Bernie lost New York State tonight. Or was it stolen? We’ll never know which. Either way, what now? Do Bernie Sanders supporters concede what appears to be the inevitable and get behind Hillary? Do we fight on while we hope for a Clinton Foundation scandal or an FBI indictment? Or maybe we simply work harder and push forward against the odds and pray the Far West takes us home?
Now that we’ve aired those options, let’s get pragmatic. Bernie Sanders does not have a clear path to the nomination. From the pledged delegate numbers to the loyalty of the superdelegates to the Clintons, Bernie’s highway isn’t realistic. And I don’t say that easily. I’ve been in his corner since I learned what he stood for. But as bitter as the taste of those words, I’m going to be honest with you cowboys and cowgirls. I’m not sure his nomination is key to the longterm health of the liberal movement. In fact, his loss might just be the jet fuel liberals need to take back the Democratic Party. Let me explain.
- Since World War 2, no political party has held the White House for more than eight years. (There are two exceptions to this rule. The first was George Bush the Senior, who followed the mythic presidency of Ronald Reagan. The second was Al Gore, who followed the mythic presidency of Bill Clinton — Gore won the popular vote.) So if history assures us of anything, it’s that the Democrats will lose the White House to the Republicans in 2020 if they win this November. That brings us to my second point.
- If Bernie loses the White House in 2020 (or the general this year), the conservative Democratic power base will blame that loss on his progressive policies, and that will lock liberals out of power for at least another half generation. It’s a lose-lose for us with only a brief four-year shot at some minor gains. Those are terrible odds. And then there’s the third reason a Bernie loss this year could become a positive thing.
- In 2010, the GOP ran the table in the midterms and took control of state houses across the nation. That allowed them to redraw district lines with unrighteous precision, which resulted in the current situation wherein the Democrats have to earn 54% of the national vote just to break even in the House of Representatives. (And that doesn’t address the massive damage Republicans have done at the state level, where everything from voting rights to a woman’s right to choose has been decimated.) The next redistricting takes place in 2020. And Jesus himself could not generate the kind of second term excitement that would create a wave election four years into a presidency. That’s not what second term elections are about. And Democrats need a wave election if we’re going to take back the states and redraw those lines.
In 2008, I began the primary a Joe Biden supporter. I loved the guy. I still do. But when he fell out and Obama ascended, I easily migrated to the senator from Illinois. Losing and shifting allegiance is part of politics, as all of us who love this blood sport know. But this year is different for me in that I won’t be shifting my allegiance to Hillary if Bernie fails to get the nomination. (You can read my reasoning here.) I will instead, as far as it depends on me, allow the GOP to win the White House four years sooner than it otherwise would and will then rely on the Democratic Senate to hold the line against a Republican president much like the Republicans have held the line against Obama. (Such an effort may be easier than it sounds if the president is Ted Cruz or Donald Trump, both of whom are despised by their party.)
Allowing the Republicans to win the White House in 2016 serves two purposes. It prevents the Clintons from returning their peculiar form of unprincipled politics to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue — and it is better to lose to the GOP than to have Bill and Hillary and their drama burden our nation for another four years as they actively delay economic justice and other necessary liberal legislation by eight to twelve years. The other reason to allow the Republicans to take it in ’16? A reinvigorated liberal movement will need time to grow.
It’s always better to build a movement than to rush into power. That truth has held true across generations and nations and political parties. America’s own GOP is a prime example of this. Conservatives forfeited their chance to control the Republican Party when Goldwater lost in 1964. But instead of giving up, they dug in and slowly gathered the reigns of power while they waited for the right candidate to arrive. In 1976, that candidate rose through the ranks. His name was Ronald Reagan, and four years later he was elected to the White House. (His bat shit crazy wing of the GOP controls their party still today.)
We now find ourselves in the same position as those Goldwater supporters (of which Hillary was one) in 1964. We are insurgents. We want our party back. And we have a lot of work to do if we are going to wrest control from the power brokers who have come to own our party.
But whether we get a win for Sanders or we lose to Clinton, to retake the Democratic Party those of us who subscribe to the same philosophy as Bernie have to begin formulating and answering those questions necessary to build the foundation of a longterm movement: 1) What are our core beliefs? 2) How do we get ourselves into positions of power within our precincts, our states and on the national level of the DNC? 3) Who are our strongest and most ethical prospects for state and national office? 4) How do we build a clean fundraising outreach? 5) How do we keep Bernie voters engaged over the long haul? Those are only a few of our concerns. There are plenty more, most of which are deep in the weeds. (Movements take work.) And all of them have to be answered.
The interventionist and pro-business Democratic Leadership Council was formed in the 1980s as a response to the political success of Ronald Reagan. Conservative, it was a group designed for its time. And as it gained power, it pushed our party far to the right of its liberal moorings. It was from the DLC that Bill Clinton arose in 1992. His popularity further cemented the group’s conservative ideals into the new orthodoxy of the Democratic Party.
It has been twenty-three years since Bill Clinton was sworn into office as the forty-second President of the United States. Twenty-three years is a long time. Too long. And during that interval conservative Democrats have in partnership with the GOP caused irreparable economic damage to the poor and middle class of this country as they ruthlessly transferred our wealth to the top. They have pushed us to our limits.
So it’s now time to form a new council, one focused on people and their needs that will take us back to the ethical, socially just, and effective principles from which Franklin Roosevelt energized the Democratic Party with his own form of democratic socialism. We have four years to grow this Revolution from the seedling it is today. Let’s get to work!
Now read more:
The Zephyr Teachout Congressional campaign. She is taking Bernie’s message to Congress: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/04/zephyr-teachout-bernie-sanders-new-york