That Berning sensation

It’s early 2019. The next presidential election is in November 2020. This is where I think Democrats should be: a bunch of people have announced they’re running. Some more probably will but haven’t yet. They’re all out raising their early money and making their speeches and holding town halls.

And we’re all listening. I know that some people have their favorites but honestly, I don’t. I want to hear what they say and see how they behave and form my opinions about them.

And then there’s Bernie. I think he is a reasonable candidate; I like his policies, and I like his grit. I didn’t particularly want him to run again, but he is, so my feeling when he announced was “OK, let’s see what you’ve got.”


The Nation ran a piece by Eric Alterman called “The Liberal Case Against Bernie.” His argument is mainly that we need to get Trump out and Bernie’s got too much baggage from his earlier days to make it. The arguments are reasonable; whether they are convincing or not will really depend on the reader.

But unsurprisingly, the comments are basically a flashback to the 2016 primaries. It’s exactly what you’d expect: Alterman is a DNC stooge. Bernie is the only one who can beat Trump (honestly, how could anybody be that sure about any candidate vs. Trump at this point? It’s delusional). Bernie has proven he can do it! (Um, he lost to Hillary Clinton.) He is the only one who can save America. The Nation should be destroyed. And on, and on, and on.

My opinion about Bernie-as-nominee took a serious nose dive when he hired David Sirota (for real, not the secret hiring nobody knew about), leading Sirota to go delete 20,000 tweets so it would not be obvious he was trashing Democratic candidates while working for Bernie but not telling anybody).

Part of my problem here is that I think this is a real ethical lapse for Sanders. But it also is a great example of why I think his supporters are one of his biggest liabilities. When people suggested that trashing Bernie’s opponents while working for him secretly is a problem, the response from supports was basically, “So what?” Because ethics are only relevant for your opponents?

Bernie has a devoted cult following, and I mean “cult” in the worst sense of the word. Because I am at heart a pragmatist, I have a serious problem with this. Even with all that, if we’re looking at a Sanders/Trump race next year, there’s no question how I’ll vote.

But every time I see the endless screeds from his supporters, I realize – and 2016 bore this out – that an awful lot of Bernie supporters will turn on the Democrats if they don’t choose him. And sorry, if you could condemn the country to four more years of Trump because you think Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris – or even Joe Biden – aren’t progressive enough, your principles are meaningless, because your condemning a lot of actual human beings to the impact of his policies.

For those who think Bernie is the best: make that argument, make it loudly and vigorously with all you’ve got. But when I see hit pieces of the other candidates and people declaring undying allegiance this early, I get concerned. And based on history, I think that concern is warranted.

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