I BELIEVE IN BERNIE’S MESSAGE, BUT I ALSO BELIEVE IN MATH
It has long been this sites and this author’s policy to not endorse political candidates. I have this policy for a couple of reasons. Most notably, though I make no effort to be “unbiased” I do try to maintain a sense of objectivity. Endorsing a candidate often brings with it a certain emotional attachment, or reference group mentality that tends to blur that objectivity. If nothing else, the appearance of favoritism contaminates the gossamer relationship between writer and audience. I’m not interested in attracting, say, Obama supporters. This blog is targeted to people who want to think. I’ve said positive things about Obama, I’ve been critical of Obama. I feel I can better serve this role by advocating policies rather than politicians. I’d like to think that my readers know that I will evaluate all public figures using the same subjective lens outlined on the About Page.
Secondly, endorsing candidates only leads to heartbreak. This is especially true for idealists like myself. Supporting a candidate who, for instance, promises Hope and Change, who cheers us on with acclaimations of, “yes we can!” can only fall short upon entering office and executing his or her responsibilities. It doesn’t take long for hope to fade, for changes to come up short. Even the most sequestered idealist must confront the cold reality that, sometimes, we just can’t. When that time comes, it’s awkward to be on record as an accolyte.
I always tell anyone who asks WHO I support that I don’t support candidates. I support policies. When the candidates works toward a policy goal that I support, I support the candidate. When the candidates promotes a policy I do not support, I do not support the candidate. True, that does lead to awkward moments in which I find myself both defending and attacking a politicians, especially a president, as they are pushing multiple policies. But that’s life in politics, folks.
However, if I were to make an exception to this rule, it would have been for Bernie Sanders. I’ve been following Sanders’ career since his stance against the USA Patriot Act back in 2001. I’ve been a huge advocate for Sanders tireless fight to level the playing field for working people, his refusal to be hooked and dragged into an immoral war, his consistent advocacy for small ‘d’ democratic principles.
I’ve not been a blind follower. I’m not a “Bernie Bro“. Sanders has had a hawkish past, most notably getting caught up in the rush for revenge after 9/11, voting in favor of Bush’s premature use of military force against Afghanistan. I’m opposed to prosecuting Edward Snowden, as supported by Sanders. I also recognize, despite my support for single payer and publicly funded tertiary education, that there are some serious flaws in Sanders’ plan for achieving these laudable goals.
That being said, voting for Bernie Sanders in the Florida primary was the best experience I’ve ever had walking into a voting booth. I finally had the opportunity to vote for a man who was on my side, who had a history of giving more than lip service to me and to my friends and family and to my students (more on this in a moment).
That’s why, it is with heavy heart, that I suggest that Bernie Sanders end his campaign against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.
After Bernie’s disappointing showing this last Tuesday it is clear that he will not win the nomination. I know. I know. It’s still possible for him to win. Yeah. Not really. Look, I appreciate political passion as much as the next guy. I’m also wary of political passion. Passion not tempered by reason equates to a Trump supporter. The raw fact is that Bernie needed more than a strong showing on Tuesday. He needed some unexpected wins if he were to close the delegate gap and, perhaps pry some superdelegates from Hillary. He needed to demonstrate to African Americans, cautious and justifiably concerned about the possibility of a Republican administration, that he could win the presidency. That did not happen. It sucks, but it is the reality.
Hillary locked her superdelegates on Tuesday, if they weren’t already locked. That done, Bernie must win big in the ensuing contests. There is, however, no reason to think that that is going to happen. He may win some more states, but he will never gain enough of a delegate advantage to overcome his superdelegate deficit. Wishful thinking about pulling four aces from the top of the deck is simply bad politics. He’s not going to win. Pretending that he could is an appeal to ego, on his part and on ours. My experience is that appealing to ego ends badly, often embarrassingly, and the last thing that our movement needs, or Bernie’s “revolution” needs, is an ego fired embarrassment.
That being said, I’ve had some time to reconsider the position I Tweeted on Tuesday. I’ve had time to come to grips with my feelings, entertain some arguments, discuss matters with other Bernie supporters and I think I’d like to modify my position. I still believe that Bernie should put his campaign against Hillary to bed. It’s an exercise in futility. This does not, however, mean that Sanders should stop running. After all, he still has plenty of money and plenty of support. He can still win in more than a few states. His message of economic justice still resonates. I have to ask myself, can an ongoing Bernie campaign do any good? After a few days of deliberating on this, I believe it does.
First, let’s ask ourselves why Bernie Sanders is running in the first place. It’s likely that most of us have forgotten. It’s like Bernie has forgotten, having been caught up in his unexpected success. We have to remember, that success was unexpected. No discerning analyst back in April of last year would have posited a scenario in which Bernie Sanders actually won the nomination. Bernie must have known he had support, and could gain greater support once his message got out, but to believe he would actually win is unrealistic. He is, after all, surrounded by analysts who make such predictions for a living.
From my seat, the Sanders Campaign aimed at accomplishing three things.
- To bring the long buried ideal of economic justice back into the political discourse.
- To pull at the corporate centrist Clinton to the left, forcing her to develop an economic justice platform.
- To galvanize a progress movement and build it into a significant interest bloc in the Democratic Party.
If these were the goals, then Sanders has far exceeded expectations. All of the candidates in this cycle, including the Republicans have had to address economic justice. Even Donald Trump’s success has been largely predicated on his way frothing up the indignity of a declining white working class. Bernie, however, places the target appropriately on the “millionaires and billionaires on Wall Street” while Trump–himself one of those millionaires–deflects the blame onto “those people.” Economic justice is now a cornerstone of political debate in a way that it hasn’t been for decades.
Hillary Clinton has been forced to present herself as a progressive. Of course, such a claim is so laughable and unbelievable, that Hillary has had to add the modifier, “who gets things done!” to her descriptor. This is classic Clinton triangulation. Call it blue. Call it red. When it turns out to be purple…well, that’s what you’ve been saying all along. Okay, nobody believes that Hillary Clinton is a progressive. Because of Sanders, however, she’ll have to abide by at least some of the progressive positions she’s taken. She cannot realistically reorient herself to the Blue Dog positions of her past.
That is, she cannot so reorient herself so long as there is a strong and viable leftist-progressive bloc within the Democratic Party. Voting for Jill Stein has been a losing proposition for way to long. We need a loud voice within the party of the people. Yeah, we’ll vote for a centrist Hillary to keep a Tea Party Mad Hatter out of the office, but we will scuttle any effort to pander to her Wall Street cronies, we will block her nominees, we will primary her supporters running for congress, or for state and local positions unless we get something in return. We need to take a page from the Tea Party playbook (just a page folks, not the whole book), that page that says we are not willing to be taken for granted by a Democratic Party that knows we can’t allow the neocons back into the Oval Office.
In other words, we need to empower the Progressive Caucus and we need to bring left wing voices into the Democratic Party. We need a galvanized and diverse movement that can shout down the worst of corporatist excess.
So does Bernie staying in the race advance these goals?
He can, but he’ll have to be strategic about it.
Bernie must bring the battle to the Republicans, specifically to Trump. A clear distinction must be made between the white angst populism and megalomaniacal demagoguery being offered by the right and the very real policy prescriptions for economic justice that is the mainstay of the left. Sowing hatred between working people will in no way make the lives of working people better. Indeed, a fractured and faulting working class can only become weaker in the face of the corporatist onslaught. To empower ourselves we need someone offering an alternative vision, a vision of white and brown and black and yellow calloused fists all in the air together thrust toward those who would build walls between us, split up our families, surveille our places of worship, police us and persecute us.
Bernie is the only one in the campaign who can bring this message. Hillary is simply not believable in this role. But Sanders cannot promote this message and attack Clinton at the same time. If Clinton wants to present herself as a progressive…great! Now we need a movement to force her to walk the walk. When President Clinton walks into the Oval Office next January let her and her strategists get together and pour over the election results. Let them look at Sanders’ support state for state, let them look at the coffers of left wing coalitions all over the country and a surging progressive media rising to gain market share. Let them look at all of this and ponder the possibilities of a Raul Grijalva run, or a Barbara Lee run or a…gasp…Elizabeth Warren run…in 2020. Let them quake as they set their agenda for the next four years.
Because Hillary made some promises to progressives, to the black community, to the Hispanic community, to women, to unions, to teachers…
…and, damn it! we intend to make her live up to her commitments.
That can only be accomplished by a movement.
And this was always the original intent of the Sanders campaign. This was a next step in the growing progressive challenge of our time. So maybe we should let this step play out, at least for now.
I may change my mind again next week, or the week after, depending on how the variables change. For now, however, I see no reason to deny someone in a later contest the opportunity to enjoy the same pleasure that I had this last Tuesday voting for a candidate who really does stand for me.