Can’t Bernie Sanders throw his own punches?

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As the primary season draws closer and closer, we still have 19 candidates for the Democratic nomination. And yet, with all these candidates to narrow down, there are still too many people who refuse to explore any sort of negatives, especially about the candidate who they support. Too many times on Twitter recently have I seen someone make a comment about disliking a candidate, not being rude or cruel but just saying something like, “Yeah, I’m not wild about xyz,” and the mob attacks them.  

I typically see one of two comments when people are attacking someone for expressing something they don’t like about a candidate. There’s the, “Everyone needs to be united so we can beat Trump” half, and then there’s the, “Screw you, you’re just repeating propaganda against xyz.” While I don’t think either of these responses is acceptable, the point of a primary is to weed out candidates who we do not support. I wholeheartedly believe that the latter is far worse than the former.  The former, at least, is born out of a want for unity, whereas the latter is born out of nothing but a**hole-ish entitlement.  

There is no obligation for someone to support a candidate, especially in the primary season. The entire point of a primary season is for us to say, “No, I don’t like this candidate,” or “Yes, I like this candidate,” and in not so long, we’ll be doing just that at the ballot box. And while unity is going to be incredibly important once we have a nominee, unity at this point would be harmful. We need disunity because we need the discussion it promotes. People want different candidates. That’s ok, there are 19 to choose from. In the end we’re going to get someone who people support and hope that those who didn’t will still rally, because anything is better than Donald Trump.  

Saying, “I have an issue with Sanders because he feels weak on foreign policy” isn’t against unity, it’s not even saying that the nonexistent person in question isn’t voting for Sanders. But it’s exactly the kind of thing that would get the mob on you on Twitter right now. For some reason, Sanders supporters have a mob mentality like few others, though I would argue the very strange legion of Yang supporters come in a fairly close second. I’m not sure if it’s born out of them feeling “robbed” in the 2016 election –  which is entirely unreasonable because it’s not robbery if people just don’t want to vote for your candidate – or if it’s born out of some pathological fear that he’s going to lose once again, but at this point it’s getting a little ridiculous and extremely annoying. 

Last week, I wrote an article criticizing Sanders for not attending either of the queer forums that are being held this year. I believed that not attending showed where his priorities rested and that they weren’t with the community. Never did I say something along the lines of, “So I won’t vote for Sanders.” I don’t adore Sanders, but I would certainly vote for him if it was between him and Trump. And yet, I still faced pushback from supporters accusing me of parroting mainstream because I… wanted him to care about my community enough to show up?  

And the problem has been much worse on Twitter. Sanders and Yang supporters can routinely be seen attacking people who dare to express disagreement with their candidates. And aggressive cruelty over some sort of presumed injustice isn’t new from Sanders supporters. In 2016, many supporters sent death threats to the Nevada party chair over a rules dispute.   

Earlier in 2018, after a tweet critical of Sanders was posted, Sanders supporters saw fit to dox the poster, posting his photo, name and other information all over the internet because he said something mean about their candidate

These candidates are grown adults. They can defend themselves against attacks. And they certainly are people we should be able to criticize. We have no obligation to support every candidate equally in the primary. We need to debate the issues, to figure out which candidate is the best. And in the end, many of us probably won’t vote for the candidate whose supporters make us feel as though unconditional support for their candidate is mandatory and not optional. There is no obligation to do anything but find a candidate YOU want to support.   


Ashton Stansel is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at ashton.stansel@uconn.edu.

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