It was hardly a thunderclap, but it does qualify as an anticlimactic surprise: Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee-to-be. Expected though it was, the news crept in like Carl Sandburg’s fog, on little cat feet. That is, the Associated Press’s delegate count.
The weekend was the clinch, and Tuesday’s primaries will be the double cinch.
That may be tough for the dedicated lefties and dazzled millennials who felt the Bern and enlisted in Sanders’ cause, but the time has come to recognize reality. Or, as that old poet and philosopher Kris Kristofferson might put it:
Don’t look so sad. You know it’s over.
But life goes on and this old campaign will keep on churning.
Just be glad you and Bernie had some time to spend together
There’s no need to loathe the rival that you’re spurning.
No, indeed. Clinton won this fair and square. She captured more votes and more allocated delegates. And she has more superdelegate commitments. The talk of persuading those ex officios to switch to Sanders is a political pipe dream. It wouldn’t happen even if Sanders were a longtime member of the Democratic Party rather than a newcomer to the organization he hoped to lead.
I know, I know, the polls show Sanders would be a tougher general election opponent against Donald Trump. Take that with a grain of salt. Unlike Sanders, Clinton has been under concerted conservative attack almost since her campaign began, and for an easy-to-discern reason: Republicans don’t want to face her. They think they’d have much better luck against Sanders, and they’re likely right.
What Sanders offered was a sharp critique of the current system. What he lacked was persuasive foreign policy experience and a credible policy program.
Mind you, Sanders had his proposals and his putative pay-fors. Problem: They didn’t come close to adding up. According to the Tax Policy Center, his tax hikes would raise $15.3 trillion over 10 years, while his spending plans would cost $33.3 trillion, increasing the federal debt by some $18 trillion over a decade. For perspective, that freshet of red ink is almost double the $9.5 trillion debt deluge that would result from Donald Trump’s tax-cutting plans.
The complaint on the Sanders side has been that Clinton is a political establishmentarian who offers moderate, incremental progress rather than sweeping change. Of course, another way to look at that is that her plans pass basic fiscal muster.
And it’s now time to get fiscally and politically practical.
Rather than sulk in his tent, Sanders needs to fold selfsame portable canvas shelter and rally to his rival’s — and his adopted party’s — cause. And so, too, do his supporters. If you honestly can’t see any difference between Trump and Clinton, you either haven’t been paying attention or you’re so far out on the left wing that you’ve lost meaningful perspective on the rest of the political spectrum. And if you lean left but simply can’t bring yourself to vote for Clinton for character reasons? Well, then you’re just too pure for the politics of the real world.
In the end, their disappointment notwithstanding, I suspect most Sanders supporters will come around to Clinton.
But if they want real progress, that’s not enough. The problem for Democrats is that some of their voters turn out for presidential elections but then stay home in off years, which means Republicans make big midterm congressional gains and then claim, ridiculously, that the voters have rebuked the president and given a mandate to the opposition. (Democrats, of course, employ the same kind of rhetoric when they make midterm gains.)
So it’s not enough to vote only in presidential years.
You have to keep at it. In this country, change doesn’t come through a one-election political revolution. It’s a long, hard, unromantic slog.
And it’s a mark of political maturity to recognize that reality.