Tuesday, July 12, 2016
Bernie Sanders officially endorsed Hillary Clinton today, ending his improbable run for the White House, when he came out of nowhere to tap into and ride a huge progressive wave to challenge Clinton for a nomination that seemed pre-ordained. He found a resonant message, delivered it memorably, and won the hearts of a generation that was born long after his hair had turned white. He used the caucuses, which require fanatic supporters to master, and a few big primaries wins, notably in New Hampshire and Michigan, to pile up enough delegates to contest Clinton credibly. He was an indelible figure in this election cycle, and made his mark in the “conversation,” ensuring the liberal wing in the party had a powerful voice in the campaign dialogue.
His announcement, however, was long overdue, and lost the power that it might have had if it had been given in the wake of his defeats in California and New Jersey back on June 7th. Clinton became the presumptive nominee after those wins, confirming what all-math-except-Bernie-Math had known since Super Tuesday, that is was all but impossible for Sanders to overtake her.
Sanders has been all but invisible in the last five weeks. While there was no more silly talk of “taking it to the convention” – as if superdelegates would change their minds, even though Clinton won the most votes, the most states, and the most pledged delegates by wide margins -- there was nothing at all, the Bern smoldering weakly. He had disappeared from the headlines, quickly overshadowed by the long-awaited Trump-Clinton conflagration. The announcement today feels like a misplaced chapter in a book, as if somehow Chapter 16 ended up in Chapter 23 in a printer error. Who is this guy again? Why is this important?
Clinton has long won over Bernie’s supporters. A survey by Pew last week showed that a full 85% of Sanders supporters intend to vote for Clinton in November. Of course a few of the more rabid Sanders fans were withholding support, blind to the evils of Donald Trump, rooting in a rather unseemly way for an FBI indictment. But the 85% number appears to exceed that of Clinton supporters’ conversion to Obama in 2008.
Certainly having Sanders on board is a positive. He will be part of an incredible lineup of powerful speakers at the Democratic Convention, one that might even exceed the rousing sway of the Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton trio that performed so brilliantly in 2012 in advance of Barack Obama. A speaker lineup that has Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama preceding Hillary Clinton will be exceptional, and Warren and Sanders can be counted on to give a hearty endorsement that could inspire the remaining lefty doubters and solidify the reluctant converts.
But Bernie’s masterful campaign deserved a better ending, one in prime time, in the flush of the campaign, when the outcome was cemented by the final contests instead of by simple math, when the moment was at hand. That would have been the time for the full Bernie effect to have resonated. This mild set of breaking news emails I am now receiving pales in comparison, an afterthought in the daily slugfest of the campaign and in the wake of a particularly horrific week of national news.
It leaves me wishing that Bernie had developed a better Bern-exit plan.