“You're being ridiculous.”
When comedian Sarah Silverman lobbed that rhetorical grenade into the seething mass of Bernie Sanders supporters at this week’s Democratic National Convention, frustrated Hillary Clinton fans roared. For months they’d chafed over the Vermont senator’s stubborn refusal to step aside for their candidate’s coronation, and here was Silverman (a Sanders supporter herself) releasing their fury against his fans: Why are you clinging to a lost cause? Why are you embarrassing the party? Why are you being ridiculous?
The answer is simple. They still believe. Not in Bernie Sanders, but in the idea that voting your conscience is not a waste, not unthinkable and certainly not ridiculous.
Now, to be sure, politics is filled with people who count votes, crush expectations, and sacrifice ideals every day to a greater goal of winning. And without these people, either party would suffer calamitous losses. For better or worse, this is the essential, cynical core of modern politics in which lawmaking is trench warfare. It is not unreasonable for Camp Clinton to be jonesing for the Bernsters to get on board.
But in conversations I have found Sanders supporters desperately wanting to believe in grand visions of great leadership where principles matter above pragmatism – where winning is not everything, and winning at the cost of your honor is nothing. They knew the odds, the party power and the money were against their guy from the start. And they did not care. They honestly thought he was the better choice, and they were inspired by other “ridiculous” voters.
“Ridiculous” voters lined up in 2008 behind a thinly qualified guy with an odd name and no chance of winning, only to push Barack Obama into the White House. “Ridiculous” voters in the Republican Party are, right now, refusing to back Donald Trump because they do not believe in the government he espouses. This fall, millions of Democrats living in solidly Republican states will cast “ridiculous” ballots, knowing not one electoral vote will flow to their party as a result.
Here is a hint to Hillary supporters: You just had a hugely successful convention. Your nominee is looking strong in the polls. You want to get the Sanders people on board? Stop insulting them. Stop belittling their ethics. And start listening to what they find troubling about your party’s candidate. Because not addressing those concerns – well, that would truly be ridiculous.
CNN’s Tom Foreman has been covering both of the major political conventions.