Bernie Sanders supporter explains why progressives have gone ‘totally silent’ since he endorsed Biden

Chris Riotta

Polarized is a weekly series featuring Americans from all 50 states sharing their views on the 2020 elections. Click here if you would like to be a part of this project

Adrienne Brietzke hates Bill Clinton, and she isn’t afraid to say it.

The 70-year-old Arkansas voter is a registered Democrat, though she identifies as an independent after having spent her life working in and around local politics.

Brietzke worked for the former president when he served as the attorney general of her home state, and again when he was elected as governor in 1979. In a recent interview with The Independent, she recalls being “inspired” by the young Clinton and his bold vision for the state – until, she says, he let her and many other progressives down.

“Bill Clinton was very progressive at the time,” she remembers of the former president’s introduction to local and state politics. “He did a 180-degree turn when he was elected president.”

Brietzke blames Clinton and the “Democratic-establishment politics” that followed his tenure in the Oval Office for what she describes to be a “neoliberal takeover of the Democratic Party”, in which center-left politics have become mainstream and Congress provides nothing more than lip service when it comes to progressive measures.

“The Democratic Party used to be the poor man’s party,” she says. “When Bill Clinton came in, he taught the party to be neoliberal.”

(Photo courtesy of Adrienne Brietzke)

When it comes to 2020, Brietzke says politicians like former vice president Joe Biden – the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee – are no different than Clinton.

“It’s all about the status quo,” she says while discussing the swift support Biden received from other Democratic presidential candidates who dropped out of the race and later endorsed him against Vermont senator Bernie Sanders for the party’s 2020 nomination.

The Democratic Party “doesn’t want that to change at all”, she continues. “They’re all making money, and things for many of the top Democrats are actually pretty good under [Donald] Trump, at least financially: most of them are barely paying taxes.”

Brietzke was a Sanders supporter, and feels the senator “left progressives hanging” when he dropped out of the race before endorsing Biden for the nomination.

“He was perfectly placed to get real concessions from Biden,” she says about Sanders, suggesting he should have waited to back the former vice president. Brietzke wishes Sanders instead stayed in the race and fought for Biden to adopt “real progressive policies” on issues like climate change and student debt.

The former vice president did, in fact, extend some progressive updates to his plans on Medicare and student loans after Sanders dropped out of the race, but Brietzke – like many other progressives I’ve spoken to for this project – says those don’t go nearly far enough.

“Democrats like Biden diss progressives and their biggest issues with their lackluster plans on our top three issues: universal healthcare, climate change and student debt,” she says.

“What I’ve seen is that a lot of the social-media sites I hit that are progressive with a lot of chatter have gone totally silent since Bernie took a powder,” Brietzke continues. “To me, that’s an indicator of progressives stepping back and not participating anymore. If that happens on election day, the Democrats are screwed because they won’t get the progressive vote.”

Click here to read more of The Independent’s series, Polarized: Voices From Across America

When I ask whether she intends to vote for Biden, Brietzke pauses.

“No,” she says. “I plan to vote against Trump.”

She adds: “Trump voters are going to vote for Trump. Biden voters are going to vote against Trump. Biden is a non-entity.”

Brietzke plans to cast a ballot for Biden for the sole purpose of removing Trump from office, she explains. Both she and her husband have medical conditions that put them at further risk of contracting coronavirus, and the pandemic has made clear just how “incompetent the leadership is at the top”.

“Biden being the nominee is going to prevent progressive turnout, because he’s basically been a placater for Republicans,” she tells me, before later concluding: “But Trump is just a moron … I’m trusting the scientists right now, and ignoring the president.”