Michael A. Cohen

Face it, Bernie. It’s over

Bernie Sanders arrived at a rally in San Francisco on Wednesday.
Bernie Sanders arrived at a rally in San Francisco on Wednesday.JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images

I’ve had it with Bernie Sanders.

I’ve had with it his moral preening. I’ve had it with his simplistic, one-dimensional view of American politics. I’ve had it with his labeling anyone who supports his opponent as fundamentally corrupt and a handmaiden of the 1 percent. I’ve had it with his never-ending list of excuses for why he’s not doing better. I’ve had it with the exaggerations he tells his supporters about his chances of winning. I’ve had it with his refusal to demonstrate any leadership as these same supporters crudely attack Sanders’ political opponents.

One year ago, when Sanders announced his candidacy, he said that his pursuit of the Democratic nomination would not be about Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders but rather “about the needs of the American people, and the ideas and proposals that effectively address those needs.”


Those days have come and gone.

Instead, the Sanders campaign has devolved into an angry, pointless, and ego-driven campaign, more interested in promoting Sanders for president than the issues for which he claims to care so deeply.

Sanders continues to tell his supporters that the odds are long but that it’s still possible for him to win the nomination. It’s not.

Clinton needs approximately 90 delegates. With 475 up for grabs alone in California on June 7 — and because of the way in which Democrats proportionally dole out delegates — she is practically guaranteed to get them. Sanders can argue all he wants about convincing super-delegates to switch their support to him, even though Clinton will have the most pledged delegates and the most votes. It’s not going to happen, particularly now that Sanders has declared war against the Democratic Party.

We saw a glimpse of this at the Nevada Democratic convention last weekend, in which his supporters — with allegedly some of his national staff present — booed and heckled Clinton supporters, including California Senator Barbara Boxer. They then proceeded to send thousands of harassing phone calls and texts — including death threats — to the Nevada state Democratic chairwoman.


Rather than condemn these actions, Sanders threw more fuel on the fire. He blamed his supporters’ bad behavior on Nevada Democratic leaders who he falsely accused of using their “power to prevent a fair and transparent process from taking place” at the state convention.

His statement after the violence was a classic example of deflecting responsibility, but it also provided good evidence of how far down the rabbit hole the Sanders campaign has gone.

He said the Democratic leadership needs to understand that the “people of this country want a government which represents all of us, not just the 1 percent, super PACs, and wealthy campaign contributors.”

According to Sanders, “The Democratic Party has a choice. It can open its doors and welcome into the party people who are prepared to fight for real economic and social change” or it “can choose to maintain its status quo structure, remain dependent on big-money campaign contributions and be a party with limited participation and limited energy.”

The latter point is clearly incorrect, since Sanders is losing to Clinton by three million votes. The rest is a slur on Clinton’s supporters and is indicative of Sanders’ increasing propensity to treat any groups that oppose him as somehow not being real progressives and tools of the establishment. In Sanders’ increasingly holier-than-thou worldview, there is only one proper progressive choice — him. With arguments like these, is it any wonder that his supporters in Nevada responded with such venomous attacks to being denied victory at the state convention? For months, commentators have pointed to the harsh, de-legitimizing, often threatening language emanating from Sanders backers on social media. It is now clearer than ever that the candidate himself — with his all or nothing rhetoric — is feeding their cynicism and their anger.


Indeed, the ugliness of Sanders’ campaign appeals should trouble every Democrat. In his press statement on the primary results in Oregon and Kentucky, Sanders bemoaned the fact that the party has allowed a right-wing Republican to capture a majority of the votes of the working-class Americans. “I’ll be damned,” said Sanders “if we will allow the Republican Party, whose job is to represent the rich and the powerful, to win the votes of working-class Americans.”

But in fact, according to at least one recent poll, Clinton leads Trump by 20 points among Americans who make less than $50,000 a year. In 2012, Obama won a healthy majority of those voters. The only way one can argue that Republicans are winning a majority of working class voters is to ignore working class blacks and Hispanics, which appears to be what Sanders is doing. I suppose they don’t count because they are overwhelmingly backing Clinton.

Considering the importance of non-white voters to the Democratic Party, how Sanders thinks he can prevail among party leaders to support him for the nomination when he is dismissing this group is mind-boggling. That he actually suggested after Nevada that the Democratic Party must treat his supporters “with fairness and the respect that they have earned” is even more of a stunner. But as my colleague Joan Vennochi pointed out Wednesday, it is fairly obvious that Sanders does not care about the Democratic Party, about party unity, or even about the down ballot impact of continuing this fight.


Indeed, according to a report Thursday in the New York Times, Sanders is “willing to do some harm to Mrs. Clinton in the shorter term if it means he can capture a majority of the 475 pledged delegates at stake in California and arrive at the Philadelphia convention with maximum political power.” Putting aside the fact that Sanders political influence decreases every day he continues this fight against Clinton, it’s pretty remarkable that a man of the left would risk doing damage to the likely Democratic nominee, when the alternative (namely Donald Trump) is anathema to practically everything liberals and, I assume Sanders, believe.

It’s increasingly clear, however, that Sanders has become so deluded by his desire to win that he is more concerned with waging this pointless battle than he is with winning the war.

I have little doubt that Sanders will disregard the many calls for him to cool the rhetoric, end the attacks on Clinton, and focus on the fall campaign against Trump and electing more Democrats to Congress. I have equally little confidence that Sanders will acknowledge defeat after the last primaries and instead will take his fruitless battle to the convention. To follow a better course would require Bernie Sanders to be a different person and his campaign to be less of an embarrassment than it has become.


Michael A. Cohen’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @speechboy71.