After every prolonged and pointless online battle, I knew I wasn't handling things well. I would promise to just let it go the next time someone called Hillary Clinton a "true progressive," or posted a meme of Bernie Sanders in a Lamborghini, if only for the sake of my sanity. But then invariably, there I would be the next day, having the same arguments with different people—and sometimes the same people—until all the "likes" I'd been getting on my Sanders posts since December turned to crickets sometime around May.
By that point, as Sanders began his final press to win the Western states that voted in the final primaries, Democrats who had once condescendingly told their friends that they "liked Bernie but…" were starting to turn, calling him an ego maniac and claiming that he was actually hurting his movement by staying in the race. I tried to remind myself that they just hadn't been unplugged from the Matrix yet—they were suckling at the corporate media teat. I wasn't "Bernie or Bust," but by the time the primary race was called for Clinton, the day before the California primary, I was close.
Yes, I was—perhaps still am—a Bernie Bro. I knew I was becoming a social media pariah, like an anti-vaxxer or a chem-trail enthusiast. But I couldn't help myself. The taunting was all the more painful because deep down, I knew it was over.
A lot of people who aren't Bernie Bros would argue that the Democratic primary race ended back in March, after Clinton swept Super Tuesday, or in April, when she won New York by a landslide. The truth is, even in that last month of the race, when Sanders charged into California and the other remaining primary states, he still had an opportunity, if not to win the nomination, then to gain significant momentum—perhaps even enough to justify chaos at the Democratic National Convention.
In the end, that didn't happen. More than 12 million voters got behind Bernie, understood the significance of a politician like him running for president. But it wasn't enough. Sure, there was voting irregularity. And yes, the media ignored Sanders until the last possible moment before the Iowa caucuses. It's also clear that the Democratic National Committee was complicit in all this, scheduling a limited number of debates on nights when no one would be watching, and seizing any opportunity to attack Sanders and damage his campaign.
Would the race have gone differently if not for all of this? Perhaps. We'll never know. But if the revolution has any hope of surviving beyond the primary campaign, we have to accept the reality that he just wasn't going to win the nomination—not only because the Democratic Establishment wasn't going to let him, but also because a majority of voters didn't want him to anyway.
Nevertheless, since endorsing Clinton on Tuesday, Sanders has, to some degree, been eaten by his own. Across the digital universe, Bernie Bros have devolved into hysterics over the End of the Republic, or else turned on him viciously, labeling him a phony and a sell-out, as if the oligarchy had finally found the treasure that could sway the avowed democratic socialist to its side. I don't blame them, necessarily: If I'd read this piece a month ago, I would've been sure it was written by some super PAC–funded Clinton internet troll.
Now, though, I see Sanders's endorsement as a necessary move to save political capital, conceding this lost battle in order to refocus back on the war—the one he's been fighting since before many of these Bernie Bros were born. While he didn't have the votes to win this year, he did well enough to make a significant impact on the Democratic platform, inspire an army of activists to run for office, and carry some serious momentum into the party's convention this month. His supporters can continue to leverage that success into new victories this election cycle, both locally and in the House and Senate races that will determine control of Congress—as long as we don't euthanize ourselves with our obstinacy.
Now that the cloud of dust I kicked up during primaries has settled, and the smoke of digital gunpowder has cleared, I've started to think seriously about Clinton and whether I'm #NeverHillary—and also about Donald Trump. Compared to Bernie, most politicians start to look like criminals—and Clinton, with her private email server and her corporate-backed military interventions, already looked like a criminal to begin with. Now that the comparison is not with Sanders, but with a racist crony capitalist masquerading as a "man of the people," it's easier to see Clinton for what she really is, and what she always has been: a supremely talented and intelligent individual who thrives in the cesspool of Washington politics. And to really thrive in American politics, as she does, politicians have got to get their hands dirty—not just organic, non-GMO gardening dirty, but rooting around in septic plumbing dirty.
Sure, this is also what makes her a crooked liar. But claiming there is no difference between Clinton and Trump is the kind of shit-talking that will kill the credibility of the organic and unlikely progressive movement Sanders's supporters have spent so much time and energy building. While I have no illusions that Clinton is some kind of populist—or even a progressive—I do believe she is supremely interested in building her legacy, in a typically megalomaniacal way. Will Clinton change a foreign regime in her time as president? Absolutely. But will she fight to get a raise in the minimum wage or one of the other concessions she made to solidify the Sanders endorsement? Faster than you can say Goldman-Sachs. Because if this election year has taught our corporate masters anything, it's that the pitchforks are a comin'.
The question is, what are we going to do about it? Because we Bernie Bros now face a choice. We can continue to flirt with third-party candidates like Jill Stein and Gary Johnson, and ignore the existential threat Trump poses to the groups we claim to defend. Or we can regroup, work to get more progressives in the legislature this November, and build up our numbers for the next battle in a war that will never end.