In “Bernie, Hillary and, er, President Trump?” Mr. Kristof says Bernie Sanders and his followers need to consider the candidate who really benefits if they don’t stop sniping and start uniting. Ms. Collins, in “The Hillary and Bernie Road Trip,” says in 2008, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton found a symbolically named town for post-primary bonding. Clinton and Sanders could go to Uncertain, Tex. Here’s Mr. Kristof:
Bernie Sanders has had a stunning impact this year, helping set the political agenda and winning the passionate embrace of a demographic a quarter his age. A socialist, Jewish, non-pandering candidate who didn’t kiss babies but lectured their parents on social justice won 22 states. But now he has lost. It’s time for him and his followers to stop sniping and start uniting.
Sanders has said he will ultimately support the Democratic ticket, and I’m sure he intends to. But for now he’s still dividing more than coalescing.
In a New York Times/CBS News poll last month, nearly one-fourth of Sanders supporters said that in a Hillary Clinton-Donald Trump matchup, they would either vote for Trump (which suggests bipolar disorder!) or stay home. That figure is inflated by bitterness and resentment, but if some Sandernistas sit on their hands this fall they could help elect a man antithetical to everything they stand for.
At this point, Sanders has essentially zero chance of becoming our next president. Meanwhile, there is a modest risk that continued Democratic warfare will cost Clinton the election. The upshot is that continuing to tilt at windmills is many, many times more likely to elect Trump than Sanders.
We’ve seen this before. In 1968, liberal disenchantment with the Democratic nominee, Hubert Humphrey, assisted in the election of Richard Nixon. In 1980, Edward Kennedy’s endless challenge to Jimmy Carter undermined Carter and probably gave Ronald Reagan a lift.
And in 2000, many liberals regarded Al Gore the way some see Clinton today, as a flip-flopper short on inspiration and convictions. So a small number voted for a third-party candidate, Ralph Nader, probably helping put George W. Bush in office.
Nader, whom I admire for his transformational impact on consumer rights, disagrees: He tells me that it’s absurd to blame him for Bush’s election, and he wants Sanders to continue his campaign.
“Why would he want to lose his bargaining power?” Nader asks, suggesting that by staying in the race, Sanders can influence the Democratic platform and Clinton’s choice of a running mate. Anyway, he says, “Trump’s going to implode.”
He’s probably right on that count. I would bet that Trump will lose, and I’d even give two-to-one odds. But I remember how my mother in 1980, as a fan of President Carter, was overjoyed when Reagan became the Republican nominee since she figured that assured Carter’s re-election. She wasn’t so happy a few months later.
Presidential campaigns are driven in part by surprises: What if there is a new wave of Central American refugees, or a terror attack by a Muslim recently admitted to the U.S.? Either would bolster Trump’s chances.
The success of both Trump and Sanders this year should inspire humility on the part of all of us about predicting election results. I agree with Nader that it’s almost unthinkable for Trump to be elected. Then again, it once was unthinkable that he would win the Republican nomination.
Sanders supporters should also remember that they agree at least in part with Clinton on Wall Street excesses, income inequality and college debt. Likewise, whatever their distaste for the Clintons, they probably share her views on reproductive health, on Supreme Court nominees, on inclusiveness toward Muslims and Mexican-Americans, on immigration reform, on early-childhood investments, on a stronger social safety net, on women’s rights around the world, on reducing mass incarceration and on a global pact to confront climate change.
Senator Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat who has been the only senator to back Sanders, acknowledges that now “we have a nominee.” He tells me that Sanders will continue his primary race through the Washington, D.C., vote next week but ultimately will focus on party unity.
“When I talked to Bernie when he was first thinking about running, he made it absolutely clear that he didn’t want to do anything that would result in the journey that we experienced with Ralph Nader,” Merkley said. “He will do everything possible to make sure that Trump is not in the Oval Office, and to do ‘everything possible’ certainly means that we’ve got to come together not just as a formality but in an inclusive, emphatic, unified fashion.”
In 2008, at about this time, Clinton stepped up and gave a powerful endorsement of Barack Obama. But she and Obama agreed on almost everything, while Sanders disagrees with Clinton on some issues and still exudes scorn for the Clinton campaign.
“Our struggle continues,” Sanders said in a new fund-raising email on Wednesday. Speaking in California on Tuesday evening, he did little to discourage his audience as it booed mention of Clinton.
That’s just irresponsible. And now that Clinton has won a majority of pledged delegates, it’s a violation of Sanders’s own principles to try to get superdelegates to vote for him rather than for the people’s choice.
“Defying history is what this campaign has been about,” Sanders said on Tuesday, but at this point he’s also defying his own values — and, just maybe, bolstering the prospects of the candidate who is the anti-Sanders.
I understand the passion and heartache of his followers, but I watched such idealism help elect Nixon and George W. Bush, and I flinch at the thought of similar idealists this year helping to elect a President Trump.
Right. The last thing this country needs now is a bunch of purer-than-thou butthurt morons who will throw a tantrum if they don’t get their sparkleponies and unicorn poop. Here’s Ms. Collins:
Do you remember back in 2008, when Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton betook themselves to Unity, N.H., for post-primary bonding? Clinton-Sanders seems like a tougher merge. Maybe they could be a little less ambitious and just get together in Friendly, W.Va.
There’s also Smileyberg, Kan. Although it’s sort of a ghost town, which isn’t great for analogies.
So far, Bernie Sanders doesn’t seem to be in a Smileyberg state of mind. He’s meeting with President Obama on Thursday, but in his post-primary speech to supporters he was vowing to battle on to the convention. “I am pretty good at arithmetic and I know that the fight in front of us is a very, very steep fight,” he said, in what may have been the biggest understatement of the campaign.
“We are going to fight hard to win the primary in Washington, D.C.,” he added.
Yes, there’s one more primary left, next Tuesday. But no one is going to pay any attention. I’m sorry, D.C. voters. You don’t have a senator, you’ve got about one-fifth of a member of Congress and now we’re going to totally ignore your opinion about the presidential nomination. You deserve better. Tell them next time to let you go ahead of New Hampshire.
The road to Unity eight years ago wasn’t devoid of potholes. Before the convention, Clinton was bitter and her supporters were furious. They wanted to put her name in nomination, make speeches about her superiority as a candidate and then cast all their delegate votes for her just to make it clear to the Obama people that they hadn’t changed their minds.
In the end, there was a deal. Clinton released her delegates and urged everyone to support Obama. Everyone didn’t comply. One of the most ardent Hillary camps was called PUMA, which either meant People United Means Action or Party Unity My Ass, depending on your mood. The PUMA people never came around. On Election Day, a group founder, Will Bower, told CNN that he had voted for John McCain because “I didn’t want to validate corruption or reward the campaign for what I thought was a fraudulent victory.”
Does that sound familiar? People who lose elections always suspect foul play, but the first useful thing Sanders needs to do is to stop suggesting that Clinton stole the nomination. The primary rules are weird, but you cannot keep complaining about the role of superdelegates when the winner is the person who got 16.2 million votes to your 12.3 million.
Unless, of course, you’re Donald Trump. “To all of those Bernie Sanders voters who have been left out in the cold by a rigged system of superdelegates, we welcome you with open arms,” he said on Tuesday. This was during the speech in which he attempted to prove that he could behave like a normal candidate and read lines from a teleprompter, none of them having to do with the capacity of Mexican-American judges to deliver fair verdicts.
And how did it go? Well, it turns out that Donald Trump being a normal candidate is so dull that the family members behind him on the stage looked ready to nod off. This is never going to last.
But about the Democrats.
The real difference between today and 2008 is that the two feuding candidates have serious policy differences. Also, Sanders is not going to be moved by any considerations of his future in the party, of which he has been a member for about three minutes. To bring him and his supporters around, Clinton will probably have to make some concessions on the issues they care about.
And that would be a good thing for everyone. The Democrats might not need every Bernie supporter this November, but the party most definitely needs an infusion of younger progressive leadership at every level. Really, right now it looks as if everybody’s been in office since the birth of disco.
Clinton has actually come around on some of Sanders’s issues already, although she hasn’t exactly been yelling from the rooftops. She supports free tuition at public community colleges. She’s opposed to reducing any Social Security benefits. She’s backtracked on free trade. But now that the primaries are over and she’s about to be pitted against Trump, Sanders has every right to suspect that she’ll be inclined to move to the squishy middle.
That would mean a campaign in which Clinton talks a lot about bringing us together and being president for all Americans, which sounds good but doesn’t really mean much. Candidates always say stuff like that. Zachary Taylor wanted to be president for all Americans, and what did he deliver? The destruction of the Whig Party and Millard Fillmore.
This is the obvious path: Sanders admits Clinton won fair and square. Clinton takes some big, serious jumps on policy. Otherwise, I understand the hotel rates in War, W.Va., are very reasonable this time of year.