Like John Oliver’s segment on the Democratic primary process, I can hear the more overzealous Bernie Sanders supporters now, getting ready to blast me as a “shill” and a “turncoat” for what I’m about to say. But I don’t care.
I am a Sanders supporter. I donated to his campaign, voted for him in the Indiana primary (which he won), and was enthusiastic about his effort to shake up the Democratic Party and electoral politics. I think he is a genuine, honest, and passionate man who speaks his mind and fights for what he believes. He’s not insane like Donald Trump and he’s not the calculating, Nixon-esque strategist like Hillary Clinton. However, after his 13-point loss to Clinton in the California primary, the writing’s on the wall.
Politico recently released an article describing the Sanders’s campaign as in complete disarray, with key strategists on the inside throwing their candidate under the bus. Many of the problems the campaign came, in their estimation, from Sanders himself, including his call that Clinton was “unqualified,” the proposed debate with Trump, and his response to the Nevada Democratic Convention’s chaos. Bernie started this race as a hopeful gadfly, a protest candidate who had a vision for America that I saw as positive. However, as the mistakes and resentment grew, I’m beginning to see a very different candidate that I originally supported.
Instead of his optimism about what America and its politics can be, I see his cynicism over the “rigged” nature of the Democratic primary. To be fair, he’s quite right about the Democratic Party’s seemingly undemocratic system of “superdelegates” and party insiders, and how its sudden shifting gave Clinton the edge to be the presumptive nominee before the California primary. Nevertheless, Clinton earned far more votes in this election than Sanders, and no amount of mid-game system changing is going to reverse that. If he didn’t like this system, he should’ve never run as a Democrat.
The reason for my frustration is that Bernie’s current demeanor as a sore, but defiant loser is going to hurt his legacy. He’s the first non-Christian in the history of American politics to win primaries and caucuses for a major political party. He’s shown the American people that a professional, strong campaign can be waged without big money donors and Super PACs. He turned his candidacy from being a mere asterisk into a serious contender for the Democratic nomination, all the while heavily criticizing its system. His vision for America is the future of the Democratic Party, and his candidacy helped make that vision a reality. He’s pushed Clinton to the left on issues of trade, immigration, and finance that she would have never taken without him in the race. And he’s about to squander all that over petty electoral math.
In my estimation, for the good of his legacy and the future he wants to build, he needs to suspend his campaign and actively fight for what he believes either through helping congressional candidates or, e gads (!), the presumptive Democratic nominee. As I’m torn over whether to vote for Clinton in the fall, Bernie’s choice to support her or not weighs heavily in my decision. As he pushes the party to the left, as many of us have clamored for, he might even be her Vice President if he wants. Or, he could secure that Elizabeth Warren is her VP, which would create one of the most unprecedented presidential tickets in history.
If he decides to abandon the Democrats, I will admire that as well. The party establishment certainly hasn’t given him much to work with and I wouldn’t blame him for telling them to go to hell. It could give him the impetus to do what Theodore Roosevelt did in 1912: run as a progressive, third-party candidate that would change the nature of the race for the fall.
Regardless of what he decides, he needs to make a decision quickly, for the good of the country and the causes he cares so dearly for. Bernie Sanders is certainly one of the most important presidential candidates in the history of American politics, but it’s the end of the road. He needs to choose another path.