Hell hath no fury like an ideologue scorned.
After the New York primary on April 19th, in which Hillary Clinton trounced Bernie Sanders 58-42, the pundits on television were using a surprisingly appropriate metaphor. It went something like this: “How will Bernie eventually land the plane” of his losing campaign? Hmm. I liked that. Bernie has a choice. He is the pilot. He can land his plane safely on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier, the USS Democratic Party, or he can do something else.
Apparently, he has chosen something else. A kamikaze attack.
Last night, Jane Sanders, earnest and able wife of Bernie, was on MSNBC’s All In With Chris Hayes. She made sure we all knew that Bernie was serious about taking his airplane all the way to a “contested convention.” He ain’t goin’ away. “There’s gonna be a fight on the issues, no matter what,” she affirmed. “Everybody knows, anything can happen in politics,” she said later. Bernie’s gassed up and ready to crash.
Well, well. What else should we have expected? He’s been telegraphing his intentions for some time now. It’s not exactly going to be a surprise attack.
In any case, I want to offer another apt metaphor for what Jane Sanders did last night on Chris Hayes’ show. She unceremoniously tossed the great liberal economist Paul Krugman under the Bernie bus. Why? Because it’s the Bernie way. If you don’t subscribe, word-for-word, to Bernie’s world view; if you don’t think Bernie’s ideas are realistic or realizable; if you don’t buy Bernie’s unique mathematical theories about delegates; then you are dead to him and his surrogates. It’s pretty much that simple.
But before I get to Mrs. Sanders running over Paul Krugman with the Bernie bus, I want to first take a quick look at who Krugman is and why most Democrats respect him. Krugman is an op-ed columnist (and a blessed blogger!) for The New York Times. He earned a B.A. in economics (summa cum laude) from Yale in 1974, followed by a PhD in economics from MIT in 1977. He has taught at Yale, MIT, Stanford and Princeton and currently is—let me get this right—the “Distinguished Professor of Economics at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.” He has published around 20 books, from “Market Structure and Foreign Trade” in 1985 to “The Conscience of a Liberal” in 2009, a book I have in my library and from which I learned a lot of liberalology. In 2008 Krugman won a Nobel Prize and, if that ain’t good enough for ya, he holds a John Bates Clark Medal, which he got in 1991 and which The Economist says is “slightly harder to get than a Nobel prize.”
You get the idea. You may not like Krugman. You may think, as some folks do, that he is a left-wing nut. Or, you may think he is a phony progressive sellout and thus a suck-up to Hillary Clinton, as apparently a lot of Bernie fans do, including his wife, who had the following exchange with Chris Hayes on Monday night:
HAYES: I want to give you a chance to respond to critics of yours. Paul Krugman in The New York Times has been really hammering the Sanders campaign, but there are others who basically say that the Sanders campaign, by soliciting donations to make Bernie Sanders the nominee, is essentially running a con on its donors. What do you say to those people?
SANDERS: Really? What is John Kasich doing? And what is Ted Cruz been doing? No. We’re running on the issues. You know that. And I don’t take Paul Krugman seriously anymore. I used to. I think there are a lot of other, better economists and people who seem to have better critical thinking. So, that’s a disappointment. But I don’t read him, so I can’t tell you what he says anymore.
She doesn’t take the liberal economist “seriously anymore,” and there are “other, better economists and people who seem to have better critical thinking.” Now you see why I spent some time looking at Krugman’s résumé. It’s just silly for a Democrat to talk about him that way.
So, what has pissed off the Sanders team so much that they now are trashing yet another liberal Democrat, this one a distinguished economist? A blog post. Well, really, more than one blog post, but especially his latest one, “Bernie’s Bad End,” which began:
This is really depressing: Sanders claiming that there will be a contested convention, and suggesting that the nomination fight was rigged. Can someone tell Bernie that he’s in the process of blowing his own chance for a positive legacy?
No, Professor Krugman. No one can tell Bernie anything. He is not tellable. He operates in his own universe where math bends to his will; where the Democratic primary is “rigged” against him despite his receiving a minority of votes; where the superdelegates he once loathed are now his path to victory—if they will only do what he says they should do.
Krugman noted that Bernie could have turned “defeat in the primary into a moral victory.” But, the prize-winning economist said, “he would have had to accept the will of the voters with grace.” Grace? Bernie knows no grace. He is the most graceless loser (and winner, for that matter) since, well, Donald Drumpf. You can’t beat Bernie. You can only hope to contain his Bernie-or-bust ego. You can only hope his metaphorical plane misses the flight deck and lands harmlessly in the sea.
Saint Rachel Maddow, who no one in his or her right mind could accuse of being a squishy liberal, or, Allah forbid, could accuse of being in bed with the right wing (like I have been so accused on this blog), pointed out on her Monday show that what Bernie is proposing— that because Hillary Clinton can’t wrap up the nomination with pledged delegates by the last primary contest on June 14, he will essentially force a “contested convention”—represents “real radicalism.” Why? Why would Maddow say such a thing?
Because, using Bernie’s logic, Barack Obama—who did not have anywhere near a majority of pledged delegates going into the 2008 convention—would have had to suffer through a nasty floor fight with Hillary Clinton over superdelegates in order to win the nomination, which would have been quite radical, as well as a lasting disaster.
Hillary could have done what Bernie is saying he will do. She could have been a kamikaze. But she chose not to, even though she was much, much closer to Obama in the delegate count than Bernie is to her—Obama had only a 4% lead in pledged delegates and Hillary, right now, has a 11% lead—and she was actually leading the future president in the popular vote. Rachel remembered for us that Hillary went to the convention floor in Denver in August of 2008, not to fight for herself, but to certify Obama’s legitimacy as the nominee. To do anything else, she knew, would have hurt Democrats in the fall.
If only Bernie had that kind of grace, or, really, if only Bernie cared about the Democratic Party enough to be a team player and land his plane on the flight deck, long before the convention in July, rather than deliberately crash into it. But it has become painfully—and as a former fan of Bernie Sanders I mean “painfully”—obvious that Bernie is not a team player, if the team is the Democratic Party trying to defeat a Drumpf-led GOP. There may not be a clichéd “I” in team, but as all observers of this Democratic primary fight now know, there is an “I” in Bernie. A big one.
For her part, the courageous Saint Rachel, who called what Sanders is proposing “fantastical, which is not the same as fantastic,” knew there would be a backlash against her relatively aggressive segment on Bernie’s lack of grace and realism. She sweetly welcomed the “hate mail” she knew was coming. “Your accusations and swear words do hurt my feelings,” said Rachel, “but they also make me stronger.”
Well, I don’t know how much profanity-laced hate mail she has received since last night, but I will end with something posted to her MSNBC.com site, something that sort of reveals a phenomenon that Bernie didn’t necessarily create, but a phenomenon that he is certainly exploiting. Someone named LynneAlex posted:
Rachell – you have become a corporatist in your success and evident in your support of Hillary. You can no longer call your self a progressive. Hillary was a “proud” Goldwater conservative Republican along with her family. The apple has not fallen far from the tree and calls herself democrat in name only. She has a record as a hawk and has strong corporate ties. What is there to support for progressives? Nothing. I have been a very loyal viewer and sad to say you have lost at least one. Back to listening solely to Amy Goodman a true progressive.
My, oh, my. When you turn on St. Rachel, when you boot her out of the progressive tent for telling you the truth, you have to wonder if maybe your affection for Bernie has morphed into something else. But, as Jane Sanders proved, that’s the Bernie way. Paul Krugman tries to tell the truth about Bernie and, poof, he’s gone. Black voters in the South make Hillary a winner and those victories become meaningless and irrelevant. She smashes him in the New York primary and elsewhere and the excuse is that non-Democrats didn’t get to pick the Democratic nominee. The superdelegates side with Hillary and the system is “rigged.”
All of us who once so respected Bernie Sanders and admired his vision for a future America are, or have a right to be, disappointed with the way his story, and possibly the Democratic Party’s November story, looks like it will end. We can only hope, and at this point it is a faint hope, that someone will convince him to abandon his crash-and-Bern approach before it is too late.