Friday, May 20, 2016

The State Of The Bern

Right now Bernie Sanders seems like a huge problem: saying that he's continuing his anti-Hillary campaign out of "respect for the will of the voters" when 3 million more voters have voted for Hillary in the primaries than for him; accusing Hillary of "not wanting to to give the voters of California a chance to select the next Democratic nominee for President," as if she had some deep contempt for California, when the fact is simply that her lead is so lopsided that she will be the nominee regardless of the results in California and the other remaining primaries; and in general acting like an unreasonable egomaniac who would much rather destroy the Democratic Party than stop Trump from being elected.

However, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

1) A lot of people who study American politics all day long every day for a living, and who live among the principal players, are assuring us that the rift between Hillary and Bernie will be all patched up before the convention. That doesn't seem at all certain to me. But I don't study these things all day long every day for a living, and I don't know any of the players personally. The pundits may know all sorts of things I don't.

And I can remember that 8 years ago today, the animosity between Hillary and Barack seemed pretty severe, but they patched it up by the convention. The Clintons and the Obamas at least pretended like they were good friends at the 2008 convention in Denver.

2) Even if the pundits are dead wrong about this, even if the rift between Hillary and Bernie is not healed, ever, neither sincerely or even in public pretense, not before the convention and not by November, there remains the question of how many of Bernie's followers will follow him, and how many will drop him and support Hillary. Quite a few have dropped him this week. The phrase "I don't like Hillary, but I'm not going to help elect Trump!" is in the air. And it seems quite reasonable to assume that a great deal more will drop him if he doesn't switch from campaigning against Hillary to campaigning against Trump. And speaking of reason: there are no rational reasons to think of Hillary as a monster, just a long laundry list of irrational ones brought to you over the course of the past quarter century by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, and thankfully, by no means all of Bernie's past or present supporters dislike Hillary at all.

I dislike Bernie. And it's not just for the sake of party unity that I dislike him. I didn't just start disliking him when he stopped talking about how close Hillary's political positions are to his own. (Remember? It's only been a couple of months since he suddenly stopped mentioning that.) I dislike him because he's pretending he's more of a Socialist than the Democrats are. The fact is that anti-Socialist propaganda has been extremely successful in this country, in large part by preventing people from having any clear idea what socialism is. The fact is that the present-day Democratic Party in the US corresponds to the parties which are called Social Democratic in Germany and Socialist in France and Labour in the UK. Restoring regulation of financial institutions, increasing the minimum wage and supporting unions, increasing the size and scope of Social Security and the other parts of the social safety net (notice how the word "social" is right in there?), fighting for health care for everyone, for women's rights, minority rights, affirmative action, more funding for education, for solar and wind and other clean energy -- that's socialism, ladies and germs. Limbaugh's right about that. He's wrong when he says that socialism is bad. And Democratic politicians are either mistaken or disingenuous if they say they're not socialist. And Bernie is wrong when he says his political positions are different from those of the Democrats. Bernie and a lot of other self-described radicals moved several decades ago from places like Brooklyn to Vermont, where they've been telling each other how progressive they are without having to live next door to black people. Look carefully at Bernie's life and at all of his votes and political positions, and you'll see that he's not farther to the Left than the Democrats we all know.

He's a self-serving phony, and that's quickly becoming much more clear to a lot of people these days. As the pundits have pointed out since the beginning of his Presidential campaign, one of his advantages was that people didn't know him well, and that some of the hero-worship surrounding him was bound to fade as he became more well-known. It's fading now. May it fade far and fast.

And so I take comfort in one thing: no matter how much more damage Bernie causes, no matter how much more sheer nonsense he spouts and no matter how much more he helps Trump, Bernie himself will never, ever be President.

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