Hillary Gets the Nomination, But Bernie Won, Too
It seems like Hillary has sewn up the nomination, but in a lot of ways, Bernie also won.
Anything could happen, in this strange election cycle, but it appears that—barring unforeseen circumstances—Hillary Clinton will be the first female president of the United States. It’s about time we had a woman running the country, of course, and she certainly won’t be any worse than George W. Bush. That’s damning with faint praise, but I read the Anonymous report, which hardly encouraged enthusiasm or trust for this candidate. Hillary has the presidency within her grasp, but it’s important to acknowledge that, in many ways, Bernie won, too.
Some of the people I hold dear love Hillary, so she must have redeeming qualities that I missed in her voting record, her decisions as Secretary of State, or her choice of friends and advisors, like war criminal Henry Kissinger. But just like Paul Ryan saying that Trump is a racist, but he’s backing him anyway, I will say that Hillary hasn’t reflected many of my opinions, but I will vote for her anyway, considering the opponent: the second most odious person to ever seek office in America—the first being Ted Cruz. If Elizabeth Warren is her running mate, I’m with them: two former Republicans.
At this point, Bernie has nothing to lose by staying in the game. He’s having the time of his life, mobilizing huge crowds to take charge against the corporate overlords. As one columnist wrote, “this campaign is the most thrilling, the most exhilarating, the most exciting thing that has ever happened to him.” For the media, it’s bread and circuses, theater to keep us glued to our devices, gold to the monied interests who have something to gain, like ratings and ad revenue. Bernie’s presence at the convention adds an element of perceived danger to the political drama, which is good for the media and the pundits who need material, and it gives hope to his followers. It hardly bothers Hillary, because she knows she has things nailed down.
It seems Hillary’s candidacy was ordained long before the campaign even launched, and perhaps her friends in high places did some back room finagling to make sure it happened. Her 2008 campaign co-chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the theoretically “unbiased” head of the Democratic Party, has been accused of bias, and it’s been so obvious that even Clintonites want her removed. Hillary’s candidacy was a fait accompli, and apparently the dark money was in place to write the future. Hillary herself made it clear that things are rigged, when she told CNN’s Chris Cuomo, “”I will be the nominee for my party, Chris. That is already done in effect. There is no way I won’t be.” I found that certainty absolutely chilling.
Both the party and the media did a very good job of invalidating Bernie’s chances. The Associated Press did an unconscionable thing by declaring Hillary the winner of the nomination the day before the last primaries, having the inevitable effect of reducing voter turnout. Bernie was given a fraction of media coverage of either Clinton or Trump throughout the campaign, and pundits scoffed at his idealistic agenda. Hillary did, too—touting incremental change, which seems to be the practical decision. It makes sense for people who aren’t struggling badly, but if you’re one of the people at the butt end of income disparity, surviving in the gig economy, incremental change is like throwing a quarter of a life jacket to a drowning man.
So it’s extremely unlikely that Bernie will be president, a sad reality for the poor and disenfranchised, who probably will remain almost as badly off as ever under another Clinton presidency. Or perhaps they will be able to afford another incremental quarter loaf of bread. In case anyone forgot, Bill Clinton gutted the social safety net and passed the three-strikes law, so people reduced to worse poverty, driven to crime, would be permanently locked up. The first Clinton presidency made things much harder for the poor, and the second act of the Clinton dynasty doesn’t inspire much belief in her interest in fixing income disparity, with speeches at Goldman Sachs. Things may not be looking good for Bernie or the poor, but in the greater scheme of things, loss of the nomination was actually a win for both Sanders and his followers.
Reframing the Loss
Why was a loss a win? First of all, being president of the United States may be the most prestigious job on the planet, but it is also the most high stress, and one with endless demands. Sitting in the Oval Office requires having a finger on everything in the world. That’s not Bernie’s agenda. His interest is in restoring fairness and genuine democracy in this country and keeping corporations and big banks from bulldozing the welfare of citizens. That in itself is a huge job, requiring constant attention to malfeasance and an army of supporters to investigate, report, protest, and work towards solutions. His campaign gave him that, and now, with the comparatively easy job of senator to deal with, he can guide and focus that army to manifest needed change. Change begins at the bottom, with local politics.
Bernie doesn’t have to inherit the obstructionist Congress, a problem for Hillary if she really wants to do something for the welfare of non-corporate citizens. Congressional obstruction would have made Bernie’s crabbiness intolerable. And now Congress can direct their terror at the demise of white male privilege from their racist hate of Obama to their sexist hate of Hillary. They had the gall to disrespect Obama, a sterling Commander-in-Chief, and they will probably have a field day with Hillary. But she does have big guns in her hip pocket that can squelch opposition with endless dark money, if necessary. Congress may be more afraid of Hillary than they ever were of Obama, but that doesn’t mean they won’t give her plenty of grief.
Bernie won a victory by restoring a sense of idealism, convincing us that we don’t have to accept the terrific inequities in modern America, a sense that evaporated during the Bush years. He mobilized the young, who will inherit this sorry mess and have a deeply vested interest in finding a better way. And they will use social media, the initiative process, and the political arena to push for what is possible. He didn’t need to effect change himself; he just needed to inspire others to stand up and fight for it, which he did magnificently. That’s a huge win for him and the human spirit.
A lot of pundits have noted that Bernie forced Hillary to the left, from her essentially right of center position. A lot of Republicans see her as a kindred spirit, even though she markets herself as a progressive who gets things done. She has certainly made things happen for the military-industrial complex, in her years as Secretary of State. (As an unrepentant, hopelessly idealistic pacifist, I dislike her hawkishness, but I guess I will be voting for it.) Hillary is certainly very smart, and she could see the writing on the wall. Democrats have had it with policies furthering income disparity, obliging her to come up with programs like her debt-free college deal.
Bernie is getting a lot of what he wanted, without having to actually be president. He can certainly be proud of drawing huge crowds of first-time voters into the political arena, and he can broker that ardent support to further his ideological agenda, a good reason to not drop out. Perhaps it isn’t as big a win as getting the most prestigious job on earth, but it’s a definite—and possibly better—one.