This is the place where a policy-oriented Washington commentator like myself is supposed to offer Bernie Sanders supporters some sort of olive branch. For example, I could point out that he has highlighted some real issues. I am angry about money in politics, too. I believe that income inequality is a problem, too. I think the safety net needs strengthening, too. In other words, I am supposed to indicate that I get why Sanders has a movement.
But the truth is that Sanders does not deserve a movement, and his losing campaign does not deserve unusual deference and concessions. His tale about American oligarchy is simplistic, his policy proposals are shallow, his rejection of political reality is absurd, his self-righteousness and stubbornness are unbecoming. And, yes, he has lost. Here are some simple points worth repeating:
• Sanders’s path to the Democratic presidential nomination is essentially nonexistent. His only hope rests on convincing Democratic “superdelegates,” nearly all of whom back Hillary Clinton, to swing his way. They will not do that. It is incoherent for Sanders to ask them to do so, given that he has attacked superdelegates as non-democratic actors in the nominating process and that Clinton will almost certainly end the cycle with more votes and more pledged delegates. It is also staggeringly arrogant that Sanders would think that superdelegates, the Democratic “establishment” sorts that he has spent the whole campaign cartoonishly attacking as tools of Wall Street, would be open to his entreaties.
• It is politically reasonable for the superdelegates to stick with Clinton. The poll numbers Sanders cites to argue that he would be a stronger nominee do not reflect the impressions voters would have after the Republicans engaged in a sustained anti-Sanders assault — the sort of thing Clinton has endured for decades. Polling shows that Sanders does not, in fact, do unusually well among true independents and that many of these crucial swing voters have not formed an opinion of him.
• A Clinton nomination would be wholly legitimate. Sanders zealot Seth Abramson writes, “While not rigged, there is no question that the Democratic Party’s primary process — which uses superdelegates to create an appearance of pre-election electoral inevitability and closed primaries and onerous registration requirements to exclude many new, independent, and party-switching voters — has dramatically favored Mrs. Clinton.” This is nonsense, considering that Sanders has benefited from weird, anti-democratic quirks of the nominating process. FiveThirtyEight ran the numbers and found that “Clinton has been hurt at least as much by caucuses as Sanders has been hurt by closed primaries.”
So, enough with the reality-denial. Enough with the sanctimony. Enough with the attitude that only Sanders’s agenda counts. Enough with the dream that his movement is broader and more powerful than it has proved to be at the ballot box. Enough with the paranoid conspiracy theorizing, the lazy attacks on the “establishment,” the platitudes about the right to health care and the right to free college without realistic plans to realize them, the delegitimization of those who disagree, the scorning of practicality, the outrageous negativity about the state of the country and the simplistic narrative of evil 1 percenters who are to blame for everything that is wrong. Enough with the excuses for half-baked policy proposals (It is the direction, not the specifics, that matter!). Enough with the “political revolution.”
Berners can accept reality or sink deeper into delusion. Only one of these options would be good for them and good for the country.