Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Whither Bernie?

In reality, the primary season is over. The path Bernie has to the nomination is basically to renege on his entire raison d'être, get a firm grasp on the Dark Side, and try to super delegate his way past the will of the people, the popular vote, and electoral process he so valiantly defends against "corporate money".

In truth, the primary was over when Bernie announced he was running. He probably kept Joe Biden out of the race (who would have stood a decent chance against Hillary, and certainly could match her vote for vote at the super delegate level and could conceivably have energized the same young voters that Bernie has. Google "Biden Bitchin' Camaro"). Sanders' mishmash organization, inability to cultivate even the super delegates in his own state...I mean, really, if you're going to descend into openly trying to steal an election anyway, you may as well be honest about it and stop disillusioning the youth of today...and absolutely barebones campaign infrastructure speaks of a man who made this decision basically about as carefully as a rich person chooses toilet paper.

His most important decisions -- hiring Tad Devine and Jeff Weaver -- speak volumes about his priorities and his willingness to thrown his believers under the bus for one chance at...what? The nomination? A chance to speak at the convention? A chance to get his issues on the party platform?

He never stood a chance at the nomination. Coming from 65 points behind to ten points behind is an admirable effort but it's still a losing effort. Second place is second place and double digits is double digits, and my suspicion is that a ham sandwich could have accomplished the same, especially with a layer of bacon.

He understood all this even as late as the New York primary, where he had a slim chance still but only spent $35,000 on a get out the vote effort. Now contrast that to the million he spent monthly on Messrs. Devine and Weaver.

Sanders has reached a fork in the road. He can choose to embrace the dark arts of the possible, lawyer up, spend even more money on irrelevancies and make a joke of himself and a parody of his campaign. Or, he can choose to embrace the good in his campaign, the positivity he brought, and the idealism of the tens of millions who believe in him.

See, he's in a difficult spot and there's a carrot dangling in front of him that, frankly, I don't see how he cannot take.

For one thing, he has tens of millions in illegal campaign contributions that have to be returned. Estimates run as high as $23 million. At March 31, he only had $17 million dollars, cash in hand. He is currently outspending his monthly hauls, diminishing faster than a reservoir in a drought in summer.

If Weaver and Devine returned their stipends since they've been hired, that would be enough to pay back the money Sanders owes. But they won't.

Sanders could hold onto the money, of course, but then he exposes the donors to criminal and civil prosecution and the campaign to sanctions (moot, as Sanders will not be running past the California primary).

He's between a rock and a hard place, to be sure, so he'll probably request a bailout (heh!) from the DNC, which has a fund for just these purposes.

The same fund that is replenished by those $350,000 a plate dinners George Clooney has to hold.

Oh, the irony: the People's Candidate bailed out by the very corporate whores he hates.

Note something else: because of this indebtedness (first to his donors, then to the DNC), there is no way in the world Sanders runs a third party bid. It would immediately be shut down by the FEC until the records are straightened out. He'd need an even faster cash infusion. Hello, superPACs!

But there's a flip side to this whole conundrum: he can't *stop* running either, if he wants to be a player at the convention (and certainly if he has any chance of flipping the nomination). This means he'll be deeper and deeper in debt as the hours pass by.

Which then calls into question his entire policy platform of redistributing the federal tax revenue to pay for his programs. After all, if he can't micromanage his campaign (and word on the street is that is exactly what he is trying to do, along with his wife) then how in the hell is he going to pay for college and single-payer, even with massive cuts to defense spending?

These are issues I could never have foreseen when I endorsed Sanders back in February. My concerns dealt with his possible success, but never about his probable failures.

It concerns me because, right now, Bernie Sanders is at another crossroads that has nothing to do with his campaign and everything to do with the future of the liberal progressive movement.

In the course of my lifetime, I've seen the liberal movement's concept of a President veer from the idealism of Robert F Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy to the sham of Michael Dukakis. You'll notice none of them won.

Meanwhile, the Democrats who have won: FDR, LBJ, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama -- Jimmy Carter being a mild outlier -- have been centrists who have enacted policies that tended to pull the nation leftward.

In FDR's case, yank it hard.

Sanders has an act to juggle here: he has to keep liberal issues at the forefront of policy discussions, yet he can't afford to have himself shunted aside as just an angry old man in a bathrobe who yells at clouds, no matter how bright and sparkly those clouds might be. That would destroy whatever progress we can make in the next four years, and render the liberal movement dead in the water for decades.


I'm all for Bernie continuing his crusade but there's an exit strategy that he needs to start implementing. The country can't afford his embarrassment.