Who would have thought at this late stage the Republican Party would be more unified than the Democrats? It’s not all sunshine and rainbows over at GOP Headquarters, but Donald Trump is slowly beginning to coalesce republicans behind him heading into his general election fight with Hillary Clinton.
Speaking of the Democrats, you may have noticed that things are nearing a boiling point between the DNC and Bernie Sanders. The tension between the two has been ongoing since Sanders first got into the race and railed, legitimately in my view, about the lack of debates scheduled during the primary calendar.
Then came the whole database debacle where the DNC suspended the Sanders campaign’s access to their voter file after it was discovered they had access to Hillary Clinton’s targeting data.
Sanders and his supporters have also spent most of the primary season charging the “Democratic establishment” has rigged the entire election against him in favor of Hillary Clinton. As a result, an increasing number of Sanders supporters see every result that does not go Sanders’ way as fraudulent and illegitimate.
Things reached a fever pitch over the weekend in Nevada when some Sanders supporters erupted in protest at the state convention over, again, a perceived rigging of the process. This despite the fact that Nevada political guru John Ralston said the DNC did not secretly change the rules or rig the process. He said the process was legitimate and the Sanders people were just mad about the result.
To bottom line this again, Bernie Sanders cannot win this race. Hillary Clinton will be the nominee.
Sanders has said he will stay in the race until California votes on June 7. And that is fine. Hillary Clinton did the same thing in 2008 despite the fact she had zero chance of overtaking Obama.
But once California, and other states, have voted on June 7 and Clinton has surpassed the 2,383 delegates she needs to lock up the nomination, Bernie Sanders will have to make a choice.
Will he, ironically, follow the path Hillary followed in 2008 and help unite the party? Or will he be the Ralph Nader of the 2016 election cycle?
So far, he has indicated signs of both.
On the one hand, he has said both he and Clinton are better than any republican candidate even on their worst day. Even last night at a rally in California, Sanders stressed the need to defeat Donald Trump in November. Sanders has also refrained from leveling attacks on Clinton that could fatally wound her in the general election; like her private email server and the FBI investigation into it.
On the other hand, he is ratcheting up the attacks on the Democratic Party itself. Sanders continues to tell his supporters he has a path to victory, which is an outright falsehood; and as I mentioned before, he continues to push the notion that the entire process is rigged against him despite no evidence to back these charges up.
These are not subtle attacks. Charges of this magnitude will only make it harder for the party electorate to unite behind Clinton once she wraps everything up.
The choice for Sanders is clear.
He can realize after June 7 that he will not be the nominee and fight for, and win, some changes to the party platform at the convention. He can also try and get a concession or two from the DNC and reform the nominating process. Hell maybe he can convince Clinton to make overhauling the nation’s infrastructure her top priority as president; something she should do anyway.
He can then be a good soldier and campaign his heart out for Clinton, get a prime speaking slot at the national convention to push his message to a broader electorate, and be an influential force in the Senate under a Clinton Administration.
Or he can continue to push the myth of a rigged system and take the fight to Philadelphia, throw the convention in chaos, and fracture the party and hand the White House to Donald Trump.
Sanders has prided himself as a progressive champion throughout his career. Is this how he wants to be remembered? As the the guy who prevented the Democratic candidate from prevailing in a very winnable election?
Ralph Nader spent most of 2000 railing against the corruption of both parties and suggesting there was no difference between George W. Bush and Al Gore. The message resonated with enough people and it helped cost Gore the election. To this day Democrats seethe when they hear Nader’s name.
Sanders can have the same affect if he isn’t careful. And unlike Nader, Sanders will have to face his adopted Democratic Party when he returns to the Senate in 2017.
If he contributes to a Hillary Clinton loss because of sour grapes or his desire to stick it to the establishment, Sanders will be relegated to a status arguably worse than being known as the 2016 version of Ralph Nader. He will be known as the Democratic Party’s version of Ted Cruz and he’ll be a pariah in his own party.
I understand feelings are raw for Bernie Sanders; especially in light of exceeding expectations and getting so close. But cooler heads need to prevail if Democrats want to keep the presidency.
I will steal a phrase from Walter White in Breaking Bad and say to Bernie Sanders, “maybe your best course, would be to tread lightly.”