Bernie Sanders is a realist after all
In my comments on the Democratic presidential debate last night, I noted that Bernie Sanders’ performance confirmed for me that his candidacy has never really been about seriously challenging for the nomination.
Amy Walter at The Cook Political Report makes the same point, with a bit more meat on the bones.
Bernie Sanders wants to run on issues, not on electability, and that is great news for Hillary Clinton. On the campaign trail, Sanders has never explicitly criticized Clinton, even when provided ample opportunities to do so. Tonight, he went even further when he declared that Clinton’s greatest weakness – her email server and the questions it raises about her honesty and trustworthiness – was irrelevant.
In telling the audience (and Clinton) that “I think the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails,” Sanders was in line with the majority of Democratic voters. But, by not making the case for why this issue could come back to haunt her, and the Democratic chances for holding the White House in 2016, Sanders confirmed that his candidacy is more about promoting his views on economic and social inequality in America, than it is to seriously challenge Clinton for the nomination. His performance tonight was sure to make his supporters happy, but he did nothing to expand that base of support.
I think that’s right. One of the reasons Hillary Clinton had a great night is that Bernie Sanders had no interest in making things too hot for her. That would have required moving away from a policy debate and in the direction of a discussion about credibility, likeability, trustworthiness, honesty, and all the other things that could damage her campaign in the general election. This is what it would take to seriously challenge for the nomination, and this is what he has consistently refused to do.
When the time comes he will endorse her with the understanding that he and Elizabeth Warren and others will be watching.
It’s certainly not the whole loaf, but politics rarely offers that, which is why people are so easily frustrated by it. It is also, incidentally, why those who offer easy solutions from the left or right get to be so popular for a while.