How much longer will Sanders campaign for Trump?

Sanders Twitter


Just wondering.

I keep seeing these stories about how there’s no sign of the Democrats coming together — something I wouldn’t care about if there were an option that could be rationally considered for even a second on the other side. But there isn’t. So I care.

At the point at which a normal grownup — instead of a self-styled “Democratic socialist” who encourages immature expectations in his followers — would say, Hey, we need to make sure there is no “President Trump,” Bernie Sanders intensifies the rhetoric in his hopeless bid against the person who is going to be the Democratic nominee.

The result is that the nation’s one realistic bulwark against Trump is weakened politically. And a candidate with negatives as high as Hillary Clinton’s does not need to be weakened politically.

And that’s all Sanders can do at this point — erode the eventual Democratic nominee’s chances for the fall.

I just keep wondering: How much longer, Bernie?

16 thoughts on “How much longer will Sanders campaign for Trump?

  1. Lynn Teague

    I am reminded of Ralph Nader when I see Sanders’ behavior, and that is not a good thing. Sanctimonious, self-absorbed, incapable of putting his ego aside for the good of the country, neither has the temperament to be a candidate, let alone a president.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      You are NOT alone in thinking that. Dana Milbank’s latest column is headlined, “Does Bernie Sanders want to be the Ralph Nader of 2016?

      An excerpt:

      Let’s examine what Bernie Sanders supporters did in his name over the weekend.

      As the Nevada Democratic convention voted to award a majority of delegates to Hillary Clinton — an accurate reflection of her victory in the state’s February caucuses — Sanders backers charged the stage, threw chairs and shouted vulgar epithets at speakers. Security agents had to protect the dais and ultimately clear the room.

      Sanders supporters publicized the cellphone number of the party chairwoman, Roberta Lange, resulting in thousands of abusive text messages and threats:

      “Praying to God someone shoots you in the FACE and blows your democracy-stealing head off!”

      “Hey bitch. . . We know where you live. Where you work. Where you eat. Where your kids go to school/grandkids. . . Prepare for hell.”…

      It is no longer accurate to say Sanders is campaigning against Clinton, who has essentially locked up the nomination. The Vermont socialist is now running against the Democratic Party. And that’s excellent news for one Donald J. Trump….

  2. David Carlton

    What worries me more is what he’s evoked in his following. The Left has long been restive, but has generally understood that it needs to be part of a larger coalition to have any prospect of influencing policy. But Bernie has basically done for the Left what Trump has done for ethnocentric whites–give them permission to be open about their prejudices. They never liked what the Clintons (or Obama) have meant for the country, and they’re now coming out in open and frequently virulent opposition. They increasingly remind me of my encounters (as a kid from back of the mill outside Spartanburg dropped into Amherst, Mass.) with the 1960s student left, which I thought at the time to be self-righteous, naive, and often juvenile in its behavior. Add to that the fact that the male Sanders supporters seem to have imbibed the worst misogynistic proclivities of internet culture, and you have a toxic brew indeed.

    But, of course, for Bernie and Company to be responsible they’d have to be good party players, right? Why should they, though–given that a lot of them see Democrats and Republicans as basically equivalent shills for the one percent? (Sound familiar?)

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      “They never liked what the Clintons (or Obama) have meant for the country, and they’re now coming out in open and frequently virulent opposition.”

      And they got the long knives out for Jimmy Carter when he was trying to lead the country, and I’ll never forgive them for that.

      Also, the reason you thought that about the student left in the ’60s was that it WAS “self-righteous, naive, and often juvenile in its behavior.”

      As to your last paragraph… I’m going to run against your expectations here. I suspect I wouldn’t despise parties so much if they had more discipline and coherent leadership, that is, if they performed the function that David Broder used to wish, wistfully, that they still performed: Answer the question of “Who sent you?”

      With coherent party leadership, a Trump or a Sanders might not be on the ballot, much less lead a more or less successful insurgency against what the parties stand for. (Nor would, to bring it closer to home, an Alvin Greene. Or a Nikki Haley in 2010, I suppose. Remember how everyone blamed Carol Fowler for failing to stop Greene. How was she to have done that?)

      As I keep saying, thank God for superdelegates. They’re one of the last vestiges of real party coherence. Too bad the Republicans don’t have them.

      Candidates should have to have proved themselves before seeking high office, instead of being able to leap from nothing to being a contender for the highest office in the land. We could use more smoke-filled room (although without the actual smoke, thanks), and less “reality” TV.

      Harrumph, harrumph.

      Do think I contradict myself? So be it. I contain multitudes. No hobgoblins here…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        All we have left of what parties once were are the destructive manifestations — those that generate centrifugal force to drive us apart and prevent coming together to govern practically.

        With the disciplined parties of old, a John Boehner could have worked out sensible budget agreements with Obama. Instead of his being contemptuously slammed around by the “Freedom Caucus.”

      2. Brad Warthen Post author

        Oh, and lest I sound like some alter cocker longing for the way things were in his youth…

        I wasn’t around for the days when parties were the way Broder wrote about. Before my time. But I can see the merits in the way he described them…

      3. David Carlton

        Yes! A Whitman-Emerson mashup! I actually agree with you to a point here. I’m a big fan of parliamentary systems, which don’t work by dividing power a la Madison but by concentrating it and also making it responsible. A strong, disciplined party in control of the government can make promises it can actually keep, and can also be held accountable for its screwups. If there’s no popular consensus on what the governing policies might be, you can have multiple parties and coalition governments, which can restrain the extremes. Of course, we’re stuck with the system we have, and our own party system arose in large part to remedy its defects.

        But note–by “discipline” you pretty clearly mean “top-down control,” right? That’s a wee bit of a problem in a democracy under our system. In a parliamentary system, it’s fairly easy for, say, Democrats in the 1960s unhappy with the Vietnam War to simply form a new party and gain enough support to give them leverage. Instead, the only way antiwar Democrats could be heard then was by taking over the party (disclosure: I was canvassing for Gene McCarthy in New England that spring, a bout of activism about which I’m a bit more ambivalent now). In that situation, top-down control of the party had toxic consequences, and the subsequent democratizing of the process was greatly needed. I, too, like the superdelegate system; it makes no sense for the party not to give voice to the people who actually do its grunt work and who actually win its elections (without superdelegates, in theory Barack Obama could be denied a seat at the convention). A good party needs to have the sort of discipline provided by superdelegates, but it also needs to be responsive to what’s boiling up from below.

        And that is, in my mind and others, the problem that we see with the Republican Party. It’s become quite clear from events this year that a yawning abyss has opened up between the priorities of the Republican leadership and those of the people they expect to keep putting them in power. Basically, what the leadership thinks “conservatism” is (balancing budgets, slashing entitlements, etc.) is poles apart from the base, which cares little about the former and is downright hostile to having its *own* entitlements slashed. I’m actually of the school of thought that believes that, for all the ugliness of how Trump frames things, he’s actually providing a lot of the people that concern me (working-class white folk in the rural and small-town South devastated by deindustrialization) with an explanation for their plight and a coherent set of policy proposals to remedy them. Those proposals, of course, are racist, bigoted, and just ghastly public policy, but–get this–*neither of the existing political parties have offered those people anything*. Elite economics has a hard time coming to terms with the fact that while free trade is generally good for people over all in the long run, it can be bad for some people in the short run, and political elites have been too slow to figure out how to manage what for many is a wrenching transition. Trump, by this reading is a stick of dynamite blowing up a fossilized regime. That’s messy, and dangerous, but it may well have been needed.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          On that last part.

          You seem to be subscribing to the Jeffersonian idea that we should periodically have another revolution.

          I shudder at that. I’m more Hamiltonian in that respect.

          I’ve always thought some of Jefferson’s ideas arise from his exemption from the everyday cares that shape the lives of ordinary people. John Adams had to work and scrape for a living, and when he took a risk for principle — such as when he defended the soldiers charged in the “Boston Massacre,” and thereby defended the Rule of Law — he was really risking his livelihood and everything else.

          Jefferson NEVER had to work for a living, and since he died long before the slaves were freed, his living was never threatened in his lifetime. So he was free to espouse some reckless ideas — his affinity for the French Revolution, his notion that we didn’t need much government, the business about a revolution every generation — without any cost to himself, or any clear sense of the cost to others….

          1. Bill

            Ppffft! Careful, there are some folks who don’t consider editorial writing to be a real job, either. Anyway, besides serving in the Virginia House of Burgesses, the US Congress, a stint as governor and as US diplomatic representative to France, Secretary of State, Vice President and President, Jefferson was also a lawyer, educational philanthropist, naturalist, scientist, architect, inventor, pioneer in scientific farming, musician, and writer. Just how much “real world experience” is a fella expected to have before he gets taken seriously??

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Oh, I respect Jefferson a lot, and value his contribution to the early years of our nation. I just think SOME of his notions were rather careless.

              And while I think his many pursuits benefited the nation, I can never forget that he was able to be “educational philanthropist, naturalist, scientist, architect, inventor, pioneer in scientific farming, musician, and writer” because he didn’t have to work for a living because he inherited land that was made valuable by the labor of slaves.

              That doesn’t make me want to dismiss Jefferson, much less do away with honors to him the way those kids wanted to do with Wilson at Princeton. I honor him. I just feel the need to take him with a grain of salt from time to time.

              I admire the discipline of a man who practiced the violin four hours a day. But I remember that most people can’t afford to do that.

              You cite his service in various offices. The thing I like about him as president was that, given the realities he faced in office, he didn’t let some of his more fanciful notions get in the way of sensible policy action. He may have wanted to keep government small and been suspicious of a standing army, but he didn’t hesitate to make the Louisiana Purchase or to send the Navy after the Barbary Pirates.

              It’s Jefferson the theoretician that, despite his flights of beautiful prose, sometimes got into the area of fanciful carelessness. In office, he exercised an admirable pragmatism…

  3. bud

    I love Bernie but this is becoming a yuge problem for the Democrats. Time for the good senator from Vermont to drop out.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I think we need to pass a constitutional amendment with a new requirement for eligibility for the presidency: You have to be able to say “huge” like a normal person…


  4. Harry Harris

    The actions of a small number of anyone’s (including Trump’s) followers should not broadly attributed to the whole group who support the candidate. Examine your postings here, and check if you’re not painting with a brush much too broad. I’m afraid that Brad, when writing about those he sees as on the “left” often gets carried away into his shallow stereotypical understanding and is often too self-assured to do some research.
    As to Sanders’s goals or his encouragement of “immature expectations,” I think end the race (likely after California) will reveal the effect of continuing the campaign rather than the speculation of bystanders or pundits. I also think the campaign gives Democratic voters an opportunity to put Clinton on notice that she will have to earn the support of voters disaffected by current campaign finance practices and a financial system that raises much suspicion. It may not be enough just to be not Trump.

    1. David Carlton

      I’d agree up to a point. But we have plenty of examples of poor behavior being openly encouraged from the top of both the Trump and Sanders campaigns. Trump has characterized violent assaults on hapless Latinos as the actions of people “passionate about their country.” (Yeah–the same could be said, and was said, of lynch mobs). And the judicious Josh Marshall has concluded from the latest fracas and Sanders’s response to it that the behavior problems of his people reflect attitudes at the top. If you convince your followers that they’re being robbed when in fact they’re losing by the preset rules (and losing the popular vote), they’re going to erupt sooner or later. Those people are responding to what they’re hearing from their leadership.

  5. Bill

    Bernie can run as long as he wants to as far as I’m concerned – just so long as he’s running against Trump.

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