Stop the Bern

Hillary Clinton leads Senator Sanders by almost three hundred pledged delegates and close to three million votes, and unless she loses more than ninety percent of the pledged delegates in the remaining primaries she will clinch her party’s nomination, but Bernie keeps campaigning as if his life depends on it.  His only concession to reality appears to be that he doesn’t demand that Hillary makes the transcripts of speeches she gave at Goldman Sachs public anymore, although that could sneak back into his stump speech anytime.  Other than that, he keeps telling his large and noisy crowds that he still has a path towards the nomination, even though the process is ‘rigged’ in favor of ‘the Secretary.’  Unfortunately part of his electorate believes him, which led to aggressive and sometimes violent behavior at the Nevada convention of the Democratic Party, culminating in death threats for the local chairwoman, whose only fault was that she enforced the rules that had been in place since the beginning of the campaign.  Sanders was barely capable of producing a weak condemnation of ‘all’ violence, and still has to apologize to its main victim.

In the meantime left-leaning intellectuals like Eugene Robinson and E.J. Dionne are warning Sanders that if he keeps up his current rhetoric he’ll soon enter ‘Ralph Nader territory,’ referring to the consumer advocate who ran as an independent candidate in the year 2000 and effectively created the opportunity for George W. Bush to steal the presidency from Al Gore.  From now on Sanders will only be hurting Mrs. Clinton, is their argument, and thus help Donald Trump, who is already quoting Bernie in his speeches.  Assuming that this is not Sanders’s objective, the question is what still drives him.  Ideally that is his agenda of campaign finance reform, breaking up the big banks, ending social inequality, creating a single payer health care system and tuition free public colleges.  But to promote that he only has to run a positive campaign on those issues without attacking either Hillary Clinton or the Democratic Party, so there must be other motives in play.  One obvious possibility is that Sanders, and/or his wife Jane, really started believing that he could be president, and just like Ted Kennedy in 1980 cannot let go of the dream.

Within the dynamics of a campaign, however, there are more sinister alternative explanations.  Nobody on the outside knows how much control Bernie has over his own campaign’s strategy, and some of his senior staffers and advisors may have their own agenda.  Nina Turner might be looking for a position in the fictitious Sanders administration, Tad Devine for an ambassadorship in France, and Jeff Weaver simply for increasing his market value with an eye on the next campaign season.

To call the Sanders campaign childish in this stage of the contest is an understatement.  Its spokespeople complain about rules that have been in place from the start, condemning the closed primaries in which only registered Democrats can vote that benefit Hillary Clinton, but without any criticism and full of appreciation for the at least equally undemocratic caucuses where Bernie has an advantage.

The damage that has been done so far is not fatal yet, since seventy two percent of Sanders’s voters still declare that they would vote for Hillary in November, and if 2008 is an indicator that number will only go up once she has been nominated.  But it’s high time to stop the whining and the Bern.

Hugo Kijne

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