Grievance, Demands, and Tantrums; the Unhappy End of the Sanders Campaign

I didn't mind Bernie Sanders getting into the Democratic race for president in order to raise issues that were dear to his heart; hell, some of those same issues are dear to my heart as well. I was happy to have him out there, until his campaign turned nasty, even as Grandfatherly Bernie professed he would never run a negative campaign. The turning point for me was using the excuse of a headline written in a Washington Post story to pretend that Clinton had called him "unqualified" to be president, which allowed the Inner Bernie to be unleashed, calling the most qualified candidate to run for president in at least a generation "unqualified" because of one vote on Iraq, and the fact that Clinton didn't have the "good judgment" to agree with Bernie Sanders on everything. From that point on, Grandfatherly Bernie gave way to the Inner Bernie, and the Inner Bernie is a toddler with a never-ending list of why life isn't fair to poor Bernie. At that point, the Sanders campaign turned from a noble crusade to help the working class into a focal point for anyone who sees the world as a never ending struggle of Poor Me against the Evil Establishment.

It is the Inner Bernie who appeals to the Bernie Bros, the unhappy warriors that slam me in the comments sections and all over Twitter as some sort of paid shill, when the reality is I'm a retired political science professor who just won't be intimidated. I can write their Tweets for them. Scholars, all. Full of insightful arguments beginning and ending with the c-word.

As the Sanders campaign has both succeeded beyond Bernie's wildest dreams and run into a wall he cannot get over, Senator Sanders has become more and more the Inner Bernie. The secret is, the Inner Bernie does not run on logic. If Sanders started to win more in closed primaries, then his "logic" would shift, just as it did on Superdelegates, and he'd demand an end to open primaries! At the start of his campaign, Superdelegates were an evil non-democratic cancer. At the end of his campaign, when the fantasy of them flocking to his aid is all he has left, they are suddenly the Best Thing Ever.

When Chuck Todd on Meet the Press makes plain that Bernie's final argument is just not logical, and actually hypocritical, the Inner Bernie can't hear it. The Inner Bernie doesn't even see how ridiculous his argument is, depending on the Superdelegates to swing to him, even if Clinton has won more votes and pledged delegates in the primary season, just because they ought to now decide based on polls that Sanders might have an easier time defeating Trump.

The real danger in all of this is the poisonous idea that the Democratic primary process was rigged. These are the taunts of a child, not of a grown up who can actually see reality. But it fits with the theme of "revolution," which instead of offering a viable set of issues and plans is simply a call for a national temper tantrum.

It's dangerous to feed young voters such a steady diet of grievance and anger, to raise their hopes for victory long after that victory has gone out of reach. To make them believe that the only way Sanders could have lost is that the system must be rigged. To make them believe that it is easy to give everyone a free college education, that it is easy to give everybody the same kind of health care system that is used in Europe, if only the evil Establishment hadn't rigged the system against Bernie.

And it is dangerous to continue to fan the flames of grievance by calling out good progressive Democrats like Barney Frank, the first openly gay member of Congress to chair a committee, or Governor Dannel Malloy of Connecticut, who has waged a courageous battle against the gun lobby, as being somehow "too biased" to be fair at the Convention. That argument, taken to its logical conclusion, makes the entire Democratic National Convention just an exercise in "bias against Bernie." It is the same childish view that led to violence by Sanders supporters at the Nevada State Democratic Party Convention. It remains telling that Bernie Sanders could not unconditionally condemn that violence, turning to arguments about the imaginary "rigged" system that somehow, in his mind, provoked death threats being sent to the head of the Nevada Democratic Party.

Hillary Clinton and the dreaded "establishment" have been too kind to Senator Sanders and his crusade. They have pulled their punches against him all campaign season, which is why he can brag about having low negative ratings in the polls. They have given him concessions in the Convention that no previous loser ever claimed. They do not say in public what they know in private, trying not to antagonize Bernie and his supporters. But you can't really reason with a child, and Senators Sanders has given his Inner Child, his Inner Bernie, the keys to his emotional car, while his wife and campaign staff cheer this on. At some point, there won't be enough concessions to appease him, and the Democratic Party is just going to have to wait for the more sensible Sanders supporters to come back and be Democrats. So fasten your seatbelts. There's nothing short of victory that will make Bernie happy now. It's going to be a bumpy ride, but this too shall pass.