I worked for the Bernie Sanders campaign from June 2015 until the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As part of the campaign, I spent time working in South Carolina, New Jersey and New York, as well as my home state of North Carolina. I have met many amazing and inspiring individuals through this journey, and this has shaped my view of politics drastically. My attendance at the DNC as a Bernie Sanders delegate was nothing short of an eye-opening experience.
At the convention, I was featured in a Clinton campaign photo, captioned “We made history.” This picture was taken at the moment when Senator Bernie Sanders conceded his candidacy for the presidential election, but was misconstrued as a joyous celebration of Hillary Clinton’s nomination. This moment, which was very emotional for me, was one in which I was remembering all the hard work and sacrifice that had gone into Senator Sanders’ campaign over the last year. Instead, it was used to paint an untrue picture of the Clinton nomination.
We made history. pic.twitter.com/TBvItE7oSa
— Hillary for America (@HFA) July 26, 2016
While I am glad to finally get to the point where a woman may be considered for the highest position in the United States of America, I had, and still have, some very serious misgivings about the platform on which she is running. Particularly, I have an issue with the way that the Clinton platform, and now the Democratic Party platform, addresses the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Additionally, further speeches, debates and conversations have supported the narrative of an “us vs. them” alienation between Americans and Muslims. The only silver lining to this marginalization and “other-ing” was the fact that the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton were not actively insulting and attacking Muslims, unlike many of the Republican Party candidates. I and many others feel that the Clinton campaign may be trying to gain political favor from Muslims through photo opportunities and propaganda, rather than through their actions. We feel that the Democrats thus count on our vote by default, because the alternative seems like a dystopian nightmare.
I still believe that the Clinton campaign needs to speak out against the anti-Muslim rhetoric, against the narrative that Muslims are not as opposed to terrorism as every other American. They need to address the issues and concerns of Muslim Americans, instead of just assuming that they automatically have the vote from this demographic. I believe that is an issue with the campaign this year as a whole, that each candidate is relying on fear tactics instead of focusing on actual policies to improve the nation. The Democratic Party needs to do better, and be held accountable. It needs to earn minority votes through its actions and policies, not through pandering.
I want to make it clear, however, that in this election, I will not be voting for the Republican Party nominee. The threat that is posed by a Trump/Pence presidency is too dangerous to be ignored. The Democratic Party isn’t offering much, but there have been several areas in which the progressive movement has gained valuable ground through the hard work of Senator Sanders and his campaign team and volunteers across America.
One of the main factors pushing me toward voting for Clinton is the fact that while her neoliberal views are flawed, at least they are not the horrific disaster that is seen across the aisle. I believe that moving forward, it is too late in this election cycle to turn to a third-party candidate and hope to win the election, and to rely on that tactic would put millions of American citizens in danger. Thus I will be voting for Hillary Clinton, and I believe that as American Muslims, it is the smartest thing we can do for this presidential election.
However, the progressive movement has only just begun. The presidential election is just one of many elections, and there are multiple worthy candidates who can truly represent the Muslim American community. I believe that for us to be more than just “token minorities” and for our voice to be truly heard, Muslim Americans must be involved in more than just one election every four years. We have to be active in our local and state governments, and work to establish ourselves as an independent, motivated and influential political force.
I leave you with the words of Robert Reich, a political science professor at UC Berkeley, and encourage that we follow in his footsteps.
I’m going to continue to beat my head against the wall, to build and contribute to building a progressive movement. The day after Election Day, I am going to try to work with Bernie Sanders and anybody else who wants to work in strengthening a third party — and again, maybe it’s the Green Party — for the year 2020, and do everything else I was just talking about. But right now, as we lead up to Election Day 2016, I must urge everyone who is listening or who is watching to do whatever they can to make sure that Hillary Clinton is the next president, and not Donald Trump.