Many continue to blame Ralph Nader's ego driven campaign in 2000 as the reason we ended up with the presidency of George W. Bush and all the foreign and domestic disasters that ensued. A piece in Politico - correctly in my view - posits that Bernie Sanders' ego driven refusal to suspend his campaign and focus his supporters on making sure that no Republican wins the White House in 2016. If Sanders truly cares about the reforms he claims to support, he will start working immediately to unify Democrats and convince his supporters that the worst nightmare for his causes would be a Donald Trump Presidency. Sadly, I worry that Sanders' ego may stop this needed development form happening sufficiently - or perhaps at all. Should his efforts lead to four or more years of GOP misrule, he will deserve to be scorned by history. Here are article highlights:
Bernie Sanders, for all his talk of revolution, never wanted to be Ralph Nader. He has a long history of keeping the Democratic Party at arm’s length, but he also has a long history of rejecting spoiler bids. Since 1992, he has always endorsed the Democratic presidential nominee, snubbing Nader’s four left-wing third-party campaigns. He became a Democrat to run for president instead of keeping his “(I)” and following in Nader’s footsteps. He has pledged to support Hillary Clinton if she wins the Democratic nomination and has ripped Donald Trump at every opportunity. But even if Sanders isn’t deliberately trying to replicate the electoral trauma inflicted by Nader in 2000—when he probably cost Al Gore the presidency—Bernie’s lingering presence in the Democratic primary threatens to produce a similar result in November: delegitimizing the eventual Democratic nominee in the eyes of the left and sending many critics, if not to Trump, then to the Green Party’s Jill Stein or the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson. In the first poll to assess the impact of third-party candidates, Public Policy Polling found last week that the inclusion of Stein and Johnson shaves 2 percentage points off Clinton’s lead over Trump.A couple points, a couple million voters, is no big deal to Clinton if she’s trouncing Trump. But if he makes it a race, Democrats may find their political post-traumatic stress disorder from 2000 flaring up.
And while Clinton would be the most enraged if she suffers Gore’s fate, it is not in Sanders’ interest to join Nader on the Democratic Party’s unofficial Wall of Shame. His ultimate goal is to remake the party in his progressive populist image. He can’t do that if his name is uttered by rank-and-file Democrats only when seething. That means Sanders has to strategize very carefully as he prepares to leave his mark at the convention. How can he bend the party to his will without breaking it?
Sanders faces a paradox. The potential of using his delegates to make her convention disorderly—forcing floor fights over platform language, nominating himself on the floor, withholding his endorsement—is what gives him leverage. But to unleash convention chaos risks a repeat of 1968, when efforts by Eugene McCarthy’s delegates to wrest the nomination from Hubert Humphrey and include an anti-Vietnam War plank to the platform failed on the convention floor, prompting a livid McCarthy to leave the convention without endorsing the ticket. He gave an extremely reluctant endorsement in the campaign’s final days, and his unwillingness to rally his supporters possibly tipped five states to the Republican winner Richard Nixon.
A faction of Sanders supporters continues to circulate notions that the game has been rigged, either by the rules— unelected superdelegates and primaries closed to independents—or by outright cheating, with the long lines to vote in Arizona and Bernie-friendly early exit poll data looming large in online conspiracy theories. Sanders has not done much to promulgate the conspiracies, but neither has he tried hard to shut them down.
Declaring the process to be on the level would effectively table a floor fight over the primary process rules that some Sanders allies have been hankering for, and keep the convention spotlight on what Sanders ran to accomplish in the first place: to popularize policy proposals that would break up the banks, provide free college, extend Medicare for all and eliminate corporate campaign cash.
An additional subtext of such a message would be to assure his supporters, “the Democratic Party is our home,” countering the message being sold by the third-party candidates that it is impossible for Sandernistas to advance their revolution within the confines of the Democratic Party.
If he wants his 2016 campaign to leave a lasting legacy on the Democratic Party, he’ll walk Jackson’s path at the convention, and do everything he can to prevent his supporters from walking Nader’s.