Why Bernie Sanders need to fight on … and surrender

TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
April, 2016

I’m not going to pretend I’m a Bernie Sanders supporter. I’m not. I’ve explained in earlier columns why I back Hillary Clinton, even though I’m ideologically much closer to Sanders on almost all of the important issues.  After living in the United States for nearly a quarter century, and seeing how the mainstream media, the right-wing echo chamber, never-ending political gridlock, religious politics, and unfettered access to money combine to create a fetid political miasma, I believe that Bernie would be a sitting duck in this fall’s presidential election, regardless of what the polls say right now. The right hasn’t even started to turn its guns on a self-declared socialist. I can see the ads now.

It looks like the end is nigh for the Sanders campaign. After a double-digit loss in New York, and looming double-digits losses in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut and Delaware, a Sanders win ain’t gonna happen. All the talk by die-hard Bernie supporters of stealing away superdelegates is just that – talk. And Sanders will lose for one main reason – a total inability to connect with minority voters. If he had just drawn even with Clinton with voters in these communities he would be the nominee for sure. But his campaign has mainly appealed to young white progressives, which is an important audience, but without black and Hispanic voters, you will not even get nominated as a Democratic dogcatcher.

(I’m still waiting to see a thorough analysis of why this happened.)

It’s time for Sanders to come to grips with this reality and to start thinking about November. The most important thing is to beat the Republicans, and the Democrats have a golden chance to win back the Senate AND the House because of how the Republican party’s nominating contest has turned into a combination freak show, wrestling cage match and car wreck. It doesn’t matter if it’s Trump or Cruz. Since the GOP contest will probably last until late July, in Cleveland, the Democrats have a golden opportunity to define the terms of the election now, and make a start on defining who the party will be up against.

But that can’t happen if Bernie Sanders and his supporters keep vilifying Clinton. As comedian Patton Oswald, a big Bernie supporter but a realist, said in a recent interview, if you’re a Democrat but you hate Clinton so much you would rather have Trump as president, then, “You’re a fucking child.”

But it is absolutely necessary that Bernie not give up running. Yes, he should start to encourage his supporters to support Clinton. I am, however, totally in favor of him building up his delegate total and going into Philadelphia in late July demanding that the party’s platform reflect his point of view.  He should also pressure Clinton to pick a vice-presidential candidate who reflects his view. Someone like, say, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Warren would be the perfect pick. She is as progressive as Sanders on all the issues that young voters care about. It would be much easier for them to support Clinton if they knew Warren was her backup. She is super intelligent, and fearless. The traditional roll of a vice-president nominee is to say the things about the opponent that a presidential candidate can’t. It’s my opinion that Warren would reduce Trump or Cruz to tears. And heaven help the poor man or woman the GOP pick as their vice-presidential candidate in any debate against her.

Bernie Sanders can bring about change in the Democratic Party in a way that no other candidate has. It’s important that he does so. If the Democrats want to take advantage of the party’s growing support among young people, and the demographic changes in their favor, they need to move forward. Repeating what Barack Obama did is not enough.

That’s why Bernie Sanders needs to both surrender and fight on. It’s time to act. He can both help the Democrats overwhelmingly win the next election, and change the party forever.  I know that would not be the ultimate prize, but it would be a victory not to be sneezed at.

Copyright Tom Regan 2016

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com

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Tom Regan Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association in the U.S., he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92. He is based near Washington, D.C.

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