On June 7th, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made history, becoming the first woman to be named presumptive nominee of a major political Party. Clinton won her Democratic primary battle against Bernie Sanders resoundingly, besting him by 387 pledged delegated and almost 4 million votes. Senator Sanders ran a strong campaign and for that, he should be proud. Yet his decision to break his promise “not to go negative,” besmirching Hillary’s character and record, coupled with a bewildering choice to call her “unqualified” in New York, where she had been a very popular two-term Senator, precipitated his demise. Instead of conceding obvious defeat, however, Sanders vowed to fight on, not yet endorsing Clinton. One assumes he thinks this will increase his leverage at the Democratic Convention, though day by day, it is apparent the opposite is true.
Clinton has the endorsement of 42 Democratic Senators. Sanders has 1 – well he had one. Even his lone Senate endorsement, OR Senator Jeff Merkley, has switched to Hillary, as have the most powerful of his few House endorsements (AZ Rep. Grijalva). Sanders has been in Congress almost 30 years. As an established part of the government fabric, he knows how this works. Clinton’s was not a narrow victory. Sanders, an Independent, used the Democratic Party apparatus to gain money and publicity for his campaign, which is fine, but as such, he knew the rules.
Far from conceding, Sanders is now making a bucket of demands of the DNC and Hillary’s platform, as if to hold his endorsement hostage. When even powerful allies like MoveOn.Org are urging him to smell reality, he risks appearing both the spoiler and exactly what former Congressman Barney Frank (of Dodd-Frank) called him – a self-righteous, cantankerous “know it all” who will take his marbles and go home if he doesn’t get everything he wants; someone who alienates his own natural allies.
Perhaps it’s a good thing the Primary season is unmercifully long, because character emerges under the glare of the hot lights. Hillary Clinton, despite once again enduring the most negative press coverage on record, ran an effective, classy campaign. Apart from calling Sanders out for his troubling record on gun control and the vagueness of his economic proposals, she saved most of her ammunition for Republican demagogue Donald Trump. In fact, she more or less moved on from Sanders months ago when it became obvious that his winning would be mathematically impossible. However, Sanders current behavior is making the case for why his colleagues were loath to endorse him in the first place.
Barbra Streisand, among many others, tweeted this graphic, aptly summing up the situation:
Imagine if their roles were reversed and Hillary “dared” to behave this way. She would be hung in effigy on every street corner, and excoriated by the beltway press. Sanders on the other hand is being coddled, with his more powerful supporters “gently” urging him from the stage. I know the better part of wisdom is for me to ignore his conduct and let him take as much time as he needs to “land the plane” as one commentator put it. But I find it offensive that once again the woman, the winner, is told to make concessions to the loser, a man, in the what…vague hopes that he sort of won’t notice that he lost?
In 2008, in a much, much closer contest with then-Senator Obama, then-Senator Hillary Clinton and her supporters were told to sit down, shut up and “get over it.” No coddling was done of her and no demands were made by her.
What is also unfortunate is that Senator Sanders is harming his legacy; diminishing his moment in the sun. He could have been a hero, making a magnanimous speech discussing how rhetoric naturally gets heated in battle, but at the end of the day, Hillary’s record and guts make clear she is the better leader. Had he endorsed her and urged his supporters to unite behind her to defeat Trump, Sanders would have marched into the Convention as an endearing figure, capable of a generosity not before evidenced by his long tenure. Instead it is looking like he is insisting on nursing his drink well after last call when the lights at the bar have been turned out.
Sanders will soon discover that 85% of his supporters will follow Hillary and the remaining diehards are likely those who would never have voted for her in the first place.
Those urging coddling or hand holding of Senator Sanders, while well-meaning, are participating in a sexist double standard wherein we look askance at the woman pursuing power and are somehow terrified to take it away from the man. If women are expected to put on their big panties to sit at the big table, then no man should get away with less adult behavior.