Some Democrats never felt the Bern. In fact, most did not. While Bernie's magic and zeal ensnared the coveted passions of millennial voters, the majority of Democratic voters did not wish to go along for the ride. Unfortunately, many Democrats did not understand this phenomenon. Subsequently; this ignorance led many pragmatic liberals to underestimate the power of what Bernie Sanders had unearthed. This does not mean to generalize that all Sanders supporters were and are somehow dangerous. It simply means that what Senator Sanders came to bear, also came with great responsibility. Unfortunately for the country, he botched and squandered not only his responsibility but chance to make a difference. This has not stopped many Sanders loyalists from completely flipping this reality into a masterclass in witch burning, accusing Hillary Clinton of ignoring the working class, being crooked, or being unlikable. This would just be silly if it were not so brazenly stupid, given how the Sanders campaign attempted to steal Clinton campaign data, the FEC flagged Sanders' campaign for fishy contributions, the Senator's wife, Jane Sanders, is currently being investigated by the FBI for bank fraud, and Bernie Sanders himself, still refuses to release his tax returns. Sound familiar? And let us not forget how Senator Sanders introduced the nasty word "corrupt" into the 2016 election, smearing Secretary Clinton through innuendo with that stinking, yet effective jab at her for not releasing the contents of her paid speeches. The hypocrisy of this dynamic is breathtaking. Essentially, Bernie Sanders may not have worn a tuxedo to the White House Correspondents' Dinner, but that did not stop him from relishing lobster on a chartered plane to Italy for an excursion his campaign bankrolled. Meanwhile, Secretary Clinton was busy developing public policy and striving to expand the Democratic base in the South. And while that hypocrisy might be unimaginable for some, between the FBI and FEC, it has been the least of Bernie Sanders' problems.
What about the Senator's influence? Sanders flew out to Montanna to stump for the Democratic nominee, Rob Quist, in the special election to replace current Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke's congressional seat. Quist lost to an assaulter who body slammed a reporter. And how about Nebraska's famous anti-abortion candidate, Heath Mello, who Sanders stumped for, alongside DNC Chair Tom Perez? In an NPR piece by Scott Detrow, Sanders claimed: "If we are going to protect a woman's right to choose, at the end of the day we're going to need Democratic control over the House and the Senate, and state governments all over this nation". Perhaps what Sanders meant was that protecting a woman's right to choose in Omaha, Nebraska, must arise with the endorsement of an anti-choice candidate? I still scratch my head at that one. And what about Tim Canova, the Florida professor who was challenging Debbie Wasserman Schultz? Well, he lost too. And let us not forget Zephyr Teachout, another Bernie favorite, who also lost her congressional race against Republican, John Faso. Finally, how about Russ Feingold? Politico's Nolan D. McCaskill reported in a piece that the Sanders campaign thought Feingold should thank Sanders, should he unseat incumbent Republican Senator, Ron Johnson in Wisconsin. Clearly, the Sanders campaign got way ahead of themselves there, but what does this say about Bernie Sanders? His camp assumed all those young Sanders voters were going to turn out for Feingold. The revolution never showed up. What does it say about the "Our Revolution" movement? While there are some winning candidates that Sanders campaigned for, his support has a track record of not going so far in high-profile elections, which must be inconvenient for his brand.
Maybe it is time for Bernie Sanders to sit down. Maybe he should back off a little, and leave the whole Democrat thing to actual Democrats. I only say this because he is not a Democrat. Let us never forget that. Do you allow your neighbor to dictate how you run your home and raise your children? Of course not. Let us not forget how Sanders went back on his pledge to join the party after he lost the nomination to head the party, which brings up another point. Bernie Sanders could not even win himself. Remember that terrible and unrelatable candidate Hillary Clinton? Yeah, she beat the pants off of Bernie Sanders. She beat him by six times the margin she beat Donald Trump in the general election. The point is that in the midst of the passion and frenzied disruption that Senator Sanders poured into progressive politics, he still does not know how to win elections for himself, let alone for other people, which begs the question: why are Democrats still listening to him? Seriously, why? Because of him, a lot of people are still hung up on adhering to the whims of the "working class", dog whistles and all, which surely means, placate white working class voters at the expense of anyone who is not. If you don't buy that, just watch any Sanders town hall hosted by Chris Hayes, and look at disproportionately white representation. The use of this classification, "working class", in our political lexicon has in itself become a dog whistle. I wrote about this in a previous piece going through the exit poll data in the catastrophic aftermath of the November election.
The most glaringly likely cause of this quagmire is fear. Again, Democrats are scared. Democrats are scared to tell Bernie Sanders to take a hike because the party is mortified at what his supporters might do. The cult personality Sanders allowed to blossom gave way to a wave of conspiracy theorists, anarchists, and privilege deniers, calcifying into what we now know as the alt-left. That does not mean to say that every Bernie Sanders voter was a member of a cult, it means the ones who push Seth Rich conspiracy theories alongside Sean Hannity, are cultish. This is where Sanders blew his responsibility and chance to make a difference. He was reckless with the power he amassed. He used it to sew discord, regardless of the disastrous consequences that followed. Every sleazy thing the Russians did had a Sanders campaign echo chamber to pass it around, fermenting the vitriol for Donald Trump to pick up when the primaries ended and the general election began. Anyone who would argue he worked his heart out for the Democratic nominee and establishment candidates would be intellectually dishonest to do so. Sanders seemed OK with a lukewarm movement towards Clinton in the wake of his epic primary loss. How do we know this? He did not turn up the heat himself. It is very convenient to blame Secretary Clinton for not spending as much time in Wisconsin and Michigan, particularly when those states turned out big for Sanders in the primaries. But where was Bernie's role in all this? Why wasn't he out there barn burning on her behalf? It was almost as if he was giving the OK to the #BernieOrBust crowd to make good on their ransom. What did this result in? It was many of his supporters just not showing up in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. I blame his mercurially fickle endorsement of Clinton for this. And since November 8, it has been the "I told you so" attitude he, his surrogates, and many supporters gleamed with that has illuminated their sentiments. It was his refusal to share his donor list with the DNC. It has been his trolling of establishment candidates through endorsing primary opponents to their left. This is not coalition building, it is self-serving, childish, revenge politics.
The complete disregard for the consequences of his behavior is exactly why Democrats need to stop feeling the Bern. Sanders blew it and Dems know it. The party needs to collectively stand up to the anti-reality, alt-left. In the same way liberals were sharing all those think pieces on social media about how to deal with your Trump loving friends and family; we need to do the same with those individuals who sabotaged Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine from the left.
If Democrats want to start winning, they cannot simply rely on anti-Trumpism to carry them into office. If Democrats are serious about taking back the House in 2018, they need to let this white working class thing go. It is not just tacky and racist, it is ineffective. The Democratic Party has always stood up for the working class. If working class voters, particularly white working class voters went for Trump, it was not because the Democrats did not have a message for them. It was not "economic anxiety" either. And continuing to play make-believe will lead to more Rob Quist losses. A cowboy chicken match with Republicans is one Democrats will always lose, but that is because Republicans care more about aesthetic than policy. That does not mean cowboys do not have a place in the Democratic Party; it means that black and brown Americans, LGBTQ Americans, and women matter too.
Even if Democrats looked at potential political success through a purely amoral lens, prioritizing multicultural and diverse perspectives at the forefront of the progressive movement will lead the party to victory. This is not just conjecture. It has proven to be successful before. It worked for Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and it looked like it was going to work for Hillary Clinton, that is, until Susan Sarandon, James Comey, Trump, and the Russians completely changed the rules in the middle of the game. Focusing on building a multicultural coalition, or just adding to the Obama coalition (what a novel idea), would make life so much easier for Democrats. Ignoring the work of the previous president is not only is an insult to him, it is self-sabotage. Any attempt to rebrand the Democratic Party as a white working class party is beneath the dignity of its legacy. And while party has changed so much throughout American history, the one truth it has always stood for, from Jackson to Obama, is the power of the common man. What has guided Democrats into the light of progress is the expansion of who the "common man" is. Today, the common man may not even be a man. She could be a black mother and business owner whose family goes back to our nation's founding. The common man could be a gender non-conforming, queer person who watches NFL football games AND RuPaul's Drag Race. The common man could be the Dreamer who wants to join the military and serve the country she loves. The common man could be the suburban, middle class, white man who just wants to make enough money to send his kids to college.
Why would Democrats, particularly under the leadership of Tom Perez, allow the party to succumb to the bullying of those outside of it who wish to rebrand it as a white working class party? Perhaps this question is cynical, but what other conclusion is there to draw when the leader of this movement categorically defends Trump voters in response to racist, sexist, and homophobic behavior with, "I don't think they're racists, sexists or homophobes"? What does that even mean? The data clearly paints a completely different picture. Trump voters and Republicans have been polled for a while now. However unsettling this may be, it is important to point out that this does not mean to suggest that every single Trump voter was a bigot. It just means that voting bigots likely went for Trump. Why would Bernie Sanders spend political capital going to bat for these individuals? Does he defend black women that way? Latinx immigrants? Muslims? The disabled? I do not have a subscription to Bernie Sanders magazine, and while I believe he probably supports many of these groups in his heart, why is he seeming to salivate at the opportunity to peel off some of Trump's supporters at the expense of who makes up the Democratic Party? And why does he even think that will work? Why is he not holding those same town halls with Chris Hayes, seeking the advice of underrepresented minorities? Why is he not using his platform to talk about institutional racism and how to fight it? Why is it always about coal miners, teeth grinding at Wall St., and posturing alongside white, blue collar men? Of course, when people of color, black women, in particular, were coming through for Hillary Clinton in the primary, Senator Sanders went from his current aesthetic to deploying those Martin Luther King Jr. era photos of him marching in the 60s. But now that the primary is over, he is back to town halls with lots of white faces. He is back to bucking questions about race away and wriggling his way into reshaping them into answers about "economic anxiety". How courageous. Bernie Sanders is not trying to expand his base, he is cementing its confinement by chasing Trump voters, and that is a disasterous strategy for the Democratic Party.
Therein lies the problem. Democrats should let Trump voters be Trump voters. Let them vote for their racist, sexual assaulting, savior in peace. Democrats can try to speak to Trump's base, but not at the expense of our base. Not even a little bit. I love President Obama with all my heart, but I am sorry, we do live in two Americas. We are in the middle of a culture war, and Democrats will lose politically until they try to win morally. If the party wants to survive, it has to heed Hillary Clinton's warning and recognize the power of the alt-right and white nationalism. And Democrats have to go even further by recognizing the overlap between the alt-right and the alt-left. Democrats must believe the bigots when they reveal themselves. Donald Trump did not get the Klan vote on accident, and those are not ghost costumes either. America is dealing with hardened, racist monsters who exploit the fears and cultural anxieties of white Americans who do not necessarily ride at night. President Trump is merely a symptom of an ignored rot that has infected its way into the highest levels of government. The Democratic Party is the only viable option to fight back. Democrats have the numbers. The troops are in plenty. Democrats have a political army of black women, black men, queer people and young people, Muslims, Jews, Latinx and Asian Americans, Native Americans, and yes, white women and men who love everyone on the list because they are all beautifully American. Democrats need to listen to these voices. They need to let these folks take up space and call shots within the party. If white America knows anything about the "other", it is the other's power of creativity, resilience, and survival.
If the Democratic Party is truly the gumbo party of everybody, why not let non-whites have more control? Democrats can start this process by resisting the fetishization of the white working class, and that starts with putting some cream on the Bern until we feel it no more. This is now about the survival of our democracy. I won't even go into Russia and the Trump campaign, but the picture is clear. This is serious. I am sure some Bernie supporters might feel condescended in my suggestion that they did not take this as seriously as they should have, and I am sure many thought they did, but in the symbolic way they might have supported the disruption of the Democratic National Convention or went full-on #BernieOrBust after their candidate lost, I say to them now, too bad. If you did not support Hillary in November or continue to bash the DNC because your candidate lost, I would like you to think about all the people you threw under the bus in doing so, because there is blood on your hands. Trump is real. He is the president. We are lucky the GOP has been incompetent thus far, but should Trump survive scandal and their draconian bills start rolling into the Oval Office, life will be very different for a lot of people if it is not already. And what is most sick and cruel about Trump and the Republican Party, is that includes white working class voters as well. This is not some revenge of the establishment exercise in grandstanding, it is an acknowledgement of reality.
All I am saying is listen to the voices who have called this from the beginning. If I could compile this prescription into one, tangible recipe for success, I'd say, listen to black women. Follow their leadership, voting patterns, experiences, and concerns. The Democratic Party will be better for it. Black women have been the most loyal base of the Democratic Party. Black women led the spirit behind the Civil Rights Movement and carried Democrats to victory in election after election. That does not mean everyone else is irrelevant, it means, if we are going to be honest about how we look for leadership, let us please, please, please, give more black women the reins. Yes, there is room for everybody to make a difference, but Democrats have allowed white progressivism to call too many shots, and it is not working, clearly. If this sounds like an embracement of identity politics, that is because it is. Identity politics has existed ever since we recognized we were different from each other as children. Perhaps, embracing our diverse and complex identities is the unique kind of politics that can save America.
I am sure the Bern was a cathartically incredible experience. Believe me, Barack Obama was the first person I ever campaigned and voted for. I understand that love. But what Bernie is doing is different. He is not only hurting Democrats; he is hurting America. It's time to stop feeling the Bern; it has caused enough damage to our republic.
Step aside, Bernie Sanders, step aside.
*Photo From Queerty*