Please don’t do it!
Don’t make Bernie Sanders a winner! You will only further the fantasy that he can win the general election and start a democratic socialist revolution. Okay? So, please, stop it while there is still time! We expect Bernie to win his neighborhood state of New Hampshire. But Iowa? Say it ain’t so!
Oh, it’s not that I don’t like Bernie. I do. I like him a lot. He’s the real deal. And I would much rather live in a world run by Bernie Sanders than one run by any of the other candidates, including Hillary Clinton. The problem is that it is a fantasy world at this point in our history. It’s just not possible that the things Bernie Sanders wants to do will happen anytime soon, let alone after the next election. Just not possible. America has never worked that way. Things change slowly, often very slowly.
In any case, all this talk about a revolution means there has to be some revolutionaries. And those revolutionaries have to hold power in the government. And they have to hold power not just in the White’s House, but in Congress, too. And until Bernie Sanders, who just recently became a Democrat, explains to me how he will have 218 solid revolutionary votes in the House of Representatives, as well as 60 revolutionary votes in the United States Senate, there will be no revolution—even if he were to get 55% of the popular vote.
I do give Bernie credit. He has talked about the need for voters to give him a new Congress. He’s emphasized that he can’t do it alone. But that’s the problem. The need is there but there’s no plausible strategy to turn the need into reality. The best Democrats can hope for, even if they win the presidency, is to take over the Senate, but it won’t be with a necessary 60-seat majority of revolutionaries, even if all 60 of them have a (D) by their names (do you think Sen. Joe Manchin will support him? Huh?).
We Democrats might even dream more elaborate dreams and see ourselves recapturing the House, but it borders on delusion to think recapturing the House will provide Bernie with 218 unwavering votes for a Medicare-for-all health system or for free college tuition for all, or for any of the other things Bernie supports that many of us believe would make us a better country. Even if he got 248 Democrats, they won’t all be itching for votes on socialism, democratic or otherwise.
And remember that all of the hope behind Bernie is based on a very shaky assumption: that it is actually possible for Sanders to win the general election. Oh, it’s possible that if Republicans are foolish enough to put Donald Trump at the top of their ticket, Bernie has some small chance of winning the election. But even as crazy as President Donald Trump sounds, even as frightening as it is to contemplate that a majority of the country would put a clownish, egomaniacal billionaire in the White’s House, I still don’t think there’s much of a chance that Bernie, an aging democratic socialist, can win.
That’s mostly because before it’s all over, Republicans will turn him into a dangerous Stalinist dictator. He will become a Marxist. A dreaded communist to be feared. The distinction between what he actually believes—his brand of socialism is shared by anyone who uses Medicare or accepts Social Security or Medicaid—and what Republicans will claim he believes will be lost on enough independents and confused Democrats to hand the election to, yes, even Donald J. Trump.
So, what we’re left with is pragmatism. What we’re left with is a relatively centrist candidate like Hillary Clinton. She has flaws, no doubt. But she understands that the unmistakable move toward people-friendly policies in this country has always been fairly incremental. Our present social safety net evolved slowly and was not available to everyone from the start. It has taken time. Change is hard in America because change-is-hard is built into our political system. Not much happens overnight.
Think back about the battle over the stimulus bill at the beginning of Obama’s presidency. Think about how impossible it was to convince the other side that money was needed to help stimulate and rescue the economy, to help rescue it from the devastation of GOP-sponsored economic and regulatory policies. Don’t forget those times. And don’t forget the Affordable Care Act. Don’t forget how hard that was and how hard it still is today to get people to understand that it’s better than the old system, even if it’s not where we ultimately want to end up. It was a baby step. But it was a step. And we need to follow up with another step. And then another. If we nominate someone who will practically guarantee a Republican president, there will be no baby steps. Because there will be no baby.
Make no mistake about it, the surest way to elect a Donald Trump or a Marco Rubio or any other reactionary crusader that Republicans might put up, is to offer Bernie Sanders to a fact-challenged electorate, many of whom these days get their information from bias-
confirming social media and many of whom will fall for the Bernie-is-a-Marxist line of attack. Remember, even with a collapsing economy in 2008, even when we were sliding into Republican-caused financial chaos, 60 million Americans—46% of the electorate—still voted for a Republican to become president. Remember that.
So, I beg you, my Iowan friends. As much as you feel the Bern, as much as we all wish his ideas would become reality, don’t succumb to the temptation. Don’t give him hope of winning the nomination. Don’t give others hope of him winning the nomination. Don’t hand the presidency back to the Republicans.