Wednesday, May 4, 2016

What Hath Bernie Wrought

If Bernie Sanders did not exist, the Democrats would have had to invent him.

His challenge to Hillary Clinton and to the party itself will be a net win for both of them as well as the future of American politics.  If Ms. Clinton had run unopposed, the Republicans would have painted her as the Anointed One, untested and entitled to the nomination (which means either they weren’t paying attention in 2007 and 2008 or they’re counting on the electorate’s notorious short attention span).  But the Sanders candidacy has forced the Clinton campaign to address issues that would have been given mere lip service or wound up as boilerplate planks in the platform and forgotten by September.

Yes, there are BernieBros and BernieBots who go to great lengths to demonize her every move and question her bona fides as a true progressive, but that’s beanbag compared to what we saw in the Republican primary and what will come in the general election.  And it’s not like Hillary Clinton doesn’t know what’s coming at her.  She’s had twenty-five years of hazing, bullying, hatred, and defamation (often from other Democrats) and survived to become stronger and more self-assured.  She owes at least some of that to being challenged in the primaries in 2008 and now.

Speaking for myself, I could easily vote for Bernie Sanders in the general election, and I know there are Sanders supporters who say yeah, sure, they could vote for Hillary Clinton if she is the nominee.  They just want to make damn sure that they and what Mr. Sanders stands for is not taken for granted.

Charlie Pierce on how the Democrats choose their candidates.

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA—In the failing light of Monday evening, Bernie Sanders spoke to the latest of his mass rallies. It was held in the long shadow of this city’s massive monument to the soldiers from Indiana who fought in all of America’s wars, from the capture of Vincennes by George Rogers Clark in the Revolution, to the capture of Cuba from Spain. It was a rally like so many others, raggedy millennial goatees and long gray ponytails gathered to hear what they wanted to hear from this most unlikely messenger, a 74-year-old senator from a whiter-than-white state.

“Our ideas are the future of America. Our ideas are the future of the Democratic Party.”

It is worth considering whether or not he is right about this. As flawed a candidate as she is, Hillary Rodham Clinton has run a strong and decent campaign for president. If she wins the nomination, as seems increasingly likely, she will have deserved to win it. (Of course, this also means that she will run for president against He, Trump, which nobody deserves, but that’s the way things go this year.)

Nevertheless, HRC truly should be the last presidential candidate to be produced by the party dynamic that emerged in the aftermath of Walter Mondale’s disastrous candidacy in 1984, and which gained strength throughout the 1980s and eventually reached its culmination in the presidency of Bill Clinton. One of the lasting institutions produced by that dynamic is the concept of superdelegates to the Democratic National Convention. Repeatedly on the stump, Sanders has railed against this system as having been designed to frustrate insurgent candidacies like his. There is no real argument to be mustered against this because Sanders is absolutely right.

Hopefully the next time the Democrats are looking for an open primary will be 2024 and there will be time between then and now to make the system work.