I voted for Bernie in the California primaries just to tell my friends I did, hung my head in what I hoped was convincing dismay when he lost, and quietly buzzed with excitement over the idea of giving my vote to Hillary in November, what I hoped from the start. I’m playing the long game here.
But this is a secret. Whenever I say anything remotely positive about Hillary to a Bernie supporter, the air instantaneously drops 20 degrees, storm clouds roll in, fists curl, and those little cartoon flames start shooting out of orifices. OK, that might be a slight exaggeration. But a Bernie vs. Hillary conversation with your best friend can feel a lot like that time you tried to convince your Republican uncle that trans people should be able to use any bathroom they want.
I don’t get it, I really just don’t. Her voting record is 93 percent in synch with Bernie’s according to a New York Times analysis. She’s further left of him on a few key issues including gun reform. If elected, she would join the ranks of John Quincy Adams, James Monroe, Martin Van Buren, and James Buchanan as one of the few presidents to have served in the Senate and as Secretary of State. To me, Hillary is not the least-worst option, but a historic and profoundly qualified candidate. She’s not perfect, but that’s a silly standard to begin with.
A few weeks ago I was on my way to get sandwiches with a friend. He’s one of those people who has waited for me during surgery, slept in my childhood bed, and come to the rescue with an iPhone charger when I forgot mine at work. We started talking about claims of uncounted ballots in California, and suddenly we were down each other’s throats. He couldn’t understand how Hillary had the popular majority, insisting on voter fraud. “How can she have the majority when I never hear about a single person who likes her?!” he lamented. It’s because her supporters learn from experience that open Hillary love will inevitably be met with condescension and anger, so we stay quiet, I wanted to say, but didn’t.
Then later that day, when my Bernie-loving boyfriend showed me an unflattering Hillary ‘meme’ on Facebook, I sighed dramatically. “I can’t do this again,” I said moaning, “I’m not going to talk about my politics anymore.”
It was halfway through writing this essay when I started to put together how all these disputes seem to end. With me not speaking up and then hosting a pity party in my head. “Bernie Bros are impossible to talk to. No one listens to me, poor Hillary with her silent supporters, poor me.”
But wait, I didn’t really say anything in the first place.
I imagine this is the kind of epiphany Taylor Swift might wake up to in the middle of the night when she realizes she is the common denominator in her string of failed relationships. But I digress. I can only control my own discourse. I need to listen more compassionately, speak more openly, and instead of defaulting to defensive silence, I should be grateful my friends are so passionate about their politics and join in.
If this essay gets published anywhere, I’m going to post it to social media to come out of the Hillary closet I in large part built around myself. If you also like her, I encourage you to do the same. Then when we’re all out in the light of day, skeptics can see that a Hillary supporter could look like their neighbor, their co-worker, or even their friend.