Outside the social media echo chamber of #FeelTheBern, Sen. Sanders is even less competitive than he appears in the race for delegates. But the willingness to burn down the party if he doesn't get what he wants, something discussed in an earlier column, has become even more apparent.
Earlier this week, Sanders said Hillary Clinton is not qualified to be president. Also that she is willing to destroy the party to attain her ambitions. Her response was appropriate. He also lied about Clinton saying the same about him. By the end of the week, he walked back the assertion but the damage was done. A quarter of Sanders supporters said they would not support Clinton if she is the nominee, compared with 14 percent of Clinton backers if Bernie is the standard bearer.
So, assuming Sanders wins the nomination, I have a few questions. These are serious inquires and I hope they will draw out equally serious responses in the comments section.
1. After the vicious campaign against Hillary Clinton, which involved recycling Republican attack points as well as questioning her integrity, intelligence, and fitness for office (and ascribing the worst possible motives to her supporters), how does the Sanders campaign plan to unify the Democratic Party for the general election?
2. Does the Sanders campaign realize that the United States is closely divided between red and blue — the Cold Civil War — with an edge to the Republicans because of their control of statehouses and increasing voter suppression measures? What is the general election strategy to reach 50.01 percent and win the Electoral College?
3. A "political revolution" is not a political program unless you are advocating bloodshed and extra-constitutional means. Sanders has raised no money for down-ticket Democrats and has been coy as to whether he will at all. So what's the plan to assemble a House and Senate solidly controlled by lawmakers who would actually pass the bills to create Sanders' social democracy?
4. What is the plan to win over angry white males? Their rage is directed at many of the pet projects of Sanders' base, including LGBTQ rights, Black Lives Matter and the politically correct thought police. Yes, they hate Wall Street, big banks, and trade deals. But Donald Trump or Ted Cruz will ultimately be much more appealing to them, as well as the entire Republican base. They vote against their economic interests consistently. It's what's the matter with Kansas, Arizona, and the entire New Confederacy. Why is Sanders more electable?
5. The billionaire dark-money Republican puppetmasters and their media lackeys have spent 23 years vilifying Hillary Clinton. They've thrown hundreds of kitchen sinks, most of them lies, many picked up by Sanders' backers. As nominee, he will face this onslaught for the first time. It hasn't happened yet because the Republican Party desperately wants to run against the SOCIALIST from VERMONT. How will the campaign counter this in the general election beyond #FeelTheBern partisans tweeting to each other?
6. Sanders has no serious executive experience. He's never served as a governor, never really cared how the policy sausage was made in Washington, the mechanics of compromise and getting things done as chief executive of the federal government. He also has no legislative record to speak of, no major accomplishments. How will the campaign counter attacks and concerns about this in the general election?
7. Sanders has no foreign policy experience. What qualifies him to address a complex and potentially dangerous world? Even the much more well-traveled and intellectual Barack Obama suffered through many lessons visited on the callow. How will Sanders be different?
8. Will the angry gadfly-at-the-city-council-meeting, Grampa Simpson ("like the time I broke up the big bank in Morganville...") routine get old?
9. Given the stakes with climate change, infrastructure, and the ongoing success of the Republican Party at the polls, are you really willing to play Russian roulette with 2016 — thinking that a GOP sweep and the resulting disaster will cause a Sanders "revolution" in 2020? If it didn't work with the Bush/Cheney revels, how big a catastrophe do you have in mind, and why wouldn't a slim majority prefer a fascist, rather than a social democratic, "solution"?
Let me quote a friend to set the stage for the final question:
The sorry truth of this matter is that Clinton can only take custody of the national project during a period of virtual civil war. It's not the fault of Democrats that Republicans have gone berserk or have fought a rearguard action against the very idea of the social contract. Ralph Nader and now Bernie Sanders cannot wish this away by suggesting Democrats are simply sell-outs.
In a period of Total Political War, Republicans have weaponized language, meaning, and empirical reality. There is no possible compromise with zealots/white nationalists. The answer is not to counter their insanity with our own. The best we can do is bide our time until we either have super-majorities or Republicans recover their sanity.
We will not win by pretending this nation is really hard left when it isn't. We will win by restoring the honorable political culture that existed before Republicans wantonly destroyed it. Sorry, "revolution" is not an answer to any real-world problem except impatience. We cannot will the hard left's agenda no matter how loud we scream. That should be obvious since we've never screamed particularly well even on our best days.
So the question pivots off this, given that I accept this assessment of the environment — this is an election to halt national suicide and slowly continue fighting back (e.g. Obamacare and the TIGER grants that have been so important for cities).
The United States has never seen a sudden leftward realignment in its history. It was certainly not the case with the reactionary slaveholder Andrew Jackson, the enemy of the progressive American System. Lincoln won because the Democrats split and he would have preserved slavery if it would have ensured the Union. The gains of the Progressive movement came over many decades with enormous compromises and leadership from both parties. FDR ran as a budget-balancer and, like Hillary Clinton, was a conservative Democrat by temperament with some progressive tendencies and willingness to experiment. But thanks to the Depression, he won unassailable majorities to push through the first New Deal — and even then this required a coalition including Southern segregationists. The New Deal was vigorously resisted and its second iteration largely failed. He died before he could push for his anti-fascist Second Bill of Rights — and by that time, 1944, the Congress had grown much more conservative.
How is Sanders so superior to Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Roosevelt that he can lead an unprecedented shift to a social democracy — especially when his party (if it is his party) doesn't control Congress?
One last thing: the most energetic, youth-based political movement in modern American history took down the "sellout" Democratic Party establishment in 1968. It had at its back the wind of the anti-war movement, black power, feminism, the New Left, "days of rage" and, internationally, the youth-fueled rebellion that ultimately drove Charles de Gaulle from power. Americans chose Dick Nixon. Four years later, the Vietnam War still going on and scandal gathering over the White House. Yet the idealistic Sen. George McGovern (a genuine war hero) and his "Come Home America" movement were crushed.
Bernie lived much of this American history. What has he learned? How have we changed into a nation finally ready to turn left?
While a wide-ranging conversation is always welcome here, this column assumes that Sen. Sanders is the nominee and Hillary Clinton is on the sidelines. So more anti-Hillary/pro-Bernie rhetoric is less helpful. Please answer/discuss at least one of the questions that will confront the Sanders general-election campaign. Thanks in advance.