Thanks, Bernie, But No Thanks

Trump must be defeated, and sensible adults know you can’t do it.

Bernie Sanders, I’m talking to you.

When we look for reasons for Hillary Clinton’s defeat in the electoral debacle of 2016, prominent among them must be the fact that you, Bernie, the grumpy old man of left wing politics, ran against her so hard for so long. Throughout the primaries and right through the nominating convention, you drove ideological wedges into the fractures within the Democratic Party, ensuring that, when you didn’t get the nomination, your disappointed supporters would never rally to Clinton with the fervor you commanded and she desperately needed. As a result, we have Donald J. Trump as President.

The fiasco in Iowa last week was a legacy of your egotistical approach to party politics in 2016. When you lost in Iowa to Hillary, you loudly complained that the caucus system lacked “transparency,” since raw vote totals were not disclosed, but only final delegate counts for each candidate. The meltdown in this year’s caucuses was the direct result of complicated changes in reporting methods made to address your Trump-like claims that the caucus process had been rigged against you. As a result, Democrats look like incompetent idiots who couldn’t run a socialist state even if you handed them one.

So thanks, Bernie. Thanks twice. But no thanks. We’ve tended to give you a pass because you’re so endearingly irascible, so charmingly out there. We haven’t really taken you seriously, on the assumption that the party will always, in the end, nominate someone more mainstream, more – dare I say? – electable. But as we should have learned in 2016, by then the damage will have been done.

The horrible sense of déjà vu that Democrats should be experiencing right about now is primarily due to you, and you need to think again, and stand down, for the good of the country. Trump must be defeated, and sensible adults know you can’t do it.

It was a horrible week for Democrats that only began with Iowa. Trump was acquitted in the Senate to absolutely no one’s surprise but to the rueful delight of his re-energized constituency, who see in Mitch McConnell an architect of God’s plan. Democrats had to endure Trump’s bizarre, reality TV version of a State of the Union address, and watched the Speaker of the House pass up a chance to make him look like a child by acting like one herself. Even such partisan pundits as Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times have begun to realize that Democrats’ options are severely narrowing, and if it really is “Bernie or bust,” Trump’s second term is all but assured.

One of the enduring mysteries of our quadrennial election cycles is what compels someone to submit to the hardships and indignities of running for president. Your day to day work must be abandoned, your family life left behind, your friends and relatives subjected to the glare of unwanted publicity, your personal history ransacked for the inevitable evidence of human frailty, your appearance and manner of speech held up to daily sniping.

The mystery deepens when one considers that a candidate’s chances of success in achieving the goal are much less than even and often vanishingly small. Thus we have you, Bernie, wild-haired, arm-waving, self-described democratic socialist, 78 year-old recent heart attack victim, running for the presidency on a platform of revolutionary structural change in a year when unemployment is at historic lows and the stock market at historic highs. An incumbent rarely gets thrown out in such economic conditions, and never by a candidate whose message is that, contrary to the electorate’s real-life experience, the conditions themselves are shameful.

So what makes you run, Bernie? You undoubtedly believe most of what you say, and believe that saying them over and over is adding to a national discourse that began long before you and will continue long after the election this fall. But there must also be a huge bolus of pure ego in the center of your soul, not unlike Trump’s, to whom you’re something of a blood brother in socialist drag. My way or the highway. I alone can fix it. Revolution or nothing. Bernie or bust.

It’s a disaster. There is no way that Bernie Sanders wins the popular vote in Ohio or Pennsylvania or Minnesota. Or in Florida or Wisconsin or Michigan. And right there, it’s over, for those and a handful of other swing states, most of which voted for Trump, will determine the outcome in the Electoral College in 2020.

So stand down, Bernie. Use your health as an excuse, or even better, your realization that party unity and victory in November are more important than your continued flogging of policy positions as foredoomed as Trump’s impeachment. Let someone who has a chance in those states (Biden, Bloomberg, even Buttigieg) begin to persuade your followers and the electorate at large of the political realities we face, and the existential harm that another four years of Trump will do to this country. No dreams of socialist utopia are worth it, and there will be time enough for them later. Maybe not in your lifetime, but then it’s not supposed to be about you, is it?

Stand down, Bernie.

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