Opinion: Breaking the habit of party in-fighting


Andrew Ohl is a junior history major and columnist for The Kent Stater. 

Andrew Ohl Kent State College Democrats

It used to be simpler times. Last autumn, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders no longer wanted to hear about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s damn emails. It was a show of party solidarity and moving beyond the purely political.

Nowadays, the Democratic primaries are becoming purely political as they have reached a new phase replete with bitterness. The Sanders campaign has been under fire for repeatedly charging Clinton with corporate collusion and for sexist undertones by calling Clinton “unqualified” for President, while both Hillary and Bill Clinton have been chastised for talking down to Sanders supporters and black voters in recent weeks, respectively.

It would be fair to say that the idealism and mystique surrounding both Sanders and Clinton has faded as both candidates become harsher and more ad hominem in their criticisms of the other. Both have their very human reasons for becoming worn down: The Sanders campaign has become frustrated at hitting an apparent wall with voters and being unable to gain on Clinton any further. Likewise, the Clinton campaign has become frustrated at what seems to them as an unnecessary continuation of the fight by Sanders in the primaries.

Such fierce competitions between left-wing insurgents and incumbents (official or de facto) is nothing new for the Democratic Party. Ted Kennedy won over thirty-seven percent of the Democratic vote in the 1980 primaries against President Jimmy Carter and refused to concede until the convention. Progressives Bill Bradley and Howard Dean ran against Vice President Al Gore and Sen. John Kerry in 2000 and 2004, respectively, before bowing out. Such insurgents do not always lose. The Obama presidency we currently live under is evidence of that. And while liberals and progressives may charge (and rightly so) that the idealism has faded from Obama’s policies, the opportunities to renew and continue acting on those ideals have not.

If the Democratic Party is to capitalize on this current opportunity and win the White House in the 2016 election, there needs to be party unity. Without it, there can be no substantive organization or political will to realistically continue attaining the ideals liberals and progressives strive for, ideals such as the right to health care and education, equality of opportunity and freedom from prejudice. Before that unity can be achieved, both the Sanders and Clinton camps need to disabuse themselves of certain ideas.

Sanders supporters need to disabuse themselves from “Bernie or bust.” The fact that Sanders has won a very significant forty-three percent of the Democratic vote thus far in the primaries is proof that there is ripe opportunity to re-energize radical left-wing politics both inside and outside the Democratic Party and to synchronize those efforts in the election and beyond. To abandon the efforts made now would be deeply unwise. Likewise, the Clinton campaign has some serious thinking to do as to why it has failed so wholly to appeal to the next generation of the Democratic Party. Our generation is no longer interested in playing politics on other people’s terms in the name of pragmatism and then having our idealism stigmatized as “hope-mongering,” as then-candidate Obama once said.

Let us unite, for the future is now. Our generation has the power to become an unforgettable fire of passion and hope and to make our lives with each other the incredible adventure through history it ought to be. It starts now with this election.

The views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the College Democrats as an organization.