In comments reminiscent of times past, supporters of Bernie Sanders are saying that if their guy does not win, they will not support the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. I am not surprised to hear such comments even though it seems a bit early to hear such phrases of defeatism. Candidates who claim to be revolutionary are bound to attract the true believers, those who are bound to Bernie Sanders campaign . The true believers in his revolution are purists. Purists are those who fixated upon a candidate and his or her political philosophy. Purists are those who will not accept any deviation from the true path to revolution. It is not alright to be in agreement 93% of the time, only total agreement is okay. Purists are as bad, whether they are on the left side of the political spectrum, as the extremists on the right wing of the spectrum.
You don’t have to go back to far in time to find another candidacy where emotions also ran high. During the Vietnam War, there was the candidacy of Eugene McCarthy. Some of the supporters of Eugene McCarthy were resentful of the candidacy of Robert Kennedy, thinking that for some reason that their man was the only candidate who belonged in the race. It was as if because McCarthy was the first to challenge Lyndon Johnson, that he, therefore should not have been contested by any other person other than Johnson for the Democratic nomination. But politics like life is unpredictable and unfair, and Robert Kennedy ran a campaign that put his name on the path towards the nomination. Both candidates had backers who were grounded in emotionalism. Kennedy’s candidacy was cut short by an assassination’s bullet.
Eugene McCarthy’s campaign fought on and was countered by the campaign of Hubert Horatio Humphrey, the Happy Warrior. McCarthy reluctantly endorsed Humphrey at the tail end of the campaign and the American people got Richard Nixon in the process. The lack of support for Humphrey by the supporters of McCarthy helped to land Nixon in the White House. The election of Richard Nixon marked the end of the Progressive Era.
For those of us who were part of the effort to have Robert Kennedy be elected, his loss was both personal and tragic. For most of us the dream of a better America still lives.
In each campaign there is an amount of emotional involvement, where each person is so passionate for their person or cause that the idea of losing does not enter the equation. Their candidate is sooo right on the issues, that there must be some other reason for losing. You look for other reasons for losing, you might even accuse the other side of cheating. Life and elections seem to be so unfair. The point is that someone has to win and someone has to lose, you can’t be all winners and losing just sucks. It is darn hard not to take losing personally. If this is your first campaign, losing is hard to swallow. It is hard to imagine that you have won by being part of something greater than yourself. If you have helped move the other candidate towards your position you have won, you just haven’t won the way you wanted it to be. When you boil it down to the bare facts, the cause is greater than the person. As long as that fire within you still burns, the dream stays very much alive.