Will Bernie Sanders have the grace to bow out?

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I doubt it. What we’ve seen up to now doesn’t point to that.

Sure, we’ve seen plenty of tough primary races in the past, followed by the losers lining up loyally behind the nominee for the general election. Hillary Clinton is the model for that. After hanging on, fighting Barack Obama every inch of the way for longer than seemed (to me, at the time) reasonable, she got with the program and followed him faithfully, with the proverbial salute stapled to her forehead.

That’s the norm.

But there is nothing normal about this situation, starting with Bernie himself.

For one thing, he isn’t a Democrat. Never has been, never will be. He’s not a guy to do the standard thing of lining up behind his party’s nominee for the simple reason that it’s not his party.

Next, do you seem him opting to back down to fight another day? Can you see Bernie, at his age, realistically having an opportunity to run again eight years from now — when he’s 82? No, of course not. And neither can he.

Also, he really, truly thinks he ought to be president, as unlikely as that seems to someone with my centrist perspective. He doesn’t think it’s an outlandish idea. In fact, he believes, he would be president, or at least the nominee, if the system weren’t “rigged” against him. He looks in the mirror and sees a POTUS. He really does.

Finally, there are his followers, whose expectations are at least as unrealistic as his own. They, egged on by him, had an absolute cow when The Washington Post (and others) reported the fact that Hillary had it wrapped up mathematically. (They are so furious about it that, if Sanders wins New Jersey and California today, it will likely be in part because his supporters’ ire toward the facts.) These folks will not be satisfied with, “Well, we gave it a good go and did better than anyone expected, and we got a hearing for our issues.”

Normally, at this point in a campaign (especially if he loses California today, although even winning there won’t get him the nomination), the candidate stands up and says he’s quitting and throws his support to the winner, and his supporters start to boo — we’ve seen this scene a thousand times — and he says no, no, his opponent is worthy and won fair and square and now it’s time for us to get behind her and win the election.

But this isn’t “normally.” There’s every indication that Bernie Sanders is in no way inclined to do something like that.

Why does this matter, especially to someone with an UnParty perspective? Well, to use that word again, normally it wouldn’t. Normally the Republicans would have nominated a normal human being, and the country wouldn’t be in danger from what George Will describes as an “impetuous, vicious, ignorant and anti-constitutional man” who practices “pornographic politics” with “Caligulan malice.” (Will came back from England just full of beans — that was one of the best columns he’s written in years.)

All that matters now, for anyone who cares about this country and can see straight — regardless of such petty considerations as party — is stopping Trump.

But Bernie Sanders has indicated that he is unconcerned about that, and will do whatever he can to hobble Trump’s opponent for as long as possible.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope Sanders loses tonight, and plays out the usual graceful loser scene, and calms and redirects his impassioned followers.

But I’m not very optimistic about it at the moment.

He's not going to play the loyal Democrat because he's never been a Democrat.

He’s not going to play the loyal Democrat because he’s never been a Democrat.

34 thoughts on “Will Bernie Sanders have the grace to bow out?

  1. Mark Stewart

    Anyone who runs for President ought to be able to see themselves as President.

    It’s a prerequisite, actually.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yes, but most of them, in defeat, manage to support the winner.

      I have my doubts about Bernie. And in part I have these doubts because his ability to see himself as president is so much less plausible than other people’s, If he can convince himself of that, is he realistic enough to recognize when it’s time to step aside?

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    You know what? It never struck me until now how Marxist that tagline, “A Future to Believe In,” is.

    After all, what Marxists believe in is history, which is supposed to be marching inexorably toward a future to be longed for.

    I’m not saying it’s intentionally Marxist; I’m saying it just hit me how easily it can be read that way….

  3. Doug Ross

    I can get Bernie’s narrative. He’s the Little Engine That Could. “I think I can, I think I can…”

    He started as an unknown socialist-lite Senator from a tiny state running against the Clinton juggernaut. He wasn’t taken seriously. Then he started winning. And now as more people have become aware of him he’s battled Hillary toe-to-toe right up until the end. Hillary got her support early from the insiders before the actual campaign started. It was all part of the coronation process.

    I don’t see any reason why Bernie should drop out until the superdelegates cast their votes at the convention… ESPECIALLY if Bernie wins California. Since March 22, Bernie has won 11 states to Hillary’s 9. And I don’t care about total votes. Total votes don’t matter. States matter in the electoral college. Hillary had a head start and is staggering to the finish line, carried by the superdelegates… a message that runs completely counter to the way Trump won. Trump can sell Hillary as the choice of insiders while he is the outsider. In 2016, that message may help him win.

    1. Brad Warthen

      “I don’t see any reason why Bernie should drop out,” either. Unless he suddenly starts caring about the country more than his personal movie…

    2. Brad Warthen

      Because as you say, the longer he stays in, the more he weakens the one person standing in the way of a fascist becoming president of the United States….

      1. Doug Ross

        There is no fascist running for President. We have the balance of powers to prevent anyone with those aspirations from succeeding. Pick a different adjective.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          No, we don’t. Trump appreciates neither the prerogatives of Congress nor the independence of the judiciary, as he has amply demonstrated in the last few days — to where even capitulating cowards like Paul Ryan have felt compelled to speak up.

          Perhaps you mean Trump couldn’t rule effectively as a fascist. That doesn’t stop him from being one.

          If Hindenburg had been right and he HAD been able to control Hitler, would that have made him less of a fascist?

          1. Doug Ross

            What specifically makes Trump a fascist? Are you going to suggest he encourages violence in the pursuit of his goals? Because his campaign manager grabbed a woman by the arm and some yahoo may have punched someone at a rally? (As opposed the the direct violent acts perpetrated over the weekend by gangs of people opposed to Trump?)

            Every time you call him a fascist, I think: “You mean the “You’re Fired!” TV guy? The guy who builds gaudy hotels and lavish golf courses?” You should probably save that word for actual scary people. Lowering the bar to a pro-choice real estate tycoon reality star cheapens the word.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Not at all. Fascists are frequently buffoons. Go back and take a good look at Mussolini.

              There are all sorts of reasons. There’s the factor of the cult of personality. There’s the disregard for laws, and the constitution (nothing must stand in the way of the Triumph of the Will). There’s the scapegoating of minorities such as Mexicans and Muslims. There’s the fact that his whole persona is about bullying and blustering.

              But really, there’s not much that I can add to Robert Kagan’s excellent column on the subject (“This is how fascism comes to America”), to which I called y’all’s attention earlier…

              1. Doug Ross

                Let’s be clear on his “scapegoating” of Mexicans and Muslims. The only Mexicans he references are those who are in the country illegally, so the exact opposite of your statement about the disregard for laws — that’s Obama and Hillary who are for selective enforcement of the law. And those same Mexicans are the ones who have been attacking Trump supporters recently in California. I know you are for preemptive violence but I still think someone has to do something rather than say something before you start throwing punches. But that’s just a pacifist talking.

                As for Muslims, it’s just campaign talk. He’s on your side in the war on terror.

              2. Juan Caruso

                Doug is correct on this, Brad, the nasty “fascist” adjective you apply so detestingly is not only undeserved by a man who cares about our U.S. Constitution and U.S. national sovereignty, but the pathetic horde of unthinking partisan bigots (you and Bud in exactly this boat will thereafter soon have to defend such unattentively treacherous slander.

                Should corrupt-as-hell Hillary win the presidency, your stubborn biases will become shameful stigmas for you both.

    3. Doug Ross

      In the last month, Bernie won Rhode Island, Indiana, West Virginia, and Oregon (coast to coast). Hillary won Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. She hasn’t won a state primary since April 26. Why is this not sufficient reason for Bernie to stay in? He’s WINNING and beating the supposed nominee in state after state. That means something.

      1. Jeff Mobley

        This is somewhat analogous to the arguments about selecting teams for the playoff in college football. Do you give early victories the same weight as late ones, or do you give a little more weight to the team playing the best football at the end of the season?

        Sanders got beat really badly in most of the South, which helped Clinton’s lead.

        Of course, the analogy breaks down when you start to think about things like the existence of superdelegates…

        1. Doug Ross

          Yes, the superdelegates are like the bowl selection committee members who work for the largest conferences and make sure their teams get the best spots. Reputation and affiliation can overcome actual performance when the choice is an SEC team versus another team without the pedigree.

          And to use your same analogy, if we started the campaign all over again today, are we SURE Hillary would win the second game of a home-and-home? What about if the order of the primaries were different – if Super Tuesday was today?

          I actually think that the way the primaries are structured helped Trump immensely. Why we allow Iowa, NH, and South Carolina to have so much power is absurd. Primaries should be held on a rotating basis. If Trump had to go to Ohio first, he might never have survived.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            As much as I would hate to see SC lose its early position — it’s the only way we in South Carolina get to have ANY say in the outcome, since our vote in November is a foregone conclusion — it would have been awesome if we could have started with Ohio this time around.

            Then Kasich would be the nominee…

      2. Brad Warthen Post author

        “He’s WINNING and beating the supposed nominee in state after state…”

        No, he’s not winning and he cannot win. It’s over. All he can do is continue to weaken the woman who will be the nominee. As I keep saying.

        Suddenly I’m thinking of Andy Jackson. For the rest of his life, he was a hero for having won a battle after the war was over… Well, I still wouldn’t have voted for him. I’m a John Quincy Adams guy…

  4. Jeff Mobley

    This article from back in January describes the process by which the primary calendar is set up for the Republicans. It notes that Republicans from the three early states have traditionally formed an alliance within the RNC to preserve the status quo, but that it might not last forever. This part is pretty interesting:

    The Convention Rules Committee — made up of 112 members, one man and one woman from each of the 50 states and 6 territories — will ultimately be tasked with deciding the 2020 primary calendar. But the decision will be heavily influenced by the party’s nominee, who can stack the committee with loyal members and is allowed to hand-pick its chairman. (Priebus will make the formal appointment once the nominee has informed the RNC of his or her choice.) The power of that chairmanship in protecting the early states was demonstrated in 2012. According to sources present at the Convention Rules Committee’s meeting in Tampa that year, GOP lawyer and committee member Ben Ginsberg introduced a resolution to eliminate the carve-out states’ protected status. Former New Hampshire governor John Sununu, who’d been chosen by Romney to lead the committee, quickly replied, “Over my dead body,” before Priebus sprang into the room to help broker a deal that kept them at the front of the calendar through the 2016 cycle.

  5. Burl Burlingame

    Here’s a campaign slogan I can get behind: “Let’s fix the fuckups of the past so we can survive the future.”

  6. bud

    Bernie has raised some very important issue about income inequality and he should fight til the bitter end to make sure those issues are respected. In the end he’ll campaign for Hillary. But to suggest he’s hurting the cause is nonsense. What good does it do to get Hillary elected then watch as the same destructive policies continue unabated.

    1. Juan Caruso

      “Bernie has raised some very important issue about income inequality…”

      What are they, Bud. Equal pay based upon gender alone, or capacity and proven experience to perform?
      Equal pay regardless of how much leisure time was applied to motivation, prepatory education and work, or to stereotypes like gender, age, and race? Give as relief from your anti-Martin Luther King, anti logical hypocrisy!

  7. Bart

    Should Bernie concede to Hillary and fall in line like a good Democrat should? The same question could have been asked about Ross Perot when he ran as a third party candidate and was responsible for putting Bill Clinton in the White House. It works both ways Brad.

    My conclusion – “keep up the good fight Bernie”. It is your decision to make. But, in the end, unless Bernie decides to pull a Ross Perot, he will line up behind Hillary but he will have made his point and his agenda will be a major part of the Democrat platform. In many ways if this happens, Bernie wins and his victory will be a major one in every election going forward. He has changed the face of politics and ideology in America almost as much as Obama has.

    But, come November, I will do a write-in and avoid voting for Clinton or Trump. That way, I can vote with a clear conscience, participate in the election process, and if I want to bitch about something, by participating I will have earned the right. Otherwise, in the wise words of John Denver, “if you don’t vote, don’t bitch”.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      “Should Bernie concede to Hillary and fall in line like a good Democrat should? The same question could have been asked about Ross Perot when he ran as a third party candidate and was responsible for putting Bill Clinton in the White House. It works both ways Brad.”

      You say that as though this is about Democrats and Republicans. It most assuredly is not. It’s about Donald Trump, period.

      Those other 16 GOP candidates had their shots at stopping him and failed.

      Only two things stand in his way now, and one is EXTREMELY unlikely.

      1. Republicans could still reject him at the convention, if he keeps on making racist remarks between now and then. The WSJ mentioned that possibility at least three times on its editorial pages today, hoping against hope. And yeah, it’s POSSIBLE, but not likely.

      2. Hillary Clinton beating him in the fall.

      That’s it. That’s all people wanting to save the country have.

      The partisan will try to make like this is a normal election, because they’re incapable of thinking outside that box. Republicans will back Trump because they’re incapable of thinking of doing anything other than vote for the person with the R after his name (even though Trump is no Republican). Democrats will talk like Trump is just another Republican, and they’re all alike.

      But they’re both full of it. Forget parties. This country has to be saved from Trump, period.

  8. Phillip

    There’s a position between bitterly fighting all the way to the end versus immediately conceding and releasing all delegates and making total kumbaya with Hillary…and that would be just sort of suspending the campaign (which Bernie seems to be heading towards by laying off many of his staff), not withdrawing but not actively campaigning “against” Hillary either. Maybe just speaking more in policy terms, and giving his supporters/delegates chance to be heard at the convention, influence on the platform, and then finally (just prior to the convention) encouraging his supporters to back Hillary in November.

    The idea that it’s the “normal, decent” thing to withdraw now and give total full-throated support to the presumptive nominee now, that’s it’s some kind of typical historical precedent, is way overstated. People cite Hillary’s concession in 2008, but that was more the exception rather than the rule in nominating-process history in a non-incumbent year if you go back and look at previous examples. She moved to have Obama nominated by acclamation halfway through the roll-call at the 2008 convention, and maybe Bernie will do something similar.

    But I don’t think Bernie’s staying in the race in a somewhat “suspended animation” capacity between now and the convention will do any major harm to the Clinton campaign or the chances of Trump losing. If he goes to the bitter end, virulently attacking her, that’s a different question. But I don’t think he will. I bet things will change in the next week or two. By Labor Day this will all be water under the bridge.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      So far, the water is adamantly refusing to go under the bridge:

      And so, despite the crushing California results that rolled in for him on
      Tuesday night, despite the insurmountable delegate math and the growing
      pleas that he end his quest for the White House, Senator Bernie Sanders took
      to the stage in Santa Monica and basked, bragged and vowed to fight on.
      In a speech of striking stubbornness, he ignored the history­making
      achievement of his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, who became the first
      woman in American history to clinch the presidential nomination of a major
      political party.

      Set aside all the NYT’s silly Identity Politics stuff about Hillary Making History. The fact is, she’s won. And won without superdelegates, a fact that the Sanders crowd conveniently ignores with all their direct-democracy bloviating against those party insiders.

      NOTHING positive can be accomplished by Sanders carrying on this way. Nothing at all…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        The more I think about it the sillier that stuff about Hillary’s gender seems…

        “He ignored the history­-making achievement of his Democratic rival.”

        What are they saying? That it would somehow be OK to ignore that she’s won if she were a guy?

        So WHAT that she’s the first woman? Bernie wants to be the first Jew, which would matter more to him.

        I’m reminded of the nonsense about Nikki being a woman and Indian-American back in 2010. You NEVER heard anyone going on about how Vincent was the first Lebanese American Catholic. You know why? Because of all the Identity Politics factions, people who get excited about gender have the biggest lobby…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          When you think about it, it’s weird that the Brits had Disraeli way back in the 19th century, and we haven’t had a Jewish president YET.

          The closest we’ve come was Goldwater, and that wasn’t what you’d call close. Besides, he wasn’t really Jewish. His mother was a shiksa, and he was raised Episcopalian.

          Hey, I’ve done my part to break the barrier, doing all I could for my man Joe Lieberman — an actual practicing Jew, unlike Bernie…

  9. Phillip

    Like I say, give it a few days. I think the tone, the message, will look very different from the Bernie campaign in a week’s time.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Although I hope Sanders has very little effect on the platform.

        Hillary’s shift to the left — which does nothing but hurt her in the fall — already forms too large a part of the narrative. It made the front page of the WSJ today — THAT’S how they chose to mark the moment when she clinched.

        Bernie needs to go away, and so does his influence over Hillary. Yeah, I know I’m asking for an awful lot — and pragmatically, you’ve got to throw the Sanders people SOME sort of bone, they’re so terribly fervent — but I’m thinking about November here.

        Normally, I couldn’t care less what either party had on its platform (both platforms ALWAYS have stuff that gives me heartburn), but this time, I’m concerned about anything that increases the chances of a Trump victory, however marginally….

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          And you know, it’s not just about preventing a Trump victory. He has to be defeated decisively, overwhelmingly. The implications of him coming at all close are just revolting…


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