I never want to hear from Bernie Sanders again
I was always a big Bernie Sanders fan. In the darkest days of the Bush administration, he was the real deal. I still remember in 2006 when he won his U.S. Senate seat and thinking it was just the beginning; democratic-socialism was finally blowing up the way it should and that he was a legend in the making.
Last year I learned some things that made me question why I always loved Bernie Sanders. He was playing dumb about knowing or helping up-and-coming populist Democrats such as himself, and was instead letting the DSCC and the Obama administration pick safe, boring, centrist primary candidates who could barely skate by to win a close election. Many of them went down in flames, but Sanders had crossed a psychological rubicon of betrayal. His silence spoke volumes. How could a man who claimed to be leading a revolution leave so many of his own fellow fighters on the field and still maintain the veneer of being a man of the people?
He did endorse a couple candidates in 2016 — after the primaries, of course. Among them, two congressional incumbents, one of whom is pro-life, and the other Russ Feingold, an old Senate friend and perfect human.
It ruined my whole idea of not only what kind of man Sanders was but what goes into making a heroic politician. I waited until the primaries were effectively over and wrote a post about it, calling Trump and Sanders cult leaders. I started trying to tell my friends that he wasn’t the saint they thought he was, but a charlatan masquerading as a revolutionary. What I encountered (and still do) was a mix of either blind hero worship, outright denial, or a form of bargaining. Or I was just called a neoliberal shill.
Now, after the disastrous defeat of Hillary Clinton at the pussy-grabbing hands of Donald Trump, the Democratic Party is slowly pulling itself back together. New Obama-approved DNC chair Tom Perez has purged the party of the idiots who missed the boat last year and is again reassembling the old Howard Dean 50-state strategy that won Democrat majorities in 2006 and 2008. Except now Bernie Sanders is being trotted out with Perez in their “unity tour” to hopefully quell the Democratic civil war.
And, wouldn’t you know it, the man who spent a lifetime never calling himself a Democrat is botching the whole unity thing. He can’t help but turn the whole operation into something about himself. Politics is a business of relationships and compromise, neither of which Sanders seems very good at. The only thing he’s shown a true talent for, besides last year’s incomprehensible treachery, has been pointing out what he perceives as the insufficient values of people who would otherwise be his allies.
While Democrats have started cursing more (Perez, Gillibrand, Waters, Lieu), and taken a more aggressive stance against Trump, Sanders is still the johnny-come-lately to primary endorsements, and a lukewarm supporter of those who would stand a chance in these off-year special elections, most recently with his mangled Jon Ossoff support. And his “Our Revolution” PAC has done next to nothing in broadening what would be the progressive comeback. There still has been no sharing of his massive email list with the DNC, something nearly every politician does with their political party.
The other thing that kills me about the numskullery of Sanders and his obnoxious true believers: They make the deadly mistake of ignoring that there is an equal number of people on the other side of the ideological spectrum who wholeheartedly believe the complete opposite of what they do, and they are just as passionate about it. Let’s say Sanders hadn’t lost to Clinton by three million votes, somehow beat Trump, and won the presidency — there still would have been a ton of Republicans in Washington and around the country who are diametrically opposed to everything he stands for. Left-wing magical thinking isn’t about to make the Republican half of the country just disappear, and playing to white anger over economic insecurity only gets you so far.
After years of doing next to nothing to help his fellow progressives broaden their appeal, Sanders stands today as the most popular senator in the country. Yet there is still no difference between Sanders and Trump. In fact, Trump is more virtuous because when he picked a party in which to run for president, he actually took the name “Republican,” committed to it and ran with it. He even campaigned, without question or qualification, up and down the ballot for other, lesser-known candidates. The same can’t be said for Sanders, who only took the name “Democrat” to run for president, and when he failed, went back to being an Independent, even while attending these silly unity rallies.
Which brings us back to where we began and where Sanders ends. Now, here’s the thing. Is it okay to lie and say you’re part of a revolution and get people riled up — even to the point of abandoning their own party — while thinking you’re the hero leading a movement when you’re doing nothing to actually help that movement? This is the cold pragmatism of Sanders’ red-hot radicalism. Is it fair to lie to millions of people if it’s for a good cause, like universal healthcare or free college? The answer would be yes, of course. He’s obviously not doing it all for money. And if we’re naive enough to think it’s not all for ego, then it must be the furtherance of his populist agenda, right? Yet that agenda is no closer to reality now than it was when he ran in 2016, and being the cynical operator he is, Sanders knows this.
Therefore, his pursuit isn’t his stated goals; it’s his unstated goals. It’s his own station in history, ego, and popularity. It’s his desire to be a liberal Goldwater; a historical standard of uncompromising political courage and rock hard superior values. To be generous, we could say that his goal to inspire countless generations of progressives makes him an honorable man. He just so happened to go about achieving that goal in the most dishonorable way possible by backstabbing, lying, and sacrificing his own people, and helping hand the country over to a creature like Trump. Maybe that’s what makes political legends in America. You can’t make a historic omelet without breaking a few contemporary hearts and, if you’re really good at it, they won’t even notice.
Last year, a couple days after I called Sanders a cult leader, when he was still refusing to leave the race and rallying with his deluded and self-serving supporters, slightly different chants broke out from the normal ones. His supporters leaned pretty hard into the whole cult thing and started shouting “shun the non-believers.” It was surreal. These people will never be reached. Sanders’ lies and Clinton’s loss guarantees that. But rather than railing against reality and pretending their revolution is pure (or even existent), maybe they could do something really radical. Listen to the non-believers.
Previously: Trump and Sanders are really just cult leaders.