Friday, February 5, 2016

To My Friends Who Are Bernie Beliebers

I have many friends who are supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders. I have many other friends who are supporters of Hillary Rodham Clinton—as am I. I have a smaller but still nice set of friends who are supporters of various Republican candidates. The GOP candidates have been for the most part self-parodying, so I won't go into them here. But I have been troubled by the bullying, dream-fulfillment approach of some of the Sanders people. Yesterday, in an exchange on my Facebook page, I wrote the following:

For all the revolutionary talk, consider: the last progressive U.S. president to push through a big-scale change was FDR. He had help from a shattered economy (so lots of scared people) and, most important, huge majorities in the U.S. Congress. Sanders would have neither. 
Not only that, he would need to have rock-ribbed support from whatever Democrats are in the U.S. Congress, and he wouldn't have that. He hasn't even been a Democrat, fer cryin' out loud, and those congressmen and -women need to know that the president will be on the stump in their districts supporting them at re-election time, when you can bet there would be an extremely well-funded right-wing reaction that would make the tea party movement look like a bunch of marxists. 
Those congresspeople would have to know he would raise a ton of money for them to withstand the withering attacks of the right wing reaction. They would have to know that he would have a national messaging effort that could talk to the entire Democratic coalition and could reach beyond; Sanders has the hard-core left of the party, but hasn't gone beyond that. No, momentum isn't luring adults to his banner. 
I understand the thrill of thinking your candidate will lead a revolution that will change all. I wanted John Anderson in 1980 and Gary Hart in 1984. But I also know politics (as does Hillary, but y'all hold that against her), and Bernie has no more chance of (a) becoming president (sorry, the rest of the country isn't Iowa and New Hampshire) or (b) if lightning struck and he somehow got the nomination and his opponent was Ted Cruz or some other whackjob so he was able to win the general election, he wouldn't be able to put his "revolution" into effect. 
Other than that, party on, dudes. 
But also please understand that most of the vitriol that the Bernie Sanders crowd is throwing at Hillary Clinton is regurgitated lies straight out of the playbook of Karl Rove's GOP machine, and the debunkers are getting tired of debunking the stuff you all were supposed to be paying attention to all these many years.
And, serendipitously, right after I posted the above message, I happened to stumble across this article that illustrates just how unable Sanders will be to do the party support work I discuss above. In it, a longtime Vermont journalist who had many interactions with Sanders, recounts how Sanders got irate when he was asked why he didn't lend support to other progressives.
I asked about his unwillingness to endorse his fellow progressives. He said it wasn't his role. I suggested voters might expect him to weigh in. He disagreed, clearly annoyed at the persistent questioning. Finally I suggested that he had a larger moral responsibility to the progressive movement. At which point he jumped out of his seat, told me to go f*** myself and stormed out of the edit board meeting.
The writer, Mickey Hirten, then goes on to highlight reporting by others about Sanders' inability to reach out and support others. Read the full article and judge for yourself.

So when you hear stories about Hillary Clinton going around and raising money for other down-ticket candidates, think twice about just concluding that she's a political machine beholden to monied interests. She's building the best support in Congress she can get, because she'll need them to stick with her when things get tough. And things always get tough for every president.

If you support Bernie Sanders, good for you. I do not dislike the man, and I do agree that he is highlighting some very important things that are wrong with our country. That does not mean I have to believe he has the best plans for dealing with it, nor does it make me conclude that he has the personal abilities to deal with it.

It'll all come out in the primaries.