After the latest massive defeats in Florida, Illinois, Arizona, and Washington (delayed results), in addition to humiliating defeats across the South and Texas, Michigan, Massachusetts, and so forth, the myth of Bernie Sanders can be laid to rest upon the historical dump-heap that holds other failed political revolutions.
Sanders hit the national scene during the first Obama administration when he threatened to primary the first Black president. This single ill-informed act would forever cost him older Democratic Black voters – the most consistent democratic voters and those whose collective memory of Jim Crow, segregation, political racism, and voting for Barack Obama placed Sanders on the “other side.” A side he could never shake with this critical demographic.
That it took close to thirty years before Sanders rose to national prominence is attributed to his lack of significance as a senator. His record is poor, his peer support nonexistent, and the number of senatorial accomplishments peaked at naming post offices. As Hillary said: Nobody likes him or gets along with him (in the Senate).
Though he had been in the Senate for decades Sanders had almost no record of supporting causes near and dear to Black voters. And his only answer was a dubious “I attended a march with Dr. Martin Luther King” response that was seen at best as an isolated event and one also attended by tens of thousands, and at worst, as a fabricated instance that happened only in Sander’s mind.
Sanders popped up in earnest in 2015 and he and Hillary Clinton battled to succeed President Obama, with Hilary representing a continuation of Obama’s policies – though perhaps more conservative – and Sanders representing voters illogically upset with Obama’s nuance, pragmatism, and hope-filled vision of a unified America despite the racism that prevented him from achieving some goals.
Sanders cast himself as a revolutionary who could lead a movement of young voters, new voters, angry Independents, and what he calls “Working class white” voters. The so-called working class white voters are actually Republican/Trump voters and Sanders courted them and their racism with forgiving dog-whistles.
But Sanders’ dog-whistles were heard loud and clear by a wide swath of long time democratic voters – especially Black women – resulting in a full-on throttling by Hillary Clinton who dog-walked Sanders in 2016 and beat him by four million votes.
But it cannot be missed that Sanders did capture the hearts and votes of millions of young people who filled his rallies with enthusiasm, energy, and the wish of a future of free college, eliminated student debt, climate change actions, higher minimum wage, higher taxes on million and billionaires, and stronger unions.
Sanders pied-pipered his followers into believing he and he alone was fighting for those platforms when in fact the democratic party owned each of those platforms and have decades of successes fighting for and winning changes and producing results that benefited all Americans. Those hard-fought changes and advancements though were not enough to Sanders’ followers who insist that incremental wins are *actually losses and those who celebrate pragmatism are “Establishment, corporate centrists, sellouts, low information voters” and worse.
Sanders followers disdain for the party they hoped to lead was a calculated error never corrected by Sanders because he felt the same about the party he had fought against his entire political career.
Sanders led his followers to believe “Big structural” changes are easy – but only if Sanders is given the reigns to the country. He told followers and competitors that his groundswell of support would cause Republicans to fall over and do what he wanted and if they wouldn’t, he’d do it by executive action. The force of his movement, he said, would be listened and adhered to.
And his followers at his rallies gave him thunderous applause that probably tired them out because millions of them didn’t have the energy to get out and vote. They could wait in lines to see him at a rally, but a line at the voting booth was too much.
Not to be lost are the similarities between Sanders rallies and trump rallies. On the surface Sanders rallies seem more celebratory but upon closer inspection his rallies mirrored trump’s with its own racism, misogyny, and displays of hate.
And like trump, Sanders followers ridiculed Civil Rights marchers, they laughed at Congressional Black Caucus members, and they threatened to primary Black Democratic representatives who who refused to swear fealty to Sanders or “bend the knee,” as his followers repeatedly said to Black women and men, ignoring the racism inherent in such language used by white people toward Black people.
The myth of Bernie Sanders is like most myths in that there are lessons to be learned if one cares to learn. What can we learned from studying Sanders over the past five plus years?
- Popular may gain followers but doesn’t guarantee votes or sales of your essential oils on Instagram
- Promising the moon is romantic; getting to the moon requires work
- Disregarding and insulting Black voters is political death in the Dem party
- Touting your civil rights bonafides with a fifty year-old picture is weak; counting on 2020’s Jesse Jackson endorsement falls well short of the endorsement power of 1988’s Jesse Jackson.
- Hating the party you wish to lead is a bad political strategy
- *Bonus: Misogyny, racism, Russian flirtation, encouraging third-party voting, toxic surrogates, emotional anger, and that damn finger wagging didn’t help, either.
Sanders will now be asked to do what all other party losers have been asked: support the nominee, campaign for him, rally his followers to join in, and accept the will of the millions of voters who have now twice in a row soundly rejected him, his platform, and his candidacy.
Myths die hard though, and despite a heart-attack, failing health, and another failed campaign, Sanders remains defiant and quiet, having canceled post voting press conferences last night.
He knows the end of his chance to be president is here. He will never be president. And let’s all hope he doesn’t take up writing essays again.
What he can do is campaign for and lend his support to Joe Biden’s campaign. Sanders was reluctant to support Hillary and a not insignificant percentage of his followers voted third party or for trump and thus played a role in handing the country over to a racist misogynistic buffoon all because their guy lost and they had their own misogynistic opinions about her.
What Sanders can do is fall in line and help Democrats take back the presidency and flip the Senate. Having lost judges for a generation, and now being faced with a failing economy, global pandemic, soon to be record unemployment, and possibly tens of thousands of pandemic-related deaths, Sanders and his followers are now charged with joining democrats to repair our national damage.
Myths do indeed die out and the myth of Bernie Sanders has breathed its last breath.
Copyright 2020 by Myron J. Clifton. All Rights Reserved.