MEMBERS ONLY: Bernie Sanders: A Post-Mortem

by Chez Pazienza

So, that’s it. It’s over. The last presidential primary has come and gone, with Hillary Clinton once again winning by a landslide in an area with a large minority population. This time it was Washington, DC, which had 20 delegates up for grabs. She completely overwhelmed Bernie Sanders and therefore takes home 16 delegates to Sanders’s four. She now has 2,219 total, including 581 superdelegates, who’ve pledged themselves to Clinton and will officially vote at the Democratic National Convention in Philly in July. As for Sanders, he has 1,832 delegates, including 49 superdelegates. By any measure, Sanders got beat like a dusty rug. Sure, to listen to him talk you’d never know it, given that he still hasn’t officially conceded and he spent a good portion of yesterday railing about all the changes he’s demanding the Democratic party make — again, the party he only joined a year ago and whose nomination he lost. He reportedly had a positive meeting with Clinton yesterday, with each agreeing to fight the giant shit taken the morning after eating ten rotting tangerines, Donald Trump. 

It’s no surprise that Sanders’s most rabid disciples haven’t vanished into thin air just because their guy has lost. They promised not to take no for an answer and they’re still aiming to keep that promise, vowing to show up at the DNC and cause all kinds of trouble. But let’s face it: nobody gives a shit about them anymore. America has big problems, the biggest being Trump and the morally bankrupt party sanctioning his bid for the White House, and we simply don’t have time indulge a thousand screaming Veruca Salts pissed off because they can’t get their guy elected now, daddy. But while I genuinely don’t want to ever have to write about Bernie Sanders ever again, if for no other reason than the fact that it’s futile to look backward when there’s such an important fight in front of us, there’s no denying this was a hard-fought primary and so maybe it deserves to be taken stock of now that we’re at the end. I’ve written about Sanders so many times this primary season and even though I won’t take some kind of garish victory lap because I was right in what I said from the very beginning — that Sanders would never win the nomination or the presidency — I want to provide some personal perspective on what this fight has meant for those who’ve fought it.

I’ve lost a hell of a lot of friends. And don’t think it hasn’t bothered me. I started out this primary saying time and time again that I believed Bernie Sanders to be a decent and honest man and that I respected his ideas, even if I didn’t agree with all of them. I thought he was a noble warrior for his political viewpoint and he deserved to be taken seriously because he would do a lot of good whether he succeeded electorally or not. At some point, I may return to that viewpoint, because there’s no doubt that as time went by in this race, as Sanders allowed his acolytes to threaten their enemies and rampage over anything and anyone not sufficiently Bern-feeling — and as Sanders himself became an intransigent, cranky old ideologue — I lost a hell of a lot of respect for him. As my writing reflected that — hell, even before my writing reflected that — friends of mine, both Facebook and “IRL,” began abandoning me. I say that not to make this about me, but because I know I’m not the only one who experienced this. I know so many people who had friendships and even family relationships ripped apart over something as silly as a political disagreement this cycle. 

Some people I genuinely liked and respected, people I’d laughed with and hung out with and had drinks with, turned into fierce adversaries, pitted in a seemingly endless battle with me over “Bernie,” who to them was apparently more like a friend than I was. Was I at times strident in my responses to their arguments? Probably. I write for a living and can’t claim that I don’t sometimes defend myself ferociously, but I hope that for the most part I tried to be respectful of the friendships of anyone I argued with who did happen to be a friend. Still, some people made it a point to break off their relationships with me, while others simply vanished — either quietly unfriending me on Facebook or simply not bothering to return my calls or texts. I feel like an idiot saying that it hurts to seek out a friend on Facebook only to find that that person has dropped you at some point, but it does hurt. It sometimes hurts a lot. More than a couple of the friends who did that didn’t even argue with me either — they just, apparently, tired of my constant criticism of Bernie Sanders and his campaign. 

The thought of losing people you truly care about over something as petty as a squabble over politics is kind of heartbreaking. Now that it’s over, I’m left wondering whether I should try to reconnect with them, make it a point to say, “Hey, given that the whole election thing is behind us, can we maybe be friends again?” Who knows whether they’ll resent me just because “my candidate” emerged the victor. The thing about writing passionate and sometimes bitchy opinion pieces, though, is that you learn that people who like watching you piss off others will always, someday, be pissed off themselves at something you’ve written. If you don’t mind offending and you don’t hold back, you just know that eventually you’ll have offended everyone at one time or another. It’s an occupational hazard. But it’s somehow easier to know that someone has taken a joke too personally and given you the brush off — because if somebody can’t understand that a joke’s just a joke, maybe you’re better off without them — than it is knowing that a stupid argument over politics has ended things.

I’m still getting the daily round of attacks on Twitter from angry Sanders fans, but admittedly they’ve tapered off — and they’re much easier to dismiss with a simple, “It’s over. He lost.” All but the most thoroughly delusional still think Sanders stands a chance of somehow pulling it out. Speaking of which, I got into an amusing little Twitter back-and-forth with H.A. Goodman the other day, in which I trolled him by offering him a hundred bucks to back up his constant claims that “indictments are coming” against Hillary Clinton. He wouldn’t take the bet, even when others joined in and the pot grew to $1,200. My argument was that it wasn’t gambling since Goodman was absolutely sure, thanks to his many sources, that Clinton’s goose was cooked, but of course he kept dodging any attempt to get him to go for it. Because, of course, he’s an idiot who doesn’t actually have any sources and he’s been consistently wrong about everything since the very beginning. Still, I can’t help but wonder what the end of the race will mean for him. It’s tough to parlay “I’m the delusional Bernie Sanders fan whose predictions were literally never right” into a post-primary season job in journalism. I fear this is his last hurrah. (Sad face.)

Looking forward, there’s little doubt about what Bernie Sanders’s improbable Cinderella campaign will ultimately mean for Republicans. Put simply, they’re fucked. Sanders has certainly proven that the ascending generation is more liberal than almost any generation before it — and we’re talking about a huge number of people. Liberalism, in one form or another, is the future. And conservatives know it. All their anger, all their lashing out, all their violence, it’s nothing more than the final rattles of a dying way of thinking. Sure, there’s always the possibility that, like their Boomer predecessors, these kids will be absorbed into the system, but the fact is that — for better or worse — they’re changing the system. And even if they buy into hardcore capitalism at some point, socially they’re going to remain to the left. Bigotry and racism and homophobia and misogyny — basically everything the modern conservative movement has stood for and fomented — are going to become things of the past, because there’s a new generation out there that’s taking over that simply doesn’t accept that kind of shit. A tendency toward politically correct overcompensation on college campuses aside, this is almost certainly a good thing. 

Trump exists precisely because Sanders’s movement — and Clinton’s movement for that matter — exists. Trump is the conservative monolith come to crush the multicultural, tolerant, “politically correct” uprising that’s taken over the country — the wave of change that elected a black man like Barack Obama, that backed a democratic socialist like Bernie Sanders, and that threatens to elect a woman like Hillary Clinton. They want their country back. They want it made “great” again (which means they want it made white, straight, Christian, and under the control of men again). The people Sanders rallied — many of whom were ironically white, straight and male — are in their eyes the encroaching enemy, the future of America they desperately don’t want to see ever arrive. Still, whether it’s Millennials behind Sanders or Clinton, that future is actually already here. It is multicultural, and tolerant, and, once it mellows out a bit and isn’t so painfully humorless, probably much better. Hopefully that’s the legacy of Sanders’s campaign. Hopefully that’s the legacy of this entire protracted, sometimes bitter fight between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton: a powerful Democratic party and center-left alliance that will bring authoritative incremental change — change that itself represents a revolution. 

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