (his popularity alone has disturbed our Canadian, German, French, British, and Japanese allies), there’s tons at stake for underrepresented and underprivileged Americans this November.

If a Republican president succeeds in ripping up Obamacare, millions will lose healthcare. If a Republican president rolls back EPA regulations, we’re going to continue warming the planet and causing ecological devastation. If a Republican president reverses employment protections for federal LGBT employees or seeks to undo the Obergefell ruling with a Supreme Court appointment, many gays and lesbians will lose fundamental rights. If a Republican president defunds Planned Parenthood or imposes abortion restrictions, marginalized women who can’t access appropriate procedures will die or become severely injured.

This year isn’t the time for self-righteous, liberal indignation. The rights of fellow Americans will approach the precipice with Trump (or Cruz or Rubio or Romney or Ryan) in the White House. End the divisiveness. The time to unite behind Hillary is now.

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Josh Inocéncio

Josh Inocéncio is a frequent contributor to OutSmart Magazine, a playwright, and a freelance writer. A Houston-area native, he earned a master’s degree in theatre studies at Florida State University and produced his first play, Purple Eyes, before returning to Texas last May.
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