Bernie’s a hyper-smart political strategist. So he knows (and says) Trump would be an “unmitigated disaster.” And he knows that lots of his supporters (22% according to Bloomberg) are planning to vote for Trump, even though Bernie says “I will do everything in my power and work as hard as I can to make sure that [Trump] does not happen” (April 7). Still Bernie will not say to his supporters “Don’t vote for Trump, vote for Hillary.”
There’s something weird about Mr. Speak-the-Truth not speaking a truth he feels so strongly about. What’s he up to?
Another 18% of his followers say they’ll vote for the Libertarian candidate. And by the way, David Koch was the Libertarian candidate in 1980, and the Koch brothers own the Cato Institute — a huge backer of the Libertarian candidate. Libertarians are the exact opposite of socialists. They want almost no government, and Bernie wants to triple it. So 40% of Bernie’s supporters are headed somewhere between the devil and the deep blue sea. Yet he will not speak that truth to them.
This is what he’s up to: trying to get the Democratic party to accept his views on rules and platform planks. But planks won’t beat Trump. For example he wants no superdelegates and open primaries so that independents — even Republican leaning independents, Trumpers and Libertarians — can help decide the Democrats’ candidate. (Thankfully, the Congressional Black Caucus is unanimously opposed to this.)
So Bernie wants a lot from the Democrats. And the Democrats want Bernie to back them against Trump. That’s not much to ask of someone we just gave one-third of the platform committee to.
There are two paths people take toward working together in a case like this. Path #1: Say this: “Since I already promised, and since it’s what I want anyway, I’ll show my good faith and I hereby endorse Clinton.” Path #2: “You either give me what I want or I’m going to sink Hillary and the Democratic party by continuing to badmouth you to my supporters who I’ve already got hating you.”
Bernie has chosen Path #2. And sorry to say, but this is what we call blackmail. And it’s a particularly dreadful case of it. First, he is risking the future of the country and the progressive cause itself. Yes, Trump is as horrible as Bernie says, and Trump will be most horrible for progressives. Second, if you are really progressive, and your ideas are right and just, then you should have the courage to convince the party, not blackmail them.
Is this Democratic Socialism? Gain 13 million supporters. Convince 40% of them that the Democratic Party is worse than Trump or Libertarians (even though you don’t believe that yourself) and then blackmail the Party to get your way?
Yes, we will probably have to pay some ransom, but it’s time that real progressives started calling this what it is. Blackmail.
By the way, Michael Harrington, was the most loved socialist in Bernie’s lifetime, and the guy who started the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), the party that got Bernie to run for president. Harrington was a truly wonderful, generous person, and pretty much Bernie’s opposite. Since his death in 1989, DSA has devolved to the point where Cornel West (the Obama hater, Bernie picked for the Dems platform committee) is now its Honorary Chairperson. You should read Harrington’s book, Socialism: Past and Future. It’s nothing like Bernie’s angry, recycled, Trotskyite populism. Harrington was all about unity on the left, while still advocating his views.