Many including me have consistently given Bernie Sanders the credit for fighting for what he believes in and suggesting he should decide on his own when to leave the race. We gave him credit for beginning his campaign with grace and purpose as I did in a recent column. Unfortunately he is choosing to end it as a boor more concerned with boosting his own ego than with moving forward the issues he espoused.
Presidential primaries are not new. Bernie Sanders knew all the rules when he asked to enter the Democratic Party primaries even though he never registered as a Democrat. The Party graciously invited him to do so. While many thought he wouldn't do as well as he has all credit for that goes to him and the issues he has talked about. His mantra of single-payer health care, bringing down Wall Street, and free college caught on with young people and they came out to his rallies by the thousands.
What he soon found out even with his big rallies is most people who vote in Democratic primaries want a candidate who is versed in a much broader spectrum of issues. They understand the President of the United States is also the leader of the free world and must speak to a broader audience here and around the world. Very left-leaning Democratic primary voters alone can't elect a candidate in the general election. Those who understood that voted for Hillary Clinton which is why she has over 3 million more votes than he does.
Bernie's campaign made many mistakes. The biggest being while he knew the rules he forgot to tell his supporters what they were. Instead of blaming himself he now blames the Democratic Party for his mistakes. His own senior advisor helped create the superdelegate system. He knew which primaries were 'open,' where anyone can vote; or 'closed' where only registered Democrats can vote. He didn't think it important to tell any of the people who came out to his rallies about that.
Then he had to have seen as he looked out at the people attending his rallies that they were nearly all 'white'. Any understanding of the demographics of the Democratic Party and the nation should have alerted him to the fact 'white' voters alone wouldn't elect him. Yet he apparently couldn't move to broaden his appeal because for 33 years as a politician he never before had to do that. He has no real record with the African American or Latino communities to fall back on. He was never a leader in the women's movement or the LGBT movement for equality. While he claimed he always supported those movements in all his years in politics he never introduced legislation to move the civil and human rights of those groups forward.
All these things came home to roost because he was running against a woman who had deep contacts with all those groups and who has spoken out around the nation and the world for all of them. Yes Hillary may have had more opportunity than Bernie to do that and to her credit she took every opportunity given her to make a difference for all people. Whether it was in a meeting with Nelson Mandela; supporting the United Farm Workers; speaking out in Beijing for women; or in Geneva for the LGBT community; Hillary was there on the front lines while Bernie was somewhere back in the crowd.
Bernie knows primaries are about collecting the number of delegates needed to be the nominee of the Party. So for his mistakes and for having fallen short he now wants to blame everyone but himself and his campaign. He can't afford to pay for TV in California so he plays into Donald Trump's hand agreeing to participate in a debate with Trump which can only be called a stunt and serves to help Trump. He fights the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and suggests there will be a messy Democratic convention because he can't accept or tell his supporters honestly he has lost.
It can only be hoped he has some close advisors who will help him face reality and say to him; "Bernie you LOST, it's over. That happens in elections and the time has come to show some class." He needs to be told "While you have achieved your fifteen minutes of fame and made a real difference in the discussion if you want to actually make a difference on the issues you care about you will gracefully leave the stage. Working with Hillary and not trying to tear her down is the way to make progress on the progressive issues you claim to care about. Any other scenario places you in the position to take the blame if Trump wins."
Bernie if Donald Trump wins and gets to appoint a Supreme Court Justice and negates all the progress Barack Obama has fought for in the past eight years, you become the 2016 Ralph Nader. The same Nader who now at age 84 walks around Dupont Circle in Washington, DC with his head down afraid people will recognize him and say "Thanks Ralph for electing George W. Bush." You don't want to be that person in a couple of years with people saying 'Thanks Bernie for electing Donald Trump. "