May 30, 2016 – Peter Rosenstein has written a much-circulated Huffington Post article entitled “Sanders Candidacy Devolving into an Arrogant Insufferable Self-serving Disaster.”
The article couldn’t be more wrong. This is a rebuttal.
The article is is consistent with a not-so-subtle campaign by Clinton surrogates to discredit Sen. Sanders in order to limit his influence in moving the Democratic Party away from Clintonian corporate-friendly triangulation and back to its FDR-style New Deal roots as a party representing the interests of the working and middle classes; to discourage voters from going to the polls for Bernie in California and the other remaining primaries; and to excuse the manifest weakness of Secretary Clinton as a Presidential candidate by blaming it on Bernie.
Let’s be clear. There’s only the most remote chance of Bernie winning the 2016 Democratic Presidential nomination. And when the primaries are over, there will need to be a united front between Bernie and Hillary and their respective supporters to defeat the racist, xenophobic, misogynist Donald Trump.
But by every possible metric other than actually winning the nomination, Sanders’ candidacy has been an astounding success that will change America and the world for the better in ways we can only begin to imagine.
Let us count the ways:
• Hillary will likely eke out a win in the battle for the Democratic nomination, but Bernie has won the battle for the soul of the Democratic Party and the wider progressive movement.
• Bernie (and fellow progressives like Elizabeth Warren) represent the future of the Democratic Party while Hillary and Clintonism represent the past. Bernie has won overwhelming majorities among people under 45-years old (as well as independents). These are the people who will dominate the Democratic Party and the progressive movement in years to come.
• Bernie has raised voters’ enthusiasm level. Despite limited media coverage, he regularly gets tens of thousands of enthusiastic supporters to his rallies, while Hillary struggles to get a few hundred or a few thousand. Democrats will need the enthusiasm of Bernie’s supporters to defeat Trump.
• Bernie’s campaign has become the largest progressive movement in recent history. As I’ve previously written, it will hopefully transform itself into a permanent mass progressive socialist/social democratic/progressive organization that will both run progressive candidates at every level of government from dog-catcher, to City-Councils, the State Legislatures to Congress, and organize popular campaigns, sometimes including large-scale demonstrations and even non-violent civil disobedience, for progressive change.
• Bernie has placed the issue of America’s corrupt campaign finance system front and center on the political agenda. And he’s done it not only with words but with deeds, raising over $200 million from over 8 million individual contributions averaging $27, while Hillary has relied on larger contributions and several Super PACs. Until millionaires, billionaires and corporations are no longer allowed to buy our elections, it’s unlikely that we will solve any of the nation’s serious problems. Bernie is leading the way.
• Bernie has made “democratic socialism” a word that can now be spoken in polite company. 42% of Iowa Democratic caucus-goers identified themselves as socialists. A year ago, I doubt if the number would have been 4%. Increasingly, younger people reject unfettered, unregulated neoliberal forms of capitalism and are looking for an alternative. Bernie has started to provide one.
• Bernie has set the political agenda for the Democratic Party and the progressive movement while Hillary has followed meekly behind. He has made the issue of economic inequality one of the pressing issues of our times. Raising the minimum wage to $15; guaranteeing healthcare to all Americans; making it possible for every student who wants it to get a free college education at a public institution; increasing social security benefits by lifting the cap on social security taxes for wealthy taxpayers; creating well-paying jobs by investing in our crumbling infrastructure; taxing Wall Street transactions; breaking up the biggest banks who tanked the economy and threw millions out of work; opposing corporate-friendly trades deals that send American jobs overseas: These are the winning issues for Democrats. Hillary and the Democratic Party would be wise to appropriate much of Bernie’s programs if they want to defeat Trump and win over voters who’ve been left out of the neoliberal global economy.
• Bernie has emphasized that climate change is the existential issue of our times. He opposes fracking. And he wants to put a tax on carbon. Adequately addressing climate change could literally determine the future of the human race on this planet.
Peter Rosenstein’s Huffington Post article scornfully concludes, “Bernie you LOST…While you have achieved your fifteen minutes of fame and made a real difference in the discussion if you want to actually make a difference on the issues you care about you will gracefully leave the stage [sic].”
If the Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign adopt Rosenstein’s arrogant and demeaning attitude towards Bernie and his supporters, they will make it likely that fewer of Bernie’s supporters will turn out to pull the lever for Hillary and defeat Trump.
There are still 9 Democratic primaries and caucuses remaining with 930 delegates at stake, including the Big Kahuna, California, with 546 delegates. While it’s improbable that Bernie will win the remaining contests by a large enough margin to gain a majority of the pledged delegates, there is no reason for Bernie to “leave the stage” and deprive voters in those 9 states of the opportunity to voice their views.
Moreover, Bernie will likely come into the Democratic Convention with 45%-47% of the pledged delegates. Yes, Bernie should support Hillary to defeat Trump and urge his supporters to do the same. He’s already said that he’ll do everything in his power to prevent Trump from becoming President.
But an anti-Trump united front between Hillary supporters and Bernie supporters is a two-way street. To be effective, it will require the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party to incorporate many of Bernie’s principles and ideas.
That includes making the Democratic Party more democratic by eliminating unelected Superdelegates and opening as many Democratic primaries as possible to independents in the future. 44% of the electorate identifies as independent and Democrats need their participation and support to win.
It also includes incorporating many of Bernie’s themes and policy proposals, not only into a Democratic Platform that no one reads, but into Hillary’s actual campaign. Thematically, that means making an end to the corrupt campaign finance system and an economy rigged in favor of the billionaires and corporations against the working and middle classes the core of the Democratic Party. Programmatically, it means going beyond many of Hillary’s timid proposals to incorporate such things as a $15 minimum wage, free college tuition, increased social security benefits, and a tax on carbon.
Bernie has had way more than “15 minutes of fame”. He has inspired millions to work to change the world for the better. He has fundamentally changed the political dialogue and set the future agenda for the Democratic Party, the progressive movement, and America as a whole.
Hillary and the Democratic Party would be wise to welcome much of Bernie’s values and agenda into their campaign. To paraphrase Rosenstein, “Any other scenario places you in the position to take the blame if Trump wins.”