My vote depends on you, Internet.

In the California Primary, I Plan to Literally Vote for the Progressive With the Most Beans

I am going to do a little experiment. Although I do not remotely identify as an undecided voter, I am willing to sacrifice my vote in order to make a point regarding how annoying it is when people waste their vote in order to prove a point.

I will start with 60 beans in a jar marked ‘Bernie’ and 40 beans in another jar marked ‘Hillary’. The behavior of progressives I encounter on social media over the next few months will determine whether those beans stay that way, which I will explain in a minute. Come the California primary in June, I will vote for the candidate with the most beans.

This idea came from the startling epiphany that although I like Bernie significantly better, I like Hillary supporters more than I like Bernie supporters, on the whole. This is incredibly weird, but then this entire election is unbelievably weird. To be fair, there are a few Hillary fans who have stated dumb things like people with vaginas should vote for other people who have vaginas, but there are not nearly as many of these as Bernie Bastions would like you to think there are; and they get extremely fired up about Hillary’s fringe supporters, because pretending a candidate’s most unhinged fans represent the reasons held by her base is a dirty tactic that works; effectively gaslighting the whole of the mainstream left.

My starter bean quantity represents how I feel about which progressive candidate is the better choice. I am a Bernie supporter who happens to have the deepest respect for Hillary Clinton despite being fully acquainted with her faults; I feel the Bern but am a Hillary apologist; something that several Bernie supporters have found so contradictory that it short circuits their system and you can see steam coming out of their ears as they attempt to process a political reality that isn’t black and white. I currently spend much of my social media time these days sticking up for her among fellow progressives, when frankly I’d rather spend it singing Bernie’s praises. If you believe sexism isn’t a huge part of what Clinton is up against within her own party, then I want to live in the world you live in, because it sounds lovely.

Every time someone says they won’t vote for Hillary in the as-yet hypothetical general no matter what, I will remove a bean from Bernie’s jar and place it in Hillary’s. The reverse is true as well of course, it’s just that I very rarely hear the same ultimatum from Hillary supporters. You may not agree that Hillary is a pragmatist, but her followers certainly are, and they by and large will vote for Bernie if by some beautiful miracle he gets the nomination. Bernie supporters have claimed, in droves, that they will not return the favor.

It is entirely possible that these progressives are full of hot (Berned — sorry) air and that it’s an empty threat for most of them; that they merely think they can win the nomination for Bernie by screaming louder against Hillary, but they are ironically kinda making her the new underdog — making her more likeable. That’s what happens when your criticism goes too far. There is probably a grain of truth to the notion that if you scare the DNC enough, they will yield and nominate Bernie. But first: it makes Bernie fans seem like cronies and bullies, like some sort of bizarro baseball bat-wielding Hippie Socialist Al Capone that is shouting “PEACE AND LOVE… OR ELSE!”, and second: it wouldn’t speak anywhere near as loud as the only thing that will bring us Bernie as the nominee: a Bernie landslide in the primaries. That’s not what we currently have, and that’s what we need. And I can hear you now: But super delegates! etc etc, some of which is part of an admittedly unfair system. Regardless, you’re not going to fix the entire political process by July, and what we currently have is a tight race at best. And for that matter, it’s also bad form to blame half of the preferences of progressive America on “the corporate media” - as if mainstream dems are unthinking sheep. They don’t take too kindly to that, especially since many of them don’t even pay much attention to what’s on MSNBC or CNN. My fired-up progressive friends have as good as told me they don’t believe me that I am voting for Bernie, or that I obviously just don’t feel the Bern, or that I should “just vote for Hillary already if that’s how you feel”. to which I sadly shake my head and say, this is why we can’t have nice things. Bernie needs all the support he can get. He doesn’t need Mean Girls embarrassing him on his behalf with poor sportsmanship.

It’s totally OK to call out Hillary for her faults. It is natural to prefer Bernie. But progressives outright hating her is bonkers; the extent of the vitriol leveled against Hillary by progressives is what is deeply unfair and troubling. And when I look at what Hillary has done, good and bad, what she has supported and not — and when — the gaffes she has committed and the so-called political scandals that were only ever real to that magical brand of conservatism that doesn’t care much about the rules of reality anyway; what is abundantly clear is that Hillary’s most remarkable fault among progressives is apparently not being Bernie. This becomes even more irrational when you consider that Bernie is the only non-politician presidential candidate we’ve had in recent memory. He’s so pure as the driven fucking snow, that he makes Obama in 2008 look like Hillary in 2016. They shout about Hillary being the “establishment” choice as if there are flocks of Bernies running around DC to choose from. Bernie is the non-establishment choice because he is unique — not the other way around — there is nothing unique enough about Hillary’s establishment cred that warrants a woman who has taken a lifetime figuring out how to be the democratic establishment, to suddenly be accused of more or less inventing it. The democratic establishment that has become such a derisive term now, is nearly identical to the “hopey changey” stuff we all fought for in 2008. Remember that? Back then, the thought of gay marriage across the land did not have democratic establishment support, and was considered a progressive pipedream that was, many knew — an inevitability, but one 20 years off. My my, how quickly things change. Apparently they change so fast that people are willing to sacrifice Supreme Court nominations (gay marriage and basic reproductive rights for starters) over the promise of free college and bitch slapping Wall Street — neither of which is a sure thing against so impotent a congress anyway.

Bernie’s fundraising ethics are strongly appealing. His lack of Wall Street connections are strongly appealing. Despite the half-true accusation that Bernie is a bit of a one-issue candidate, these issues are important and revolutionary enough in the current political climate to ever-so-slightly outweigh Hillary’s outstanding biography of achievements, or more importantly, her strong record on such genuinely sacred and embattled ethics as the protection of reproductive rights. She is offering what she thinks she can accomplish, whereas he is offering to charge into a despised and ineffective congress like a bull in a China shop and let the porcelain chips fall where they may. Still: that would be tremendously fun to watch. Just as Trump is the republican party’s comeuppance for 8 years of Fox News, Bernie is that moribund party’s swift karma for their behaviour over the last 8 years; their punishment for having ever called left-centrist Obama a socialist. The moral universe took a break from its usually sloth-like awarding of rightness — you know, the kind that takes a long time but bends toward justice… — got out of its comfy recliner and said, OK shitheads, you want a socialist? I’ll give you a socialist.

But every day, I see or hear progressives threaten to engage in Temper Tantrum Voting if Bernie doesn’t get the nomination, effectively casting a non-vote or half-vote out of spite. This includes: threatening to stay home entirely in November, threatening to cast a write-in vote for people not even running, or threatening to vote for Jill Freaking Stein. They attempt to justify this behaviour, bafflingly, by proudly proclaiming that their conscience wouldn’t let them vote for Hillary. And here’s the thing: your “conscience” is a privilege — and frankly not a very effective smokescreen for your spite. The rest of us see right through it.

You’re not supposed to vote with your conscience. You’re supposed to vote with your brain. You: an adult with a suddenly-binary “conscience”, sound exactly like a child who proclaims they refuse to eat dinner because there is no possibility of cake. And you’re doing it in front of very hungry people, which makes it highly annoying. Voting isn’t a game of dodgeball where the first team nabs the best player so the other team gives up; rather it is about picking the next best player, then the next best after that, and so forth. If elementary school students can handle that process, progressives can too. Picking someone who isn’t playing isn’t participating, it’s throwing a tantrum.

The option of voting for a somewhat-lackluster candidate to keep out a comparatively evil candidate is the norm in a world where political candidates aren’t charismatic rockstars. Most aren’t, nor should they necessarily be. The 2008 election apparently spoiled us because we had a male minority who happened to be a brilliant politician and a deeply loveable showman that progressives all personally wanted to vote for. This is not how elections normally go. For all the fuss made over the Florida debacle in 2000, it could have all been avoided if progressives had shown up in droves to vote for the boring, establishment, not very charismatic candidates in the person of Gore, or four years of Bush later, Kerry. Poor Hillary has never had the luck to be running against a lackluster opponent. She has run against rockstars every time. Had she run against a Gore or a Kerry, she would have won the nomination AND the popularity contest among progressives.

This individualistic idea that you only vote if your personal favorite wins, and that you have no real plan b other than whining or protesting, is a deeply flawed understanding of your job as a thinking progressive: how to navigate best options and lesser evils within a set of choices you’re not actively excited about.

And then my personal favorite: when people say they “live in a blue state anyway” so their vote doesn’t matter. I have seen people who voted for Nader in 2000 make fun of the outcome of the 2000 election. This takes a LOT of cheek. And they always say they did it in a blue state, as if that excuses them. What they are basically saying is: I let other people do the dirty work for me so that I could cast my rebellion vote that only I can see anyway. What’s the point of showing up, taking your lunch break, standing in line in your former elementary school cafeteria just so you can write that you would personally like to have Jon Stewart as president, all the while banking on your more rational friends to do the hard part? In the voting world, this is as useful as that girl who thinks she is being the voice of reason by proclaiming All Lives Matter while lighting a bundle of sage. Barf.

Ironic, that the people most likely to bitch about the two-party system are so often those who refuse to consider voting for the person on the ticket who best represents their ideals, just because there isn’t one perfect candidate who represents their every whim. I’m not so sure that people who coyly claim that they can’t tell the difference between Trump and Clinton deserve anything but a two-party system. Because the difference is yuge to the rest of us. If you can’t tell the difference between two wildly different candidates, why would you be nuanced enough to differentiate between eight?

Yes, the two-party system is flawed; blah whine eyeroll yawn. But the time to fix that is NEVER on an election day. You’d make more progress and more noise going on a group hunger strike in the quiet months after an election than you would by silently abstaining from the flawed political process we are currently stuck with and then waiting around for someone to notice your oh-so-deafening (sarcasm) silence. We already know that the people who have done this in the past have accomplished exactly nothing. The abysmally low voter turnout as it is, is all the evidence you need that the numbers would have to be low enough to be internationally humiliating to even scratch the surface, and even then, I’m not sure. Look at the congressional approval rating. See? No one cares, and they all still magically have their jobs. 11% puts them right up there with the shittiest movies on Rotten Tomatoes. Yet there they are, making more money than you or me and being given exclusive access to socialist-levels of healthcare. You want to change the overall system? Show up during the mid-term elections. Keep showing up, and keep rolling that boulder uphill, inch by inch, bead of sweat by bead of sweat. Progressive change is a beast of tiny victories; of two steps forward, one step back. It is not a succession of perfect, spotless candidates. The people who are willing to work in politics know that best. But they also know that the reverse is not true. Things don’t go downhill slowly. And once the momentum starts, the work to reverse it increases exponentially the longer it is left alone.

If the Republican Party had a single competent candidate, I would be less utterly revolted by progressive threats to not show up for the person who will at worst “maintain the status quo” But they do not. They have some genuinely scary options: candidates even their own party are scared of, who have the potential to make the status quo look like a progressive utopia. The mathematically best way to keep out Trump is to actively vote against him. A passive vote is still a half-vote for the bad guy. You want to defeat him? You have to vote for the front runner on the opposite side.

If you need to characterize Hillary as a republican in order to feel comfortable voting for her, that’s fine, but be careful in doing so, for it works both ways. In calling Hillary, derisively, a republican, you are exposing one of the reasons the DNC might prefer Hillary: because centrist Republicans, understandably humiliated by their party’s choices, would sooner vote for Hillary than they would for Bernie. That’s just the way things are. Bernie didn’t just “turn Hillary further left”, he made her look more desireable to old school Republicans. She didn’t do that. He did, by providing such an outstanding contrast. In an election that has changed the definition of what the left is, what the right is, and what centrism is, Hillary may be the vanilla choice who sticks out as the sane one who represents where Americans are willing to compromise — on both sides. Yes, there are a few Trump supporters who have bizarrely said Bernie is their second choice, but the numbers aren’t there currently to make this a significant counter argument.

In this election, you have the possible option for things to get better (Bernie), the option for things to stay the same (Hillary) and the option for things to get significantly worse (Trump or Cruz). You can’t call yourself a progressive and claim there is no difference between things staying the same and things getting much worse.

Leadership and progress means endlessly adjusting your goal within the realm of plausibility, and knowing when to pick your battles. The republicans have several problematic candidates. We should be basking in the glory of having two excellent and well-qualified candidates by contrast. I hate to break it to you, Bernatics, but Hillary Clinton basically IS Bernie Sanders when compared to Trump or Cruz. I don’t say that because I am at all confused about how different, how unique, or how spotless Bernie is. He has, in addition to Elizabeth Warren and Barack Obama, moved me to tears. It’s like watching that scene in Mr Smith Goes to Washington. So I don’t say it because I am diminishing his brightness compared to Hillary’s light grey. I say it because I know how dark the spectrum goes on the other end. So dark, that we can’t see how deep the well goes. But we can see the lack of light at its entrance as a warning. We are a young country. We don’t know what it’s like to really fall down that hole yet. We have the benefit of the history of other nations. We know what the beginning of darkness looks like, and we have no excuse not to fight it with every educated vote we progressives have.

Disclaimer: for those of you who will inevitably fail to grasp the concept of irony: No, I do not plan on actually making the bean jars. It’s extremely tempting, but I won’t punish those who engage in privileged, temper tantrum voting, by engaging in ironic temper tantrum voting, even though they frankly deserve the dose of poetic justice. Additionally: this exists partly to troll those who leave comments without reading the whole thing.



Writer. Maker. Feminist. Spitfire. Trans-Supporting Ravenclaw. Trekkie. Social Justice Apologist.

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Sara Lynn Michener

Writer. Maker. Feminist. Spitfire. Trans-Supporting Ravenclaw. Trekkie. Social Justice Apologist.