Time to Back Down, Bernie
Joy-Ann Reid offers Bernie Sanders some good advice on The Daily Beast.
Soon and very soon, Bernie Sanders is going to have to help his most ardent fans confront the fact of his defeat. How he does so will help to determine his legacy.
That is not meant to disparage the campaign or the candidate, despite the vitriol that’s sure to start flooding into my Twitter timeline right now. It’s a statement of mathematical fact. As of today, no matter what happens in Kentucky (or Oregon, or Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington D.C. or even mighty California), Hillary Clintonis going to be the Democratic nominee.
Everyone covering this race knows these facts, and the only question is how to manage the communication of them in a way that respects the ongoing democratic process.
Of course, none of that has stopped the magical thinking, and in some quarters, the rage and even conspiracy theorizing of hardcore Sandernistas who refuse to accept that the war is lost. Case in point, the cantankerous Nevada Democratic convention in Las Vegas this weekend at which stalwart liberal California Senator Barbara Boxer was booed and shouted down for the crime of calling for civility and party unity, and a fight literally broke out on the convention floor over the setting of rules and the election of 43 delegates and 3 alternates to go to the July 25th national convention in Philadelphia.
Indeed, there’s nothing quite like firing up Twitter only to be inundated by Bernie-hair avatars shrieking about hundreds of thousands—no, millions—of would-be Bernie voters falling victim to a supposed national voter suppression campaign that is the “real reason” he isn’t winning. The culprits, in this alternate reality, are the Democratic National Committee, which does not set the rules for individual caucuses and primaries. They are run, respectively, by state parties and state legislatures, but according to the theory, they’ve been gamed by nefarious Hillary Clinton operatives in the parties, who have been programmed by “The Establishment” to deny Bernie his rightful nomination.
If Sanders does hope to have a future in Democratic Party politics, he will eventually have to tell his supporters the truth: that he simply lost the primary contest, despite a hard-fought race. He’ll have to walk back some of his sharpest anti-Clinton rhetoric, and find some way to become a bridge to the voters who have become so fervently devoted to him.
It’s tough to imagine the Vermont Senator actively embracing Clinton, who is considerably more hawkish on foreign policy, and less ambitious on domestic affairs than he. But Sanders has a particular credibility with white working-class voters and young, mostly white collegians. Sanders’ particular resonance with the white working-class,a group that has bedeviled Democrats over the last 50 years, and whose skepticism of free trade makes them a prime target for Donald Trump, could prove to be his most valuable asset to his newfound party. Sanders has proven to be an effective attacker when he sets his mind to it. If, as he says, he wants to do everything in his power to prevent a Trump presidency, nothing is preventing him from using his capital now, to try and prevent those voters in his camp from bolting to Trumpville by training his fire on the Republican nominee.
Of course, Sanders could refuse to do that; perhaps concluding that he would lose too much credibility with the rather angry movement he’s built; and go right on hitting Hillary Clinton instead. But he risks winding up an isolated figure in Philadelphia, surrounded by his diehards but scorned by Democrats who blame him for weakening the nominee, tolerated by Camp Clinton only because they have to, and unable to win meaningful platform concessions from a party that could well view him as an enemy invader, rather than a bluntly critical, but ultimately valuable friend.
Cross-posted from The Sensible Center