Why Bernie Is Losing*
(* Is Losing Means Lost)
While there are a handful of races to come, looking back at the primaries makes it pretty clear where Bernie lost. Both sides have their passionate supporters that transcend categories but it was fairly easy to see the percentages broken down by gender, or race, or age, or income. Certain groups, like much of the LGBT community, also seemed to break for Hillary. Why? Why didn't Bernie's message resonate with the majority of women, and the poor, and the senior citizens, etc., etc. After all, his proposals would benefit all of them, right?
But these groups of people, while not the only ones to support Clinton, are often the ones most reliant on the government — whether in social services or in protections that the federal government has been providing. Further, these are the areas most under siege by Republican forces. In short, these are our most vulnerable citizens. And Bernie failed to get them to trust him in significant numbers.
First, he couldn't get them to trust him to go up against the Republican machine and win. It's possible he would have flourished. It's also possible he would've wilted. But if someone feels like their entire livelihood is at stake in this election, that's a big risk to take. Especially when his competition is still standing after decades of the worst they could throw at her.
But even if they took the risk and believed that he could win, then these groups had to decide if they could trust him to succeed. Not even so much in terms of his big plans but could he actually govern against Republicans who would attempt to block him at every turn? By refusing to acknowledge that he would need an actual coalition, and not just people standing on the lawn, the risk just got bigger and the trust just got a little harder to come by.
However, even if they managed to risk this much and decided that Bernie could in fact win and could in fact govern, there is the still the big enchilada. Could Bernie get his revolution to turn out in 2018 and maintain the momentum? In all honesty, seeing what happened with Barack Obama made this an even larger hurdle for Bernie. Obama's turnout was stunning in 2008 but it did not help in 2010. Things were worse in 2014. And this is a task that wasn't completely on Bernie's shoulders. It was on his supporters. And they failed him spectacularly.
Bernie-or-Bust was a flashing neon sign that they would not be there for the most vulnerable. They signaled that their priorities were the only priorities that mattered. They even argued, and continue to argue, that blowing up the whole system was the only way to make people see the light. The system that expanded healthcare to cover millions of people. The system that has made gay marriage legal. The system that provides social security. The system that currently maintains Roe v Wade. The system that maintains welfare to keep people from being completely destitute. If someone is willing to sacrifice the system and therefore the security of millions upon millions of people because they think there's too much money in campaigns then they can't be surprised when the most vulnerable don't support their guy.
And this is bound to lead to the complaint about Hillary's trustworthiness. There is utter confusion that so many of these groups have granted her this trust when she has become, in their eyes, the symbol of all that is wrong with the American system. Do you want to know why they trust her in spite of corporate contributions or Super Pacs? Because in 2008, when she could've been a completely disruptive force who split the party in an attempt to achieve her own ambition, she chose instead to unite. She thought of those most vulnerable in the most unselfish way possible. At that time, she couldn't have been certain that she would have run again. After all, primary season is grueling. She not only worked for the greater good, she championed it.
The frustrating thing about government and politics and parties is that it can take so long to make significant change and then, one day, a huge leap forward will be made. People see that leap forward and question why we can't do it all the time without realizing that the giant leap was only accomplished by often years of work. Sanders accomplished more than anyone thought possible. But the problem with candidates who flash on the national scene in such a way is not that the establishment is trying to keep them down. It's that they have to convince people that they are worth the risk. Obama barely did it and he's one of the most incredible politicians in modern history.
But unless you can clear that hurdle, you will lose to the person who has put in the time. These groups know that Hillary will have their collective backs. If all these new voters flitter away in two years, these groups know that she has already worked to preserve the system that will maintain the progress achieved. And with her tireless work in supporting down-ballot candidates, these groups know that she is doing everything possible to get the team that she will need around her to move even farther forward.
This is a time where the Supreme Court supports gay marriage and then hears a case that would seriously curtail the right-to-choose in several states. A time where a city passes LGBT friendly ordinances only to have a state legislature call a special session to strike them down. The most vulnerable always have the most to lose in any election. Progressives, true liberals, the far left wing or whatever other group that touts their purity of thought, must remember that they will continue to lose if they refuse to acknowledge how the Democratic party has protected and championed these groups for decades.
But do you know how Sanders supporters can make progress on their issues? Prove that they won't run at the first sign of defeat. Prove that they will keep fighting for their priorities but they won't abandon those with the most to lose. Earn the trust that will provide an even greater coalition in the future. Spend the time. Take the long view. Continue to participate. If not, then don't be upset if the rest of the Democratic Party dismisses the tantrum, knowing they were right in not putting their trust in Bernie.