“The DNC is corrupt and needs to be punished. I don't care if that means Donald Trump has to be president,” one "Bernie or Bust" protester said to a reporter from MSNBC while marching just outside of City Hall.
In light of the Democratic National Committee's (DNC) email scandal, angry Bernie Sanders supporters are doubly furious over the current state of affairs. This woman's worldview is not uncommon. In fact, as I quickly learned by walking the streets of my city during the Democratic National Convention, it's the standard.
As my friends and I wandered, we walked over tattered signs that detailed the woes of the senator's most disenfranchised supporters. Discarded protest t-shirts littered the ground, telling the increasingly common story of committee corruption long after the bodies that had once donned them had already made their way back home.
Sidewalk messages screamed, “Hill no!” These scribbles spoke loudly and clearly in favor of a man you can't help but love.
I understood it.
I cast my vote for Bernie Sanders in this very city, just a few months ago. I heard it and felt it.
And although I am now wholeheartedly “with Her,” I felt the outrage that made these streets vibrate kick something up in me: something that rattles in my chest, too.
In massive letters, someone angrily wrote “DEMEXIT NOW” on city property. Life outside the Wells Fargo Center and the Philadelphia Convention Center was aggressive and uproarious. After speaking to someone who'd been working at the convention since day one, however, I learned that the discord on the street was not necessarily mirrored on the inside.
“Honestly, the news is kind of blowing it up. Yeah, there's some jeering,” he explained. “But for the most part, the delegates seem pretty united. It was a little rocky at first, but I think the message of standing together has been heard.”
These are two different worlds. I'm in no position to tell anyone what to believe. But I will weigh in — as so many others have — on what it means to lean a certain way.
If you are a "Bernie or Bust" voter, you should be made aware of the fact that your emotions could very well hand this nation to Donald Trump on a silver platter. You shout that voting is powerful, and you're right. You're so right, in fact, that your protest votes (or lack thereof) could tip this election to the right.
I'm not saying that Bernie Sanders is not a brilliant man. I'm not saying that this country wouldn't have been lucky to have him stand at the helm. I'm also not saying that what just happened with the DNC isn't corrupt.
What I am saying, however, is that using a Trump presidency and putting millions at risk to make a political statement is reckless and cruel.
If you'd rather saddle marginalized people with fear and injustice, rather than vote to keep someone like Donald Trump out of office, you have not been listening to Bernie. You are embodying everything that works to dismantle what he fights for. You're demonstrating privilege, anger and utter disregard.
It's easy to stoke the flames of anarchy when that fire will never touch you. Using human lives to make your point is an abuse of power. It is this power that is pushing Donald Trump into the Oval. It is this power that Bernie Sanders has spent a lifetime trying to bury.
But if you're a "Bernie or Bust" voter, you've heard this before. The people I saw on the street with duct tape over their mouths have heard all this before.
But here's something they may not have considered: The Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee are private entities.
So, what does that mean? Well, for one, it means that the Constitution – which is indelibly tied to our electoral process – cannot actually regulate DNC or RNC processes.
After a motion was filed against the Texas Democratic Party in 1923 – after party leaders in the state moved to disallow black people from participating in Texas primaries, for example – the Supreme Court ruled in the Texas Democratic Party's favor, citing privatization.
According to Jonathan Stahl of the Constitution Center, “The Court explained that the Democratic Party was a private organization, and could determine its eligibility and membership requirements.”
Countermeasures often form, on the basis of 14th Amendment rights. But because of state action doctrine, government interference in private sectors is typically barred.
In Stahl's words, this means that the Constitution could guarantee “equal treatment only under governmental action, and could not regulate the actions of private organizations like the Democratic Party.” Although that particular ruling was thankfully overturned nine years later, it gives important insight into a critical piece of this email puzzle.
These committees are – and always have been – private organizations. For that reason, there is no section in the Constitution reserved for regulating what goes on during DNC proceedings. This runs counter to our collective understanding of the electoral process.
And that makes sense. It's pretty tough to wrap your head around the fact that private organizations effectively run the public sector in this country. Although the unwritten rule is that all committee members are to maintain a level of neutrality, those working in politics have a hard enough time following rules of the written variety.
It is unsurprising, then, that they didn't follow this one. After all, those emails? They're damning and they're awful.
But they're also considered “private actions.” Without regulatory processes, biases will run rampant. The DNC's private status has always upheld the right to do so without consequence, whether directly or indirectly.
From protecting party bigots in the '20s to essentially facilitating what went on in the infamous emails, the DNC has been screwing people since its inception.
Is that fair? Absolutely not.
Is this system broken? You bet.
But this is not the year to fight it, especially if the tactics one would use to do so are ineffective and illogical.
That sounds horrible. Even as I read that back, I don't like it. It sounds a whole lot like I'm telling you, “Lay down and die.”
But sadly because there is so much at stake this cycle, it may be in the country's best interest to let the beast that privatization built live on long enough to keep Donald Trump out of the highest office in the nation.
As Dan Balz of the Washington Post explained, “After seeing what was being said about Sanders in some of the emails, the senator from Vermont and his advisers have concluded that Wasserman Schultz and others were quietly cheering for Clinton. Sanders has every right to feel aggrieved.”
And so do we.
Every Democrat, Republican and Independent has the right to feel outraged. Every staunch Bernie supporter does, too. But this bizarre effort to shift the election to the right and watch it all burn does not punish the DNC.
It punishes immigrants. It punishes women. It punishes the elderly.
It punishes those with disabilities. It punishes students. It punishes refugees.
It punishes the LGBTQ+ community. It punishes people of color.
This is what we eventually need to fight. We don't need to fight Hillary.
If "Bernie or Bust" voters want to be change-makers, it seems pretty asinine to let Bernie's diametric opposite run the country.
Will that fix what's happening in the DNC's private chatrooms? No.
Will the Constitution change to circumvent state action doctrine? Not likely. But don't you think introducing more progressive ideology from the bottom up might do the party some good?
If this cycle has made anything clear, it's that Bernie Sanders and his mission will not stop here. When he sees something that he knows is wrong, he sits with that issue. He never loses sight of his goal. He's sadly seen what goes on in DNC email threads. He knows that he's not the first to fall victim to this system.
For that reason, he and his team will act accordingly. Unlike Trump, Bernie Sanders will continue fighting for this country and our democracy long after the ballots are counted in November. He will have a harder time doing that if we “punish the DNC” by letting Trump take office.
Because the DNC is not public domain, changes within it will likely have to be made incrementally. The best way to do that is to get involved with local and state politics to the best of our ability. We can push corrupt policies out from the bottom if we mobilize.
In fact, you can get involved with the DNC itself if you so desire.
You can march outside of Philadelphia's City Hall because it is your right. You can vote for whichever candidate you please because it is your right. You can speak freely because it is your right.
But consider the fact that it is not your right to put the rights of others at risk. There is a happy medium here. I'm assuming you know what that is, even if it hurts your feelings.
The biased monster inside the DNC has lived beyond reproach for decades. It has likely changed electoral tides long before the year 2016.
It is the same one that squashed Representative Tulsi Gabbard's position as Vice Chair of the DNC, presumably because Clinton was the organization's favorite, while Sanders was Gabbard's.
It's horrible. It's revealing. It is a stain on the Democratic Party.
But perhaps we need to live with that stain a little longer before we drown our party with bleach. "Bernie or Bust" protesters, I know that you feel like this election is a choice between two evils.
I hear you. I feel for you. I understand you.
But listen to Bernie when he tells you that real evil will spring from a Trump presidency. For now, that's the stain we should focus on. We need to throw those buckets of bleach his way.