A New Republic article by Jeet Heer nicely captures my thinking about the Bernie Sanders phenomenon while at the same time reflecting the concerns that I and some commenters have been expressing in my last couple of posts.   The title sums up Heer’s thesis: “Bernie Can Still Be The Future Of The Democratic Party—If He Plays His Cards Right.” Heer doesn’t mean Sanders personally can still be the future of the party (Sanders is 74, after all) but that Sanders can decisively help shape the party’s future course.

Observing the long odds against Sanders winning the nomination, Heer poses the choice for Sanders, who:

…has to decide when he will make the pivot from an aggressive outsider who’s trying to take down the frontrunner to a loyal party member who will support the winner.

If Sanders stays negative as his chances of winning dwindle, he’ll burn bridges and be shut out of the party. By further damaging Clinton ahead of the general election, he runs the risk of being seen as a Ralph Nader–like spoiler.”

But if Sanders avoids this temptation, he has a good chance of building on what he has accomplished with his candidacy:

He has proven there is a large space to the left of Clinton in the Democratic Party….The Sanders campaign should be seen not as a failed gambit but as a road map to the future of the Democratic Party. If a candidate can combine Sanders’s economic populism with the ability to articulate that message in the South, then the future will belong [to] Sanders, and Clinton’s triumph will be seen as the last gasp of the centrism that dominated the party in the long aftermath of Reaganism.”

I hope Heer is right. Real change in the Democratic Party will require continued mobilization of the forces, especially youth, that have powered Sanders’ candidacy.   I ‘m less confident than Heer.   It’s just too easy to see the excitement of the presidential campaign dissipate after November 2016. That’s why I’ll be glad to see Sanders keep going for another while, but with a view that extends well beyond the Democrats’ July convention.


A note on usage 

Grammatical purists may have noted that I render the possessive form of Bernie’s last name as Sanders’ rather than the perhaps more technically accurate Sanders’s. I generally try to write the way I talk, and my mouth rebels against saying Sanderziz. So, it’s Sanderz and Sanders’.





  1. Nick Adamo April 23, 2016 at 5:42 pm

    Unfortunately I don’t see Sanders playing his cards right on this. When I see Jonathan Tasini say on CNN that they will never stop asking for Transcripts, and Nomiki Konst saying that Hillary cant be trusted because she takes money from wall street, it starts to become obvious that Sanders will never accept defeat.

    Sanders just personally came out and said he would have to review Hillary’s platform if she wins nomination in order to see if he would endorse/ campaign for her. He wants her to adopt some of his platform in exchange for his support calling it “a two way street”. I know he has leverage but usually the loser doesn’t make bold demands of the winner in regards to policy. He is really overplaying his hand here and I don’t expect that to change.

    Even after he gets crushed on Tuesday I think he will just keep pointing to California and his delusional plan of stealing away Superdelegates from Hillary. We are going to need the President to do some heavy lifting after the convention and hope that Republicans continue down their own self destructive path.

    • tonygreco April 23, 2016 at 8:20 pm

      I admit it’s not encouraging so far, but I remain hopeful. Sometimes it takes people a while to face reality, but at some point it hits.

  2. Jeffrey Herrmann April 24, 2016 at 10:24 am

    Is it really Sanders’ position that Hillary must adopt some of his leftish positions in her platform or he won’t endorse her because it’s better to have a President Trump than an insufficiently leftish candidate Hillary?
    If he is prepared to take that stance, knowing what it’s consequence might be, then I have nothing but contempt for him.

    • tonygreco April 25, 2016 at 1:07 pm

      I don’t know all of Sanders’ exact recent words, but I would put a significant amount of money on a bet at long odds that Bernie will endorse Hillary. The only real question is how hard he’ll work for her and for other Democrats. PS–From The Wall St Journal: ‘Asked on ABC’s “This Week” whether he would become an enthusiastic supporter of Mrs. Clinton if she wins the nomination, Sen. Sanders said: “You know, I can’t snap my finger and tell people what to do. But what I will do is do everything that I can to make sure that somebody like a Donald Trump, or some other right-wing Republican, does not become president of the United States.”’ Sanders then went on to discuss what Clinton needed to do to win over his supporters, including platform concessions.

      • Nick Adamo April 26, 2016 at 8:23 am

        It’s that last part at the end that is troubling.

        “Sanders then went on to discuss what Clinton needed to do to win over his supporters, including platform concessions.”

        Since when does the winning side make platform concessions for the losing side?? There were two platforms to choose from, the majority of the democratic party (particularly the democrats from the all important swing states where Hillary dominated) decided that they liked one better. Why should it be changed after the party has spoken ?

        I understand the importance of keeping Sanders people in the fold for November, but I think the numbers are saying that 70 % of them are already willing to support the nominee. The other 30 % are the #Never-Hillary group. Should Hillary change her platform for these very liberal hardliners, who tend to reside in strong blue states more than battleground states anyway ??

        Especially considering that she would be doing it with a risk of losing some moderate support.

        I also think that the minority of Sanders supporters that are at risk of being holdouts can be swayed with other tactics like using President Obama on the stump and constantly reminding them what a president Trump/Cruz would look like.

  3. Mel Brender May 6, 2016 at 3:08 pm

    As to the grammatical issue, apparently even the purists disagree: many but not all of them endorse your usage of “Sanders’ candidacy”. Sounds good to me too.

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