Democrats in the United States have had hotly contested primary election cycles in the past. You only have to look back to 2008 to remember the vitriol that developed between certain Hillary Clinton supporters and Barack Obama supporters. Clinton was attacked and told to drop out of the race constantly once it appeared Obama had sealed up the nomination.
That resulted in some Clinton supporters claiming that they would never vote for Obama in the general election. The reality, however, is that the looming fear of John McCain and Sarah Palin in the White House unified the party. Barack Obama was elected in a landslide and even won a second term by a healthy amount.
A similar scenario seems to be playing out in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary. The candidates have narrowed to just Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Hillary has always maintained a lead over Sanders when it comes to delegates and votes despite some impressive wins by Sanders.
The Sanders campaign has managed to attract a large number of young voters who like his Democratic Socialist platform. The fervent support of Sanders grew until many of his most vocal fans were regularly demonizing Hillary Clinton.
It was possible to see the divide happening online at Progressive and Liberal websites that were normally bastions of reason and civil discourse. A very vocal minority of people decided that Sanders was the only candidate worth voting for this election cycle. That started the “Bernie or Bust” movement.
The people involved in the movement swore to not vote for Clinton even if she won the nomination. The movement was spurred on by conspiracy theories and perceived biases against Sanders by everyone from the media to all Democratic elected officials. It is not really clear just how large the movement is or whether the people involved in it will stay true to the promise to not vote for Clinton if she is nominated.
Robert Reich is a powerful voice in the Democratic Party. He is a former labor secretary who has dedicated most of his life to fighting against income inequality, social injustice and abuse of the poor. He endorsed Bernie Sanders and become one of the most prominent figures in the campaign. Reich has been a loyal and unwavering Democrat and Progressive for nearly all of his life. He recently was asked by many people about what to do if Clinton secured the nomination since she is ahead in pledged delegates and the popular vote.
Reich took to Facebook to reply. He first told supporters to “fight like hell for Bernie” until the end of the primary. He then went on to tell supporters to “fight like hell for Hillary” if she gets the nomination. He implored Sanders supporters to stop demonizing and denigrating Clinton. He said that Hillary is the best choice for “the system we have” at this time. The comments did not go over well. Thousands of Sanders supporters replied calling Reich everything from a traitor to a sellout. They immediately disowned him and his message. Conspiracy theories about Clinton blackmailing or paying off Reich emerged.
The problem is that Reich is correct. The demonization of Hillary Clinton is based on decades of Republican talking points. She would also be a vastly superior president than Donald Trump would. Her positions on most issues are in line with Sanders although the route to get to them is slightly different. The “Bernie or Bust” movement that has demonized all people who do not pass a Progressive purity test including allies like Robert Reich and Elizabeth Warren are helping Donald Trump to win the presidency.