Bernie Sanders won’t be the Democratic nominee for president. And it’s not because of superdelegate shenanigans or imaginary Clinton conspiracies* or the media’s reluctance to validate his candidacy. It’s not even because I endorsed Hillary and voted for her in the primary.
*Honestly, I don’t get the Clinton hate. To hear some of my leftish acquaintances tell it, the Clintons are somewhere between Richard Nixon and Attila the Hun on the universal scale of evil.
But give the guy credit. He did better than expected on Super Tuesday. Not well enough to give him a shot at the nomination, but more than well enough to keep his candidacy going all the way to the Democratic convention.
Which is an absolutely worthwhile goal: get all the publicity you can for progressive ideas, and compel the Democratic Party to honor the left wing for the first time since, oh, 1972. Bernie has proven that the left wing is as strong a potential source of energy (and even money) that the party can’t afford to ignore. That is his enduring gift to our political discourse.
I may support Clinton, but I want the tough-as-nails Clinton who can force Republicans to acquiesce on advancing a progressive agenda, not the triangulating Clinton of the 1990s. And there’s the thing: some see the Clintons (Hillary, to some extent, unfairly tarred with her husband’s record) as heartless powermongers; I see them as fighting a rearguard action throughout the 90s against the advancing forces of Reaganism and the Gingrich Congress.
Well, I know I’m not getting anywhere relitigating that stuff.
I don’t believe conspiracy theories, but I will say this. The Super Tuesday lineup was stacked against Bernie. Monday night, Rachel Maddow had a good explainer about the Republican primary process: after Mitt Romney’s troublesome ride in 2012, the GOP decided to stack the deck in favor of the front-runner. The crucial part of the schedule was compressed and front-loaded; Super Tuesday was stocked with Southern states representing the rock-solid Republican base.
The strategy backfired on the GOP this year, of course. But it made me wonder why the Democrats put so many Southern states on Super Tuesday. The schedule was set before Bernie emerged as a serious contender, so it wasn’t specifically designed to kill his chances. But intended or not, it made Bernie’s path more difficult than if states like California or Washington or New York had been among the first.
The Southern tinge of Super Tuesday accomplished two things, one good and one bad. It gave the black electorate more of a say in the nominating process, which is good. But it also empowered the relatively moderate white Southerners who send people like Zell Miller and Jim Webb to Washington. The Democrats would do well to rejigger the schedule next time around and give some large liberal states more influence in the party they sustain.
But the schedule is not why Bernie’s behind the eight-ball; it only hastened the inevitable. Truth be told, Hillary Clinton has earned a ton of credibility with Democratic voters for her nearly three decades of service and for standing tall under withering fire from the conservative noise machine. There are good reasons why the Clinton name is hallowed by many Democrats, and none involve wealthy donors to the Clinton Foundation.
Well, I’m not getting anywhere relitigating that either. The point is, a whole lot of people respect and support Hillary Clinton. That’s what made her a very tough candidate to beat.
I want Hillary to be the nominee, but I also want Bernie to fight on. Make her work for every delegate. Make her incorporate progressive ideas into her agenda. Establish the left as a potent political force, just as crucial for the Democrats as the Tea Party is for the Republicans.
The idea of a political revolution always filled me with skepticism. Last time we tried that, we wound up with Richard Nixon. I’ve seen too many attempted revolutions go nowhere to believe that Bernie could have inspired one in 2016. But what he’s accomplished so far, and is posed to accomplish through the rest of the campaign? That’s a damn miracle, and it’s more than enough to cement Bernie’s surprising place in our nation’s politics.