Friday, March 20, 2020

BTRTN: Thanks, Bernie! Dems Owe Gratitude When You Bow Out. (Uh, You Are Going to Bow Out, Right?)

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” – George Bernard Shaw

There’s a whole bunch of new things trending out there.

There's the “Covid 15,” a variation on the “freshman 15,” referring to the weight people are gaining now that they are working from home, easily distracted by an overstocked refrigerator, and diving into their Quarantinis at the stroke of 5:00.

There is “virtual social distancing,” which is the license to shun Instagram posts from people who --  even in these times of sobriety and caution -- insist on visually conveying that their lockdown is more fun than yours.

Here’s the key one for today’s post: the gaping chunks in my calendar that are now called “Executive Corona.” I’m unable to go to the gym, can’t meet my Class of ’75 buddies for lunch, haven’t been able to rehearse with my band, so now I have more spare time than a back-up quarterback on the Kansas City Chiefs. The huge empty blocks in my calendar resemble Donald Trump's “Executive Time” -- code for the long, empty hours he spends watching Fox and Friends. 

Eager to fill one such lull, I went through the archives of Born To Run the Numbers essays on a hunch that was quickly borne out. Question: with the exception of The Big Orange Gas Bag himself, guess who is the single individual I have written more about than anyone? 

Yep. It is Bernie Sanders.

Why would that be? Well, we’ve covered the last two election cycles in depth, and that means that I wrote about Bernie’s performance in nine debates with Hillary Clinton in 2016, and another eleven in 2020. Add in routine articles on Democratic politics, and that’s over a hundred single-spaced pages of feeling the Bern.

That’s a lot of electrons to devote to any single person, and I feel that I have come to know – and appreciate – Bernie very well. 

As I write this piece, Bernie Sanders has not yet withdrawn from the Democratic race for President. He should, for about a dozen serious reasons. We’ll come back to that.
For now, I want to take a moment to thank Bernie for the enormous contributions he has made to Democratic Party politics over the past five years. 

All centrist Democrats might want to pause and consider doing the same. 

I know: there is a lot of bad blood still coagulated from 2016, and many people are angry that Bernie has not already quit in 2020, given the staggering delegate lead now held by Joe Biden. Many moderate Democrats have grown resentful of what they perceive as the “my way or the highway” attitude of Bernie advocates, and are stunned by the possibility that Bernie supporters might actually not vote at all in 2020 rather than support a Centrist like Joe Biden.

Oh, it’s true all right. Here at BTRTN, our articles circulate out in the blogosphere, so we get far more feedback on our work than you see in the “comments” section on our own site. Our most recent post was entitled “BTRTN Debate Analysis: Bernie Gives His Valedictory, and Biden Takes Command,” in which we observed that Joe Biden battled Bernie Sanders to a draw, which essentially reinforced his daunting lead in the primary race. What follows is a verbatim comment from a “sub-reddit” for a particular flavor of political junkies:

“biden was a joke yesterday. if the dnc chooses biden, im straight up not voting.” 

Sure, it is a sample of one, and it is not offered as having quantitative meaning. It is simply to say that this feeling exists, and every person who feels this way demonstrates the degree to which Bernie Sanders does not control the movement that he has started. Sure, Bernie will ultimately exhort his supporters to work for and vote for Joe Biden. But in this election, securing the support of Bernie voters is God’s work, and on this earth, God’s work must surely be our own. 

So for the sake of party unity, Centrists need to have an arm full of olive branches ready to extend to Bernie’s supporters, because convincing Bernie supporters to vote for and work for Joe Biden is now one of the best way to assure that Donald Trump loses in November. 

The next time you are in a conversation with an unyielding Bernie supporter, try a little sugar.

Tell your undoubtedly millennial pal that you want to thank Bernie for seven genuinely vital contributions to our political dialog and social awareness:

1.Thank Bernie for teaching us how to fund a fully competitive national Presidential campaign through grass roots funding. We must undo Citizens United through legislation. But until then, bad trends will continue: self-funded campaigns from billionaires, and well-qualified candidates forced to abandon campaigns for lack of the oxygen of cash. Bernie demonstrated how to succeed with integrity in this special-interest-infested soup.  

2. Thank him for being the most intense and vocal educator about the appalling income and wealth inequality in this nation. Let's hope Bernie’s vision ultimately becomes operationalized through some form of Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax. 

3. Give him a hug for creating a vibrant debate about how to solve the mess that is our healthcare system, and for correctly diagnosing that the insurance and pharmaceutical industries are more part of the problem than they are part of the solution.

4. Give him credit for this: he made a lonely vote against authorizing the war in Iraq, because he did not trust George Dubya Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld to be telling the American people the truth. On this one, Bernie Sanders was absolutely correct… and most leading Democrats -- including Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and Ted Kennedy – were wrong.  

5. Thank him for his uncompromising intellectual honesty -- a rarity in politics. Bernie actually acknowledged that middle class taxes would go up under his “Medicare for All” plan. Elizabeth Warren’s obfuscating, ducking, and weaving on this exact question is what likely triggered her free fall from frontrunner to losing the primary in her home state. 

6. Acknowledge the man’s astonishing passion, commitment, and stamina. Remember, friends, that Bernie Sanders had a heart attack six months ago! If I had a heart attack, I would take a nice long rest, pause to contemplate my mortality, and change every behavior that caused undo stress. Not Bernie! At 78 years old, Bernie hurled himself back into the center of the arena during one of the most polarized, angry, intense political eras in our nation’s history. Can we all just thank him for his devotion to his causes?

7. Make sure you say that you hope Bernie is willing to serve in Joe Biden’s administration. My thought? That he serves our Ambassador to the United Nations. A perfect role for his oratorical passion, his principle, and his advocacy for human rights.

Ok, Boomer, that wasn't so hard, right? Initiate a nice conversation with your niece’s fiancé, and give Bernie his due. Find the common ground by starting on his side of Venn diagram.

However, there is one Bernie Baby Behavior that is not to be indulged. 

One of the most corrosive mythologies of the Bernie camp is that Sanders’ failure to capture the Democratic nomination is because he has been thwarted by the “Establishment” determined to thwart Bernie’s rightful destiny. The notion that things are “fixed” or “rigged” echo the worst of Trump.

No. The Democratic nomination process was played by the rules in both 2016 and 2020. The only cabal shaping the outcome were voting booths. The only rules governing the process were the ones voted on in advance by the Democratic Party. Perhaps if Bernie had wanted more influence over the rules, he should have joined the party.

Indeed, if there is one pointed irony in this, it is that Bernie himself flip-flopped on the issue of how the party should proceed in the event that no candidate achieved a majority of delegates on the opening ballot. The Bernie of 2016 said that the party should not nominate the candidate with a plurality. When the opposite stance was more politically advantageous in 2020, Bernie pulled a full-Romney.

And the Bernie supporters who cry that Bernie was beaten by an Establishment funded by billionaires and special interests need a serious dose of reality.  In the days leading up to the South Carolina primary, Joe Biden had been given up for burnt toast by whatever “Establishment” exists, as Centrists appeared to be hopelessly carved up among Buttigieg, Biden, Klobuchar, and Bloomberg. Biden had no organization, and spent no money at all in states that he would ultimately win. The idea that the Sanders campaign – lushly funded by its grassroots machine – was somehow unfairly the victim of billionaires and the Democratic establishment is impossible to square with the facts. 

Too, there lingers a myth that Bernie would have beaten Trump in 2016, because he was stronger in rust belt states like Wisconsin and Michigan. Get over it, folks. There is no knowing whether Trump would have pounded Bernie with the “socialist” label, terrifying heartland America, causing Bernie to lose every bit as disastrously. 

These are mythologies of victimization that should not be indulged. 

Which is not to undermine today’s core message of unity and empathy.

The next time you encounter some angry, unbending Bernie Babies, try some TLC. Tell them that you appreciate Bernie. You admire him. That we need him in order to beat Donald Trump. That we need everyone who supported Bernie to vote for Joe Biden. 

And let’s just all hope that Bernie acts soon. 

The delegate math is overwhelming. Readers of BTRTN know this. Bernie knows this.

If there is one thing that we learned from 2016, it was that continuing the endless string of one-on-one debates between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders exacerbated the anger between the two camps. Each debate became more acrid, more personal, more bitter, and more divisive. For Bernie Sanders to insist on more primaries means to insist on more debates, more invective, and more alienation. 

The sooner that Bernie drops out, the less internecine carnage occurs. The sooner the healing process begins. The more time Bernie has to re-orient his supporters toward the greater good of beating Trump. The more time we have to heal as a party and move forward in common purpose. 

The Corona virus adds yet one more painful reality to the urgent need for Bernie to stand down. Insisting on more primaries is to insist on more lines of voters violating every rule of social distancing. Canceling or delaying of primaries merely denies the party the certainty that one candidate has clearly prevailed. The only action that can definitively unite the party is if Bernie Sanders accepts the unequivocal mandate of the primaries to date, and recognizes that they clearly augur for what future primaries would have held. 

Bernie, we appreciate everything you have done. Everything. Sincerely. 

And this much is important to say: had everything been reversed, and you stood today where Biden is, and Biden in your shoes, I would be making the same argument that it was time to support you. We here at BTRTN have said it a thousand times: we will throw our full passion, energy, and effort behind whoever the Democratic nominee is, because defeating Donald Trump is the existential issue of our time.  

We know that you know that in your heart, and we know that you will do everything you can to help defeat Donald Trump, and emphatically, passionately inspiring your supporters to do the same.

Now, that means standing down, endorsing Joe Biden, and bringing your supporters to the political mission of our time.

You have made a career of striving to do the right thing, Bernie.

Don’t stop now. 

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  3. AOC, commenting on Warren not immediately endorsing Sanders, said
    “I always want to see us come together as a progressive wing,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said. “I think that’s important and where we draw strength from. But at the same time, I come from the lens of an organizer, and if someone doesn’t do what you want, you don’t blame them — you ask why. And you don’t demand that answer of that person — you reflect. And that reflection is where you can grow.”

    So, I while I hope there will be unity emerging from a Sanders endorsement, I don't think it can be demanded. I'm not even certain it can be encouraged by anyone who was NOT a part of the Sanders' campaign and supporters.

    I continue to wonder what Sanders is doing -- if he's staying in as a "safety factor" for Democrats, he would seemingly need to make policy compromises to create unity with those who haven't supported him. If he is trying to add support for platform choices and party leadership elections, it would seem to me to be useful to speak in favor of main themes of Democratic unity, and acknowledge a difference of tactics and timing in moving toward their accomplishment. But so far, none of that appears to be happening. So I'm left to wonder what Sanders is trying to do.

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