Division among liberals can lead to catastrophic results

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Scrolling through my social media feeds, I see the expected: conservatives arguing with liberals. But I also see an equal amount of liberals arguing with fellow liberals, sometimes about which politicians are good people, sometimes about what issues are important, and sometimes it's honestly just petty bickering. With the very conservative Republican government that we have right now, it is important that liberals work together as a team, and in order to do so, liberals must learn the rationale behind each of the current factions of liberalism. Despite the diversity within liberalism, there is much more that liberals hold in common.

One large source of contention among liberals right now is the 2016 Democratic primaries. Although Senator Bernie Sanders (I–VT) was not widely loved — he lost the primaries by a significant 12 percent margin — he was loved very deeply by his supporters. Some loved him for his economically progressive platform, with enthusiastic support for things like income equality, free public education, and universal health care. Others appreciated his unlikely path to political success as an independent, not beholden to any political party or wealthy donor, and how Sanders continued this independence throughout his campaign by funding the majority of the campaign through small donations from regular citizens.

Sanders supporters were highly disappointed when Sanders did not win the nomination and felt that it was because of the DNC's hesitance to support the independent candidate. They felt that the Democratic Party's rejection of Sanders was a sign of the Party's centrism, and believed that Hillary Clinton, too, often compromised on liberal policy just to remain in power. Sanders supporters' backing of Clinton was, therefore, lukewarm at best. These Sanders supporters might believe that Clinton lost the general election because she was not liberal enough and felt too entitled to votes.

What Sanders supporters might find surprising is that many people supported Clinton for similar reasons to why people supported Sanders: she planned to advance the most socially and economically liberal platform that the Democratic party has ever seen in a general election. Gettysburg College Democrats posted a series of images to their Facebook page last October of students holding up whiteboards with reasons that they were voting for Clinton on them, and many of the reasons, like "She supports a pathway to full and equal citizenship" and "She's a progressive who gets things done," mirrored the sentiments of Sanders supporters when praising their candidate. Others liked the fact that she was one of the first women in history to seriously vie for the U.S. presidency and felt that having a woman president given this nation's history would make it possible for girls to grow up feeling like their gender would not hinder the achievement of their dreams.

Clinton supporters, who believed that Clinton was as good as, if not better than, Sanders, were upset that many Sanders supporters only saw Clinton as the better of two evils. In fact, enough Sanders supporters didn't vote for Clinton in the general election (either voting for a different candidate or not voting altogether) that had they felt more enthusiastic about Clinton, they could have changed the outcome of the general election. Clinton supporters also feel that the "email scandal" syphoned off potential Clinton voters from the right in addition to the rampant sexism expressed by Donald Trump, as this base of voters increasingly found Clinton untrustworthy and deserving of punishment.

Even liberals who never supported Sanders can surely see that he was a unique candidate full of passion and big dreams for the nation and can acknowledge that his accountability and independence are refreshing. Liberals who did not support Clinton can find similar refreshment from the idea of more women in power. Additionally, Clinton supporters, Sanders supporters, and other liberals alike can understand feeling upset when your candidate loses and the desire to blame external factors, be they the DNC or Russian hackers. We can all agree that neither major Democratic candidate was perfect but they both had strengths. Both the primary and general elections of 2016 are over. We need to acknowledge the residual hurt and disappointment that we are all feeling from last year so we can move forward together.

The need to come together with others in order to get things done is inherent to democracy, which means that liberals must unite before we can make tangible political change happen. Instead of deciding which 2016 candidates were better or worse, or which liberal issues are more or less important, liberals should try to learn why other liberals support candidates and issues that they don't support. If we all learn more about each other, we will find the values we have in common that make us liberals, we will learn to trust each other, and we will learn to work together.