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During the 2016 presidential campaign, some of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders' supporters acted as if his primary opponent, Hillary Clinton, was the worst candidate ever to run for national office. They vowed never to support her under any circumstance, even after the nomination, by drawing a deeply false equivalence between her and her Republican opponent.

While Clinton had her own set of flaws, some of the shots she took in that election were an unfair characterization of a woman who dedicated decades of her life to public service.

In fact, I vividly recall on Election Day talking to an African-American female University of Michigan student at one of the polls in Detroit. She told me point-blank that she wasn’t voting because Sanders wasn’t on the ballot. She went on to make a case for a purity test for candidates and why Sanders in her mind was the most suitable and politically righteous candidate. I wonder what she now thinks about this era and her decision not to vote. But she was not alone in that thinking.

Now, as Democrats head to the polls on Aug. 7 to choose their nominee for governor, the question remains whether the Sanders wing of the party will apply a purity test to any other candidate who emerges as nominee if their favorite Abdul El-Sayed doesn’t get the front-runner status. The most recent survey of the race placed Gretchen Whitmer as the candidate likely to win the Democratic primary. 

El-Sayed, a remarkable candidate with a promising political future, has carved out a political niche as the embodiment of the Sanders movement, and last week he got the endorsement of the Vermont senator.

But beyond the fact that El-Sayed has been running an inspiring campaign with bold ideas about guaranteeing opportunities for all, some of his supporters will have to make some difficult choices ahead of the November election.

Will they sit out the general election to the detriment of the entire party if he isn’t the nominee?

Will they place purity over the goal of seeking a Democratic victory in November?

The attitude of “it’s our candidate or no one else,” which played out badly in 2016, only seeks to undermine the entire voting process.

During his presidential run, I concurred with Sanders on issues like the future of college education for struggling students. I shared his passion about the glaring economic inequality that is so pervasive in a nation dubbed the richest on Earth.

Sanders was right when he observed that it was abominable to have people at the lowest ranks of the economic ladder continue to drown financially in a country blessed with bounties of richness.

His campaign was groundbreaking because he brought a lot of disaffected voters to the party.  

Where I strongly disagreed with Sanders was that he and his campaign appeared so adamant in demonstrating a purity test to the entire nation at the expense of his party’s success. Seeking to prove who was the perfect candidate helped doom the party’s chances of winning in that consequential election.

Now, all of them are paying the price. It is not enough to be an ideologue. In demanding real change, one must also be a pragmatist and seize on what is possible now to advance the interests of the people yearning for true leadership.

If there is anything 2016 taught us, it is that elections do have grave consequences. As a result, the choices you make do matter. Your stand on the issues of the day really matter.

"The MDP is eager to work with our nominee to make sweeping change up and down the ticket in November. We need every Democrat in Michigan, no matter their preferred candidate to be a part of that effort," party boss Brandon Dillon said. 

Democrats would be wise not to relive the 2016 experience in Michigan this time around. 

bankole@bankolethompson.com

Twitter: @BankoleDetNews

Catch “Redline with Bankole Thompson,” which is broadcast at noon weekdays on Superstation 910AM.

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