Why the hell am I still talking about Bernie Sanders? Why are any of us still talking about Bernie Sanders? Now make no mistake: We’re talking about Sanders a lot less these days and with good reason. He lost the race for the nomination by millions of votes and, according to the latest poll by ABC News and The Washington Post, 81% of his one-time supporters have jumped over to Clinton now that she’s the presumptive nominee. In an ironic twist, that tops even the 74% of Clinton supporters who moved over to Obama after his primary victory in 2008. In other words, in spite of all the angry ranting of the “Bernie or Bust” crowd, predictably, they won’t make much of a difference anyway. Clinton doesn’t need them to win in November. The only person who still thinks his revolution is, well, a revolution is Bernie Sanders — and he’s wrong.
Now Sanders had a golden opportunity to concede with grace and dignity — certainly an opportunity to do the smart thing for both himself and his cause — a few weeks back when the final nail was officially driven into the coffin of his campaign. As Jamelle Bouie points out in Slate, Sanders could have suspended his campaign, rallied around Clinton and not only seen himself embraced wholeheartedly by Democrats — rather than as a “concession” to a cranky old man who was threatening to put a gun to their heads — but also be put in a position where he could claim victory for funneling votes to Clinton. Unfortunately for him, Sanders overplayed his hand and, with the exception of a few millennial dead-ender hold-outs, his supporters went over to Clinton anyway without him having conceded the race and so he ends up with a big pile of nothing now.
The thing is, Sanders doesn’t see it that way. To listen to him talk, he’s still behaving as if he has cards left to play. Everybody else has packed up, turned off the lights, and gone home to regroup for the fight against possibly the most dangerous and unfit candidate for president this country has ever seen, and Sanders is still sitting there at the table in the dark demanding to be dealt back in. He’s made minor overtures toward coming around for Clinton, which is without question the responsible thing to do in this race, but for each one that ends up in public circulation there always seems to be a hedge. He says he’ll vote for Clinton, but then he says, well, not so fast. He says Donald Trump must be defeated, but then rambles on to the few people still willing to listen about how his personal concerns are more important. He seems to accept the reality of the situation — that Clinton won and he lost — but he does so hilariously begrudgingly then gives an interview like the one he gave to Andrea Mitchell yesterday in which he blithely condescends to the woman who’s won the Democratic nomination by every single standard.
And that’s exactly the thing: Sanders continues to behave as if he didn’t lose. He continues trying to bitterly exert influence over a party that already agrees with his politics but which by this point probably just wants him to go the hell away once and for all. Granted, again, Sanders isn’t going to do any sort of damage to Clinton in the general whether he’s on board or not. (The only leverage his handful of hold-outs claimed for so long has vanished: Clinton is whipping Trump in poll after poll, with the situation getting worse for Trump by the day.) But there’s something tragic about watching a guy who was once well-respected, even by those who disagreed with him or his tactics, end his unlikely presidential run with such a sadly unspectacular whimper. Elizabeth Warren has not only embraced Hillary Clinton — because say what you will, Clinton is a liberal — she’s campaigning with her hand in hand and has become one of her strongest surrogates against the monstrosity that is Trump. Meanwhile, what is Sanders doing during this phase of the campaign? Standing in a corner waiting for people to pay attention to him.
It just didn’t have to be this way. The only possible explanation here is that Bernie Sanders so allowed himself to be overwhelmed by his most strident millennial meme-circulators, that he’s now backed himself into a corner. He figures he can’t let “the revolution” down by “selling-out.” It’s an absurdly absolutist way of looking at things and it goes without saying that it’s precisely the way to get nothing at all done in politics. Hell, Sanders is still, as of this moment, threatening to take his fight to the floor of the Democratic National Convention, saber-rattling that will if nothing else guarantee a raft of silly kid protesters outside the DNC but inside will mean pretty much nothing. Clinton has won this thing. Sanders has lost. It’s over. The man who ran a Cinderella campaign could have, in defeat, still transformed it into an engine for ongoing necessary change at the highest levels of government. Instead, he’s just going to rant and stomp his feet and be, well, a sore loser.
It’s a fucking shame. But it’s one that hardly matters because there are just far too many more important concerns for serious people right now.