Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Put Out the Bern

It's time for Bernie Sanders to end his campaign.  Barring assassination by a Trump fanatic or similar catastrophe, Hillary Clinton is going to be the nominee of the Democratic Party for President.  Now that Trump is the Republican nominee, it's time for Sanders to stop attacking Clinton and thereby aiding Trump.

Sure, Bernie won the West Virginia primary on Tuesday.  But it's very likely he won it because Trump supporters voted for him.  A third of voters in the West Virgina Dem primary admitted they were going to vote for Trump in November, and most of those said they voted for Bernie.  That's more than enough for his winning margin, in a state that no Dem is going to carry in November.

The Trump voters understand what's going on, even if Bernie's don't.  Clinton is going to be the nominee, and everything that weakens her, strengthens Trump's chances.

Yes, Bernie is focusing on important issues.  But he's still attacking Clinton directly, aggressively and personally.  For all the good he's done in getting these issues aired, and showing how powerful they are with many voters, he's now doing even more damage to the chances of those issues actually being addressed.

I'm sorry to say, it looks to me that Bernie is on an ego trip right now.  All those crowds seem to have gotten to him.  He doesn't have a chance to win the nomination, and he has precious little in the way of a practical program to address the issues he raises.

Hillary is almost nobody's perfect, favorite or wholeheartedly supported candidate.  But she's all that stands between Trump and the nuclear arsenal.  And she's not that bad.  (This is apart from, but related to, my own view, which I think is widely shared.  I supported Barack Obama not only because his positions were closer to mine, but because I believed he'd be a better President than Hillary.  I can't say the same about Bernie.)

But the longer Bernie stays in and the louder he is in the process, the more he encourages fanatics like the few the Guardian found at a rally in Sacramento who said if Hillary is nominated they would vote for Trump.

The argument that a Trump victory would hasten the Bernie revolution is wrong.  I've already written about the lessons of the Nader campaign in 2000, which was partially responsible for George W. Bush.  Bush threw away trillions on a horrible war, attacked civil liberties, institutionalized torture, ruined the country's reputation around the world and sent the economy into the worst downturn since the Great Depression.  He hardly could have been worse.

But no "revolution" resulted.  Instead only through heroic effort over eight years did the Obama administration bring the country back from catastrophe.  While the far right took over Congress and prevented more progress--basically because people who opposed them didn't vote anywhere near their numbers.

Here's the problem with the Bernie revolution.  First, the kind of revolution that's most likely to happen would result in a dictatorship.  Second, there is no deep or wide support for overthrowing capitalism, which is the real revolution, and substituting something better.  Something better than the capitalism of today is probably essential to a better future.  But there's no consensus on this yet.  It's not going to happen in 2016.

Here's another problem with holding out for revolution: a lot of people are going to get hurt, and usually they are those with the least resources and in the weakest position, economically, socially, and in terms of health.  If you don't care about that, count me out.

That's also the problem with political purity--the Bern or Bust.  What could Nader people tell the parents of the young men and women killed and maimed in Iraq?  The people who suffered and even died because trillions of dollars of resources that President Gore might well have directed towards them wound up being squandered by President Bush?  What would they say to their grandchildren who will inherit a hot depleted planet, when some attempt 15 years ago might have made at least some difference?

If Bernie loyalists believe that wounding Hillary so that she loses will actually help Sanders become the Democratic party leader--it won't happen.  If he is blamed for Hillary's loss and whatever catastrophes Trump provides, he'll be lucky to be treated by Democrats in the Senate as well as Republican Senators are currently treating Ted Cruz.

President Obama talked about how real progress happens in his recent graduation address at Howard University.  Some excerpts:

But to bring about structural change, lasting change, awareness is not enough. It requires changes in law, changes in custom. If you care about mass incarceration, let me ask you: How are you pressuring members of Congress to pass the criminal justice reform bill now pending before them? (Applause.) If you care about better policing, do you know who your district attorney is? Do you know who your state’s attorney general is? Do you know the difference? Do you know who appoints the police chief and who writes the police training manual? Find out who they are, what their responsibilities are. Mobilize the community, present them with a plan, work with them to bring about change, hold them accountable if they do not deliver. Passion is vital, but you've got to have a strategy.

And your plan better include voting -- not just some of the time, but all the time...So you got to vote all the time, not just when it’s cool, not just when it's time to elect a President, not just when you’re inspired. It's your duty.

And democracy requires compromise, even when you are 100 percent right. This is hard to explain sometimes. You can be completely right, and you still are going to have to engage folks who disagree with you. If you think that the only way forward is to be as uncompromising as possible, you will feel good about yourself, you will enjoy a certain moral purity, but you’re not going to get what you want. And if you don’t get what you want long enough, you will eventually think the whole system is rigged. And that will lead to more cynicism, and less participation, and a downward spiral of more injustice and more anger and more despair. And that's never been the source of our progress. That's how we cheat ourselves of progress."

Sure, protest is part of the process, and there are special cases when there's no compromise (like ending a war.)  But progress is mostly incremental. And it's about more than emotion, or projection.

Come down from your ego trip, Bernie.  Stop helping to elect Trump.

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