Umm does anyone remember that @BernieSanders called @HillaryClinton corrupt, unqualified, an illegitimate winner of the primary and then let his supporters try to ruin her nominating convention? Cause I do.
Still, all of that is fine. Things are heated in a primary. It happens. It certainly happened in 2016 in the Republican primary as well. Primaries are the time to hash this intraparty stuff out. However, asked whether she would support Bernie Sanders if he got the nomination, Clinton responded, “I'm not going to go there yet.” That is unacceptable.
No matter what you think about the candidates, once the party base speaks, we all come together. I am clearly and unapologetically an Elizabeth Warren supporter, but I will enthusiastically work hard for whoever our nominee is. Even if it’s Joe Biden, which would be the hardest pill for me to swallow. But if the alternative is Donald Trump? It’s no contest. There are kids in cages. That trumps everything else.
But maybe Clinton is being clever here.
Fact: Bernie Sanders isn’t a Democrat. Fact: He never enthusiastically embraced Clinton after she won the nomination in 2016. His grumpy face during Clinton’s nomination moment at the Democratic convention that year was unmistakable in its disdain—disdain that his delegates fed off as they repeatedly disrupted the convention. Fact: It is Bernie supporters who propagate hashtags like #NeverWarren and litter her Twitter mentions with emojis of snakes. Fact: 10% of Bernie Sanders supporters in 2016 voted for Trump—the literal opposite of what Sanders stands for—and why? The idea of party unity was utterly incomprehensible to them.
Yet if he gets the nomination, there’s no way Sanders wins without a unified party. Just as he and his supporters kneecapped Clinton in 2016, turnabout would have just as disastrous an outcome if he was on the receiving end. That should be so **bleep**ing obvious, it’s unbelievable that we even have to discuss it.
Bernie Sanders was wrong in not unambiguously embracing Hillary Clinton in 2016 (as she did embrace Barack Obama at the 2008 convention); it is wrong for Clinton to do the same to Sanders in 2020. If there’s one place where two wrongs don’t make a right, it’s here, on the subject of defeating Trump.
The only way that Clinton’s take can be deemed to be clever and helpful is if it forces Sanders and his supporters to suddenly embrace the benefits of party unity. It is wrong for them to take a “Bernie or Bust” trajectory. But it is also wrong for any other Democrat to undercut a nominated Sanders. Makes sense?
No matter who our nominee is, we come together for the good of our country and the entire world. Nothing else is acceptable. Too much is at stake.
In that vein, Sanders’ response was a missed opportunity:
On the plus side, he didn’t fuel the fire. Smart, in its own way. He gains nothing in engaging in a **bleep**-for-tat feud with Clinton. It doesn’t win him new supporters, and it threatens to further alienate other Democrats that he needs to win, both in the primary and in the general election.
On the negative side, it’s a missed opportunity to lay the groundwork for party unity. Maybe Sanders has no interest in it. It clearly isn’t part of his core identity. He has no allegiance to the Democratic Party, beyond using it as a vehicle when convenient.
But we aren’t going to win divided. It’s a 50-50 nation. Seven states will decide this thing (Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin), and they’re all balanced on a razor’s edge. Anything less than 100% participation by liberals and allies means another four years of Trump.
Sanders should argue that we must come together for him if he’s the nominee, just as we should all come together if Warren or, god help us, Biden is the nominee. We don't have any other choice.