It is painful for me to acknowledge that the Democratic presidential nominating contest is getting out of hand, and that the weight of responsibility for that unhappy development rests with my candidate, Bernie Sanders. I wouldn’t begin to try to assess the two sides’ respective rights and wrongs in what happened in the Nevada nominating process, but nothing can justify the appalling spectacle of progressive stalwart Sen. Barbara Boxer being booed by fellow Democrats, apparently just because she doesn’t support their candidate. And, while he issued a statement condemning violence (after all, who doesn’t?) Sanders hasn’t done nearly enough to cool his supporters off. On the contrary, his rhetoric in the last couple of days suggests a desire to sharpen the fight for the nomination. That doesn’t make sense. It could be dangerously counterproductive.
Sanders has every reason to be thrilled with the level of success he has achieved in this campaign. A year ago, no one believed that he could so seriously challenge Hillary Clinton’s hold on the presidential nomination. He has nudged Hillary to the left and demonstrated that his aggressive progressive populism represents a powerful force within the Democratic Party. But it is not yet a majority force, which is why he is not going to win the nomination. Which is why it is past time for Sanders to change course. (I know I’ve said this before, but in light of recent developments, it bears repeating, with emphasis.) Yes, it is fine for him to continue to fight for his cause through the convention, and to try to amass delegates who will support him in that fight. But, he must know that the fight is not for the nomination; it is for the future of the Democratic Party. That future will be dim without a victory in November, and that objective has to be foremost. That will eventually require Sanders to call upon his supporters to come together behind Clinton. It will get harder to do that without some prior cooling of tempers, which needs to start before the convention. It really needs to start now, and it’s mainly up to Bernie.