Unlike many Sanders supporters, I was neither surprised nor troubled by Sanders’ endorsement of Hillary.
It was something he ultimately had to do. If he didn’t endorse, his position in the Democratic Senate caucus would have been miserable, so his only other logical choice was to accept Jill Stein’s offer of the Green Party nomination and declare all out war. That mat not have been a terrible choice, but I get his thinking.
The challenge, really, was to extract the highest price he possibly could for that endorsement. Did he succeed?
Looking at the Democratic platform and hearing his and Hillary’s speeches today, he was paid handsomely for that endorsement. He left precious little on the table.
Interestingly, this really wasn’t about beating Trump. That’s a foregone conclusion. Regardless of how many Sanders supporters stay home in November, Hillary Clinton will beat Donald Trump. And, if somehow the Republicans engineered Trump stepping down, a different reality would take hold: Regardless of how many Sanders supporters voted for Hillary, she would lose in November.
Sanders’ endorsement was more about the down ballot races and fundraising than it was about the Presidential election.
But those down ballot races are plenty important to Clinton, so she had to pay the price for Sanders’ endorsement.
What about Sanders’ supporters? Could they have strengthened his hand more than they did, especially those in the supposedly crazy “Bernie or Bust” camp? I doubt it. To say that group enhanced Sanders’ leverage in the negotiation for his endorsement would be to say the Siberian winter is kind of chilly. Unwittingly, Hillary supporters helped Sanders out on this front as well. When they started up with the Bernie Bros garbage that angered the Bernie crowd, Sanders’ endorsement became more critical to Clinton, and the price of the endorsement increased.
Will any of this matter after November? In a narrow way, no. When the BlueMeanie mocks the significance of the Party platform, he’s not entirely wrong. Clinton will do after November whatever she decides will increase her chances of re-election in 2020, platform be damned. If that means leasing the Atlantic shelf out to ExxonMobil and giving Netanyahu enough cluster bombs to wipe out the population of Gaza, she’ll do it.
But here’s what Sanders (and his supporters) may have accomplished and, if I’m right, it’s YUGE. Yes, President Clinton will be guided by the 2020 election and little else come January. But Sanders I believe changed the dynamics of the 2020 campaign. Because of the groundwork Sanders laid, there’s no way progressives will be as tolerant of Clinton’s transgressions in 2020 as they were of Obama’s in 2012. So, yes, Clinton would lease the Atlantic shelf to ExxonMobil if that would get her re-elected, but now it’s far more likely to cost her the election rather than win it for her. That could be a very big deal. Of course, if Clinton isn’t sufficiently sensitive to this reality, a Republican even worse than Trump to defeat her in 2020. The price of progress, I guess.
None of this is to say, in any way, that Sanders’ supporters must act on his endorsement. They supported him for President, but they never agreed to take instructions from him. They need to do their own thinking. Most will land on Clinton, but some won’t.
Really, when you think about it, Sanders’ supporters did better than Sanders himself. They can take credit for the huge part they played in what Sanders just accomplished. But, unlike Sanders, they didn’t have to sell their souls. They still can vote as they see fit. Will it make a difference in the outcome? No, but to some, the pain of casting a vote they don’t want to cast is not insignificant.
Of course, it likely still will take an uprising to effect real change. Sanders, and his supporters, may have helped lay the groundwork for that as well. Four years ago, I opened my post The Case for Socialism, with this:
I truly believe that by drilling down just a little into the job numbers and put[ting] them next to the assault on unions and the increasing concentration of wealth and income in the top one percent, there’s a strong case to be made that we should be embracing socialism instead of demonizing it.
Sanders has made that case for socialism. Enough have embraced it that the revolution is within our grasp. Here’s hoping.