“What should Bernie do?” That seems to be the question of the month. Permit me to weigh in.
Here’s what we know at this point in the campaign.
For Sanders to have any chance of winning the support of superdelegates he must arrive at the convention with more elected delegates than Hillary. To do that he needs to win about 65 percent of all elected delegates in the remaining electoral contests.
On March 26 Bernie did win three states (Washington, Alaska, Hawaii) by huge margins. They were all caucus states. He has never won a primary in a state where only Democrats are allowed to vote and 5 of the remaining 10 are in states with closed primaries.
So his chances are infinitesimal. Is this an argument for him to drop out? No. Hillary supporters might recall at this point in the 2008 race she was about the same number of delegates behind Obama as Bernie is behind Hillary and Obama had twice the number of superdelegates pledged to him. Some people did ask her to drop out but she continued to campaign through the primaries.
More importantly Bernie’s campaign is offering a narrative we haven’t heard for at least two generations from a major political candidate. It is a powerful, vibrant, angry, coherent narrative that forcefully runs at the powerful while defending and nurturing the weak. Bernie is as mad at concentrated corporate power and billionaires as Republicans are at government and the poor.
Bernie should continue to educate America. He needs to stay in not only to gather more delegates but also to magnetize more young people to the possibilities of politics.
But his campaign should cease any further attacks on Hillary. He can effectively sell his philosophy and program without attacking her. He can emphasize their differences about how to tackle financial concentration without attacking her for being “bought” by Wall Street.
I am less worried that further attacks will weaken Hillary’s support among the general population than I am that it will harden the hostility his supporters have built up toward Hillary during this vigorous campaign.
Bernie’s support is strongest among young people. These are voters who have yet to internalize an ethic of voting. Traditionally they are a highly cynical population and cynicism breeds apathy. They could opt out of the election. Indeed, in some polls a quarter of Bernie’s voters say they will not vote for Hillary.
Hillary is a weak candidate. She can’t win without the support of Bernie’s followers. Trump may prove a catastrophe, and his own worst enemy during the campaign, but we can’t count on it. Turnout is the key and this year the turnout in Republican primaries has been the highest in over 50 years while the turnout on the Democratic side has been about average.
Bernie needs to make a convincing case to his supporters that in the general election they should support Hillary without thinking they have sold out. They need not be passionate but they do need to be vocal, at least among their friends. When Trump attacks Hillary they shouldn’t reflexively respond by saying, “Trump is an idiot but he does have a point.”
Bernie can honestly maintain that his differences with Hillary pale into insignificance to the differences between the Democrat and Republican parties. He can argue passionately about the dangers of a one party government. What protections will be left after the furies of a far right wing Republican Party are expressed through the control of all three branches of government, including the Supreme Court?
Bernie can be very supportive of Hillary’s election while at the same time contending that her election is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the dramatic structural changes needed.
In politics there is always a quid pro quo. In return for his support, what should Bernie ask of Hillary?
Certainly Hillary will offer Bernie a prime time slot for his speech at the Convention. I look forward to watching it. That will be an ideal opportunity for Bernie both to present his philosophy while at the same time warmly supporting Hillary and reminding Americans about the urgent importance of this election.
The Sanders campaign will also inevitably influence the platform. That may result in an especially vigorous and perhaps contentious debate, but we should remember that political platforms are usually forgotten the day after the convention closes. Moreover, this platform, like the 2012 Democratic platform, will be devoted largely to touting the accomplishments of Barack Obama. It is not going to include potshots at him.
What Should Bernie Demand from Hillary?
So what should Bernie ask for that are not gimmees? Continue reading