The Coming Together Thing

Andrew O’Hehir (emphasis added):

For many Sanders supporters, and not just the younger generation for whom his campaign was a political awakening, deferring the dream of “political revolution” — or at least major reform, which is really what the Vermont senator has proposed — will be exquisitely painful. But Hillary Clinton herself is not the problem, although she clearly stands for and stands with the Democratic establishment Sanders sought to overthrow. …

… Clinton is correct that the primary race between her and Obama in 2008 was closer than this one, and that she trailed by fewer pledged delegates (about half her current margin over Sanders) when she threw in the towel in June of that year. She pronounced it “perplexing” that Sanders might push on to the convention in the face of obvious defeat, and that he might yet attempt to sway superdelegates to defy the decision of a clear majority of the Democratic electorate. “That’s never happened before,” she said, “and it’s not going to happen this year.” All that is true, but what it tells me is that Clinton fails to understand the point of the Sanders campaign or, more likely, is deliberately choosing to ignore it. …

… Bernie Sanders, who came closer to pulling off an internal coup within the Democratic Party than anyone would have believed possible a year ago, needs to push on just a little longer, in order to bring his own bargain with his supporters to a conclusion.

Sanders needs to assure his followers that this race was not like the 2008 race, or any other in recent memory, and that if it ends with an inevitable defeat and an inevitable truce, it does not end in capitulation. Hillary Clinton’s 2016 victory is not the victory of Clintonism. If the fight for the future of the Democratic Party is suspended for the moment, at least at the presidential level, it is not over. Indeed, it has barely begun. The final stage of the Hillary Clinton bargain lies not in surrender, or in accepting a return to politics as usual. It lies in the resolution to stop fighting now, in order to fight on another day.

Clinton supporters want very much to believe that this race really is like the 2008 race, except that Clinton won this time. And they want the old man who lost to capitulate and throw his wholehearted endorsement behind Clinton, the way Clinton eventually supported Obama, albeit probably not before she pried a promise of a cabinet position out of Obama. A man’s capitulation is a vital part of the payback scenario they expect and dearly desire. They are absolutely clueless why he can’t play out the standard script without betraying both his principles and his supporters. O’Hehir gets it, and explains it about as well as anyone can.

This primary campaign wasn’t just about two people competing for a presidential nomination. It wasn’t nearly that simple. This is something that a lot of Sanders supporters need to understand also, especially the ones calling for Sanders to run as a third party or independent candidate, which would accomplish nothing. This campaign was not so much about making Bernie Sanders the POTUS but more about “retaking the party from the pro-corporate center-right forces that have controlled it since the Bill Clinton era,” in O’Hehir’s words.

Sanders was just the vehicle to carry that demand forward. The demand itself has not been retracted.

Those of us who have watched beltway Democrats betray one principle after another for the sake of hanging on to their cozy niches in the Washington political power grid are damn tired of it and want it to stop. Last October Matt Yglesias wrote that the Democrats had grown smug and complacent.

The presidency is extremely important, of course. But there are also thousands of critically important offices all the way down the ballot. And the vast majority — 70 percent of state legislatures, more than 60 percent of governors, 55 percent of attorneys general and secretaries of state — are in Republicans hands. And, of course, Republicans control both chambers of Congress. …

… Democrats have nothing at all in the works to redress their crippling weakness down the ballot. Democrats aren’t even talking about how to improve on their weak points, because by and large they don’t even admit that they exist. … The GOP might be in chaos, but Democrats are in a torpor.

Yglesias goes on to explain that the Dems have no actual plan for taking back states and appear to be perfectly content for having achieved what seems to be a lock on the White House, thanks to the Electoral College map. And yes, I still expect Hillary Clinton to win in November.  What might happen in 2020 is too far away to speculate about.

As I’ve been writing in many recent post, voter demographics are telling us that most voters under the age of 50 — and a whopping 80-something-percent majority under the age of 30 — are nearly frantic to pry the smug, complacent Dem establishment out of the Democratic party so that it might wake up and get a clue. Although there are some great individual Dems, the party itself has become a repository for soulless apparatchiks who appear to run as Democrats more out of habit than conviction. It’s been a very long time since working-class people especially could count on the party, as a party, to stand up for and actually work for policies they need. They did manage to pass the ACA, yes, but much of the demand for watering down the original bill — which was itself far short of what is really needed — came not just from Republicans but from Blue Dog Democrats.

In short, we need Dems with fire in the belly. Instead, mostly their bellies are full of foie gras and lobster, or whatever they serve at $353,400 fundraiser dinners.

In this primary season, instead of engaging with the concerns of Sanders supporters, “Hillary people seem to have become (and maybe always were) more about keeping Bernie people off the boat than they are about rowing past Trump,” wrote a guy on Facebook.

Establishment/Clinton Democrats seem like the party of Eisenhower with a dash of Nixon and a sprinkle of identity politics now — part careerist apparatchik, part hippie puncher, part Prius owner with a rainbow bumpersticker — who apparently believe that a ‘sore winner’ vibe and yelling at the kids to get offa their lawn is the righteous, best way forward.

That’s definitely the vibe I’ve picked up from the Clinton people all along. They haven’t so much been disagreeing with Sanders, inasmuch as they are able to accurately address his concerns at all, which they don’t. They simply dismiss those concerns as somehow having been generated by Karl Rove. From the beginning they’ve been outraged he’s challenged Her Majesty at all.

Clinton is definitely the candidate for complacent people who have given up on the idea that Washington can accomplish anything useful (see “The Can’t-Do Nation“). They rarely express hope of Clinton doing anything in particular except appointing pro-Roe v. Wade Supreme Court justices, which is something I want, too.  But too many of them seem to just want payback — for the endless Whitewater investigations, for Bush v. Gore, for the time in 1974 they lost a job to a less-qualified man.

Getting back to capitulation — Sanders absolutely cannot just stand up next to Clinton at the convention and throw his support behind her. At the core of it this was not about the two of them competing for a job. It was not about the individual Bernie Sanders versus the individual Hillary Clinton. It’s about a schism on the Left that’s still getting wider, and the fight to resolve what’s wrong with the Democrats has to continue.  For Sanders to wholeheartedly endorse Clinton would be surrendering that fight, which has barely begun.

At some point I expect him to suspend his campaign and tell his supporters that it’s better for the nation to have Clinton in the White House than Trump. I believe he’s said as much a couple of times already. But if they want him to give a speech puffing up Clinton as a great future president and as just what the nation needs, no. He cannot do that. It would betray everything the campaign was about.

O’Hehir is right about “the resolution to stop fighting now, in order to fight on another day.” I keep hearing about vast hoards of Sanders supporters who plan to protest in Philadelphia and demand he be given the nomination, which is a stupid demand. That battle is over.

Many of these people sincerely believe the election results in many primaries were not honest, and some of them have some pretty good arguments back that up. But by the time these claims are thoroughly investigated and proved (or disproved), Cliinton will be giving her first State of the Union address. Possibly her second or third. As we learned in 2000 and 2001, recounts after the inauguration don’t count.

It may be that Hillary Clinton will turn into a great, visionary, progressive POTUS, but I see no indication she’s got it in her (see Jim Hightower on that point).  And she’ll get no passes from the Left just because she’s got a “D” after her name. If Clinton supporters are still looking for the fairy-tell ending that rights all the the ways they feel wronged, they’re going to be disappointed.