I’m over Bernie Sanders.
Bernie Sanders is the guy singing “We Shall Overcome” at campaign rallies and narrating a spoken word/folk album of the same name (I kid you not). The Sanders who thinks reparations are “divisive”, who believes social issues can be solved simply by economic means, and who required quite a bit of prodding to begin focusing on black Americans on the campaign trail. It’s a mistake to link Sanders, a white Jewish senator from Vermont, with the Civil Rights Movement. Yes, he did participate in the movement (please, tell us about it again), but Sanders using “We Shall Overcome” has little to do with the Civil Rights Movement and a lot to do with Bernie Sanders.
The Oakland rally was the moment that I decided I was over Bernie Sanders, but we’ve watched his campaign, in response to Hillary Clinton’s projected primary win, devolve into blustery complaints about the rules and regulations and the intricacies of choosing a party nominee. Some of these complaints (like the wonky system we use for selecting primary candidates) are valid, just as they’ve been whenever they get brought up, but their validity has been obscured by entitlement.
But Sanders, and the supporters who continue to turn out for him, think they’re part of something as substantial and world-changing as the Civil Rights movement. They aren’t. But they don’t blink at pretending they are before a very white crowd in the gentrifying black neighborhood of Oakland. On the plaza named officially for Frank H. Ogawa, a Japanese civil rights leader. The same plaza that is named (unofficially) for Oscar Grant, a black man shot in the back by a cop in 2009. While Ogawa and Grant are both symbols of the oppression of communities of color, Bernie Sanders is a symbol of…Bernie Sanders. And what he’s asking us to overcome isn’t racial prejudice or police brutality but his dwindling primary campaign.
Having cast himself in the role of the political messiah sent to deliver us from the establishment, Sanders uses a Civil Rights Movement soundtrack to remind us that he’s more than just a presidential candidate. He’s our chance for progress, and to stand against him is like standing against the Civil Rights Movement, and you know what that says about you. But does Sanders know what it says about him? That his white male ego has finally expanded beyond hope of containment, that he’s now willing to do, say and imply whatever is necessary to win.
Co-opting the struggle of black Americans is only one of the tactics Sanders is willing to employ to beat Clinton. He also maintains that his lower delegate count is the result of a concerted effort to stunt progress and keep America under establishment influence rather than pro-Clinton voters turning out in greater number. Remember when Gloria Steinem said women were just backing Sanders because they wanted boyfriends? This is kind of like that. No one wins elections because they say things that appeal to people (for better or for worse) but because of hormones and/or because their votes are being manipulated. There’s that dropped lawsuit against the DNC, abandoned because someone must have realized how ridiculous it was to sue the party for holding Sanders’ campaign accountable for wrongdoing. There are demands for the removal of two pro-Clinton DNC co-chairs, an odd attack on two Democrats whose political opinions offend simply because they’re anti-Sanders. There’s that never-gonna-happen-but-almost-did debate with Trump and Sanders’ reminder that the Democratic primary isn’t a monarchy while he simultaneously ignores Clinton’s majority of votes.
All with the goal of reassuring Sanders and his supporters that he isn’t actually losing.
Apparently this method of thinking is working too well. Sanders appears to be, if not convinced of his impending victory, at least convinced that he should be winning merely because he wants to be. One faction of Sanders’ supporters, that which has been most vocal and most unbearable, has also adopted this thinking. So when Sanders came up short in Nevada, things turned ugly as supporters became violent and later took their show on the road, doxxing the Nevada convention chairman and sending her grossly misogynistic and threatening messages. In order to be as disappointing as possible, Sanders responded that the Democratic party (and the woman on the other end of those threats) should “figure out a way to welcome people who have been energized and excited by his campaign”.
Unfortunately for Sanders, “energy” and “excitement” don’t work as synonyms for misogyny any better than Bernie Sanders works as a synonym for the Civil Rights Movement. Bernie Sanders is only synonymous with Bernie Sanders, and securing the presidency is all he cares about. Bernie Sanders is, first and foremost, a politician who wants to win. While the holds he has in the status quo may look a little different from those of Hillary Clinton or another establishment politician, they still exist.
It’s not revolutionary to avoid condemning racism and misogyny in those who support you (we’ve had this same conversation about Donald Trump many times). It’s not revolutionary to adopt the Civil Rights Movement to further your own cause or dismiss votes cast against you simply because you wish they didn’t count. These are not revolutionary. This is the status quo. If Sanders can’t shake it even in his primary campaign, I wouldn’t expect him to do so in the White House.
I don’t expect any other candidate to do it either, but Sanders is the only candidate promising revolutionary policies and a swift change in the status quo. Well not the only one. Donald Trump is doing the same, and we know what his idea of revolutionary is. I’d never suggest Sanders would sink to the depths of Trump (he’d have a looooong way to sink), but I would suggest he won’t rise to the heights he promises.
Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, I’ll vote for whichever secures the nomination (it’ll likely be Clinton), but I’ll expect no more from one than I’d get from the other.