Informal Survey Indicates Bernie Or Bust Movement Is Not Based On Privilege

On March 7, Michael Arceneaux of The Guardian criticized the Bernie or Bust movement. The movement, claimed Arceneaux, was based on a sense of privilege with no thought given to the poor, minorities, and otherwise disenfranchised. The writer did not provide any evidence of this other than her own opinion, warning Bernie or Bust folks that this attitude would give us Donald Trump or worse, Ted Cruz (the Texas senator was still in the race at this time).

He wrote that “affluent, mostly white progressives” survived Bush and it was selfish to put marginalized citizens at the mercy of another Republican intent on wrecking the economy and making the poor and marginalized suffer even more.

“Cling to your self-righteousness all you want, but be very clear that only some people can afford this kind of sacrifice.”

This argument does not make sense, and given recent polls that put Donald Trump ahead of Hillary Clinton, it seems reasonable that voters are against Hillary not out of a sense of privilege, but more out of a sense of duty and maybe even a hint of desperation.

Bernie or Bust is not a movement based on privilege.
[AP Photo/Mel Evans]

A March 24 essay in Paste magazine countered Arceneaux’s explosive op-ed by providing answers from people who support the Bernie or Bust movement. Shane Ryan gives a logical and well-articulated argument for being wholly against Hillary Clinton for President.

“Sanders progressives have a pretty simple platform that can be expressed quickly. It goes like this: We believe that America’s corporate agenda has made life very difficult for average Americans, particularly the working class and the poor.”

Free trade agreements that killed manufacturing and then welfare reform that “demonized” the poor, he argues the Bernie or Bust movement is all about giving a voice to the voiceless. Citizens United, anti-environmentalism, are devastating us, he says.

And if Hillary wins and has a failed presidency? Who will benefit? Republicans.

“Who do you think would benefit from four years of a failed Clinton presidency? The answer is the right wing, and the candidate they cook up for 2020, on the heels of her failure, could make Donald Trump look like Walter Mondale.”

He also makes a valid point in that a Trump presidency could actually light a bigger fire in voters to create an even bigger movement to work harder for progressive ideals. Whereas with Clinton, the backlash would would likely give us even worse right-wing policies and leaders.

Bernie or Bust is not a movement based on privilege.
[AP Photo/Jae C. Hong]

Given Ryan’s argument, it seemed reasonable to conduct an informal survey of Bernie Sanders supporters: specifically, the Bernie or Bust movement. The survey had 4,559 responses and provided a range of answers from people who support (and a few who don’t support) Bernie Sanders and the Bernie or Bust movement.

The survey was advertised online, in Bernie Sanders support groups, including Bernie or Bust, Bernie Sanders or Bust, Bernie Believers, and several other pro-Bernie Facebook and Google+ groups. The survey was also sent out in an email blast to people who support the Bernie or Bust movement. The survey was not meant to find out how many support the Bernie or Bust movement, it was to find out why they do.

The survey was active from May 19 and closed on May 24.

The questions pertained mostly to the survey takers’ economic status and income levels. Then I asked for comments about their reasons for supporting the movement. Below is a quick look at the numbers.

  • More than 97 percent of respondents supported the Bernie or Bust movement.
  • More than 74 percent define Bernie or Bust as writing in Sanders no matter what.
  • More than 45 percent work a full-time job.
  • A total of more than 33 percent of respondents earn between $36,000 and $75,000 per year.
  • More than 22 percent reported that their income falls below $25,000 per year.
  • At least 52 percent declared they did not consider themselves financially secure.
  • Nearly 40 percent said they were worse off than before the 2008 crash and 20 percent said they are still struggling.
  • Nearly 53 percent agreed with the following statement: Bernie or Bust is a group of people who feel that they have nothing (or little) left to lose.

The comments in each section helps explain each person’s responses a little better, and creates a better picture of the movement in general. The consensus is: The Bernie or Bust movement is not homogenous except for its concern for the future.

I asked survey takers to respond to criticism that the Bernie or Bust movement is based on racial and economic privilege. The responses were interesting.

“Their logic is deeply flawed. We are Bernie or Bust BECAUSE we are NOT economically privileged, and we cannot afford 4-8 more years of upholding the status quo and protecting the wealthy elite. Hillary supporters are privileged. They can survive and thrive in an economy where large corporations and billionaires buy our politicians and control our government. We can’t. And we are ready to stand up to the establishment and push for drastic change. We want our tax dollars to support healthcare and education instead of bank bailouts, wars, and corporate subsidies.”

Another survey taker also said what many felt.

“I think it’s shortsighted. The majority of “Bernie or Buster”-ers I’ve spoken to seem to feel there’s no difference between Trump and Clinton as both are seen as ‘hawks’ who will send more and more young people to war. When I point out other considerations, such as women’s rights, LGBT rights, etc. they acknowledge that Clinton would probably be better on those issues. However, they feel she is so corrupt, so in the hands of corporations and big banks, they don’t trust her with anything and feel that, even though Trump is as corrupt, they just cannot bring themselves to vote for Clinton.”

Other folks felt that if Bernie does not get the nomination, the only other option is to allow Trump in the White House for a disastrous four years and build the country back up later. It may be, they said, the only way to wake up the establishment leadership to the fact that voters are dead serious in their demands for real change.

A negligible number of responses trickled in that were obviously Hillary Clinton supporters, but even those answers helped prove the point Bernie or Bust movement makes. A Clinton supporter admonished the “BernieBots” to “stop with the riots” and fall behind Hillary. This respondent also claimed to not work, but lives in a household with an income of over $200,000. If anything, this showed the economic privilege of some Clinton supporters and not vice versa.

Readers may view the full results of the Bernie or Bust survey here.

  • Another story about the implications of a Trump presidency and concerns about the Bernie or Bust movement regarding racial tensions will soon follow.