Trust and the DNC

I was in a cab headed to my friend’s birthday dinner this past spring. “I do think Bernie should have gotten out of the race sooner than he did,” one of the girls said as we were stepping out onto the street.

I do think Bernie should have gotten out of the race sooner than he did. 

She said it as if she was just being this humble, manners-abiding citizen. Like, “I do think he should have rsvp’d if he knew he was going to come to the party,” or, “I do think they should teach their kids to say ‘Mr.’ and ‘Mrs.’ you when they talk to grown-ups.” And what’s so funny is what she was really requesting was that a wildly popular candidate with an agenda that was wildly different than his opponent’s drop out of an election—the thing we like to do from time to time to prove that we’re not a monarchy—because it’s the polite thing to do for his opponent and everyone who wanted her to win.

That wasn’t the excuse, of course—for her or for the chorus of mainstream Democratic officials, commentators, and New York Times columnists echoing behind her. Their excuse was, ‘Donald Trump is such an insane threat to our country and the future of our party that if Bernie Sanders cares about America at all, he’ll ‘stop dividing us’ and let the all-but-official candidate do her thing’.

What’s interesting is that we lost. Not only did the DNC lose the election to the most reviled and unpopular candidate in American history (his unpopularity rating was 60% on the day of the election!), not only did they lose the house and the senate, but they lost 69 out of the 99 state legislatures in spite of having a demographic advantage and a candidate whose campaign spent 1 billion dollars on consultants.

Now, as we retool for 2020, the operatives who were in charge of the 2016 campaign are miraculously warning us that we’d better abandon progressive populism and get behind a moderate, corporatist candidate in order to ensure we can defeat…you guessed it…Donald Trump.

Wait…didn’t we just try that plan? Didn’t it just fail miserably?

Once again, they’re holding the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency over our heads to fearmonger us into supporting corporatist Democrats who are going to keep them in power. The difference this time around is that their own massive failure is what brought Donald Trump into power. It’s the reason we have to worry about him seeking a second term. Now, they’re saying, ‘that Donald Trump guy’s pretty awful, huh? If you really don’t like him, you’d better do what we tell you to do in 2020.’  They’re selling us a solution to a problem they created. In business, that’s called ‘racketeering’, and you kind of go to jail for it.

Here’s how it all makes perfect sense to them: in their mind, Bernie Sanders was a big reason Hillary lost the election. So if they can eliminate (sorry—I mean “bring together”) the Bernie faction of the Party and everything will be dandy again.

Real talk: I get that not everyone on here is a Berniecrat, and there are some people reading this who basically agree that Bernie is in part to blame for Hillary’s loss. Maybe you’d genuinely rather we had a pragmatic leader over an idealistic one. So, yeah, you do resent Bernie for presenting these sweeping demands that made Hillary sound “less exciting” even though her ideas were likely to work and his weren’t.

I think that’s probably a fair criticism. Seriously. I don’t necessarily agree with it, and—again—in no way was it Bernie’s responsibility to duck out of the race just because he was making Hillary Clinton look bad, but I think it’s a fair criticism for anyone who would genuinely prefer a pragmatist over an idealist as President of the United States.

So let’s say that’s you: a pragmatic Democrat who genuinely thought that Hillary was the better choice. Well would it astonish you if I told you that Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Cory Booker—among others—all expressedexplicit interest to the DNC in running for president, and the DNC told them that they wouldn’t support them under any circumstances? “It’s Hillary’s time,” they reportedly said to every other well-liked candidate before the primary: the thing where the voters presumably decide whose time it is. Hence, the only contenders who did run in the primary were some goofy guys named Webb and O’Malley, and a third candidate from Vermont who was so unknown, so out of the loop of the Party, and so…what some circles consider ‘impractical’…that he didn’t set off DNC alarm bells. The DNC deliberately went to the popular insiders that you actually stood the chance of liking and told them they’d better not run if they ever wanted to be the candidate in the future. And because they were pragmatic insiders…they listened. If you honestly believe that Bernie is to blame for the position we find ourselves in now, don’t get mad at him or his supporters—get mad at your own party for clearing out all of the highly popular candidates before we even got a chance to see them.

This argument is about so much more than getting mainstream Dems off Bernie’s back (though, yeah, that would be awesome, and it might be strategically wise of you to get behind the most popular candidate in America). But the bigger point is that the DNC has failed us no matter who we supported in the primary, no matter how ideologically aligned with them we happen to be. Our own party has pacified us. They’re in the front seat, but they’ve attached a toy steering wheel to our booster seat so we feel like we’re driving the car. They’ve decided that we can’t be trusted to—you know—do the one major thing that makes us not North Korea, it backfired in their face, and now they have the nerve to demand that we line up behind them so they can do the same thing again with a new person. It doesn’t take a team of elite political consultants to point out that clearly, crossing your fingers and praying we end up liking who you already chose is a dangerous strategy…which is exactly what we’ll be saying to the folks at ABC when viewership for the next season of The Bachelorplummets to record lows (we said we wanted Peter….maybe Dean…we’re not saying we don’t want a prematurely graying racecar driver who retired in 2010, we’re just saying, it seems like you could have shown us who else was available).

If our own party doesn’t trust us, we shouldn’t trust them, and to me it’s as simple as that.

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