I don’t remember ever actually hearing about Bernie Sanders, growing up as a political addict. It might have been sometime after his election in the 1990s, one of those things you kind of learn by osmosis. I do distinctly remember reading something about him while in the reading room at Irwin Library at Butler University, where I spent many hours flipping through issues of The Nation, The Atlantic, and obscure regional journals, instead of, you know, talking to girls. That memory is just one being surprised that none of the small handful of politically active liberals/socialists on campus ever seemed to talk about him, myself included.
Not remembering when you first heard of someone, when that is lost in the fog of decay, makes you feel like you’ve always known someone. It was giddy elation when he won a Senate seat in 2006, part and parcel of that wonderful election night. I was proud to vote for him in the Illinois primary, and think he could possibly beat either Trump or Cruz. Maybe even handily.
That said…Bernie, please don’t give a long speech in which you say that Hillary Clinton isn’t qualified to be President. I know it seems like she said it first, or at least didn’t proclaim that you were qualified. I know running against her can be maddening, given the air of expectation and coronation around the campaign, and the condescending way she seems to be tired of this whole election thing.
This isn’t how you win, either the nomination (which is a long shot) or win your cause. Nerves fray during long campaigns, and no one can be expected to be genial the whole time. But the Sanders campaign has achieved what it has because it gave us another vision of politics. This alternate vision isn’t like the circus-act fascism of the Trump campaign, where politics is an extension of a mutated personality, but a truly inclusive form of democracy. It’s been inspiring, and thrilling to see a simple message- the game is rigged- get such traction.
That’s been a message that even a compromised candidate like Clinton hasn’t been able to ignore. And while it is hard to say shrug off her attacks, it is a far more effective strategy to just keep relentlessly plowing ahead with the message. When it becomes a political tit-for-tat, the message gets lost. The campaign becomes breathless political fodder, filler material for hacks like Halperin and Heileman. The message gets lost. The politics you are helping bring back get lost in the noise of our idiot machine.
The other problem is that, not only is it cutting ads for the GOP, saying such things encourages the #neverhillary rump of your movement, and makes it harder for progressives to campaign for her in the fall. Going against any Republican is vital; Trump or Cruz makes it impossibly so.
The flip side of this is to write an unread letter to Hillary asking her to knock it off. But that’s not the dynamic. She is a politician’s politician who is getting pulled to the left by an irresistible force. That’s the way this year has been played, and has to be continued to be played. I think she’ll be a very fine and competent post-heroic President, and any questions about her toughness are absurd. She’s been the most reviled woman in America for a quarter-century, the victim of endless vulgar attacks, and is close to winning the nomination. She’s plenty tough. She’ll be fine.
But she’s a politician. The point is to bring her closer to the truly revolutionary movement the Sanders campaign has unleashed. Moving closer to her just makes the whole thing unsuccessful.