Guest post by TobyRocksSoHard
Bernie Sanders is a fairly recent convert to the Democratic Party. Sure, he’s caucused with Democrats in the Senate, but he’s always maintained his independence. Sure, he had deals worked out with the Democratic party to avoid Democratic opponents for his Senate seat, but he still has stood as the longest-serving Independent in the US Congress.
But he did not run for President as an Independent, and he was remarkably frank about his reasons for doing so.
...in terms of media coverage -- you have to run within the Democratic Party...And that’s fine. He’s right- had he run as a third-party candidate without the backing of a major party he would have struggled to gain attention, to raise funds, to even be viewed as a serious candidate. And there is more to it than just the media attention- the Democratic Party apparatus gave him access to a lot of tools and advantages that he would not have otherwise had.
All we need to do is look at the dustup over “Datagate” to see just how important the Democratic Party’s carefully cultivated and maintained voter file is to any candidate looking to turn out their voters and find volunteers. Standing on a debate stage next to Hillary Clinton gave Sanders more credibility as a candidate than any number of press releases about his bold, independent vision that no one would have bothered to reprint as an Independent candidate.
Besides, let’s face it, running as a Democrat or a Republican is the only way a candidate can realistically become President. The absolute best case scenario for him as an Independent would have been to carry a few states and send the election to the Republican House of Representatives.
Bernie was smart to run as a Democrat- he would have gone nowhere without the Democratic Party in 2016. He has taken advantage of all kinds of “goodies” that come along with being a major-party candidate. The Democratic establishment has, in fact, been very, very good to Bernie Sanders.
Unfortunately for Sanders, it was not enough to beat Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. He ran a good campaign, hers was better. He won a lot of votes, she won more. And Bernie has not yet come to grips with the fact that all of the rights that came with running as a Democrat come with some responsibilities, as well.
Like it or not, Bernie is part of the party. That means that you fight for your vision, you fight for the nomination, and then, win or lose, you fight for the party. It is absolutely absurd to claim that Hillary must make major concessions to the candidate she defeated (quite handily) in order to win over his supporters. It is, in fact, Bernie’s job to bring his supporters into the fold to support the Democratic nominee, just as it would have been Clinton’s job to bring her supporters along if Bernie had won. Just as Clinton brought her supporters in for Barack Obama in 2008. That’s one of the things about being part of a party, you aren’t the only one who matters.
Let me be absolutely clear, though. This isn’t to say that ONLY Bernie can bring his supporters along. That would just be the ideal way of doing things… for Bernie Sanders. He has absolutely zero leverage on this front. He cannot extract concessions by holding the party hostage to his supporters. He can choose to lose graciously, and work to bring his supporters to support Clinton, or he can choose not to. The main person that will impact is Bernie Sanders.
If he chooses to do the right thing, he’ll be able to be a driving force in the direction of the campaign and the governing next year. If he does so and she wins, he will be respected as someone of integrity by his colleagues and will have influence over the direction of legislation and priorities. If he does the right thing and she still loses, no one will hold that against him and he can continue to do the work he has always done- though likely with a few more allies surrounding him.
If he chooses the road of petulance, it doesn’t matter if Clinton wins or loses for his future. He’ll have revealed himself as a parasite who latches onto the party for the advantages it offers and returns nothing back. He’ll have no influence. None of his colleagues will have any particular reason to care what he says to them. He wasn’t good at working with people before, and it will be far worse in the future. He won’t have an ally in President Clinton or Trump if he chooses this path. He won’t have any allies in the Senate (just look what Merkley says about party unity) and he’ll go forward without the ability or influence to make any difference at all besides making some speeches on the Senate floor.
And if Bernie doesn’t choose to do the right thing and unite the party behind the nominee we’ve chosen, someone else will. Bernie may think he’s a vital piece of the puzzle, but he’s not as important as he thinks. The number of people backing Bernie who will come to November and look at Hillary’s progressive campaign platform, who will hear the words of Barack Obama, Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, Tammy Baldwin, and every other progressive in Congress and in state governments advocating for Hillary and stay home or vote for a third party candidate is an insignificantly tiny sliver of a shred of a fraction of a measly minority. The number of voters who are going to hear organized labor, environmental groups, groups and individuals dedicated to fighting for racial justice, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, disabled rights, voting rights, campaign finance reform all speaking with one voice in favor of Hillary Clinton and still believe that she’s no better than Trump are a meaningless pool of dead end voters who Bernie himself couldn’t have brought along anyways. Bernie is not the only voice in the progressive choir, and he’s not the loveliest voice in that choir either. His options are to be a leader or to let someone else lead.
Bernie has a carrot here, but no stick. He’s got two realistic options: he can do the right thing and do every single thing in his power to get his supporters to back Clinton, or he can fade into irrelevance and face the rightful disdain of his colleagues. If he helps Clinton, he will be at the peak of his influence. If he chooses not to, he can watch in horror as it wanes and he finds himself with no allies, no influence, and almost every single one of his primary voters voting for Clinton in November anyways.
Bernie lost the nomination. He doesn’t get to set the terms going forward. He can do the right thing- for himself, for his supporters, for the country, for the entire world at this point, or he can make the dumb decision to go the other way. I take him at his word that he’s going to do everything he can to prevent Donald Trump from becoming the President.
Part of that includes him realizing that it isn’t Clinton’s job to win over his supporters. It is his job to bring them along. It is one of the most important jobs he has ever had or will ever have- and if he won’t do it then someone else will.
(originally posted at Daily Kos)