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Current Affairs

A Magazine of Politics and Culture

Can We Get Real Now, Please?

Look, Bernie is going to win this primary. Continuing to fight only helps Trump.

Bernie Sanders won the Nevada caucuses in a landslide. As of last night, he had 46.6% of the vote, more than twice as much as his closest competitor, Joe Biden, who received 22.8%. Bernie has now gotten the most votes in all of the first three states. He leads the polls in almost all of the rest of the states. His favorability is the highest of any Democrat. Sanders won with all kinds of people; he even won with the Culinary Union members whose leaders had accused him of trying to take their healthcare away. 

Whichever candidate you support, the time has come to ask a serious question: how exactly is any candidate other than Bernie going to get the nomination at this point? He’s beating them all in fundraising. He’s got a better organizing operation. Go through the candidates one by one. Joe Biden? His campaign has completely collapsed, he couldn’t even come close to winning any of the first three states and it has become clear to everyone—even his campaign surrogates—that he is not up to the job of taking on Trump. So Biden’s out. Elizabeth Warren? As of right now, she has about 8% of the vote in Nevada; Sanders has 5x as much. The latest poll has her losing her home state to Sanders. Warren’s campaign is going broke and having to borrow money. How is she ever going to overtake Sanders at this point? She has done poorly in every contest. In Nevada, we saw that she could not reach voters of color the way Sanders could, and her campaign simply did not take off the way it needed to.

Pete Buttigieg? Young people and people of color will never warm to him, and progressive leftists despise him. Even if he somehow got the nomination, how would he ever beat Donald Trump without the support of the party’s base? Amy Klobuchar? In Nevada, she was celebrating the fact that her sixth-place finish “exceeded expectations.” (How low must those expectations have been?!) What about Michael Bloomberg? As I’ve noted, even if he could buy his way to the Democratic nomination, his long record of racism, sexism, transphobia, elitism, and openly plutocratic politics would make it tough to convince people who actually hold progressive values to show up for him. But after his dismal pre-Nevada debate performance—which cause his favorability to drop 20 points overnight—it should be clear to all that Bloomberg is not a skilled politician and cannot unite the party. 

And that’s it. That’s the field. Be honest: the nominee has got to be Bernie. After Nevada, it’s time to get real. This primary has dragged on for about the past two years. Bernie raised the most money, built the best organization, and is the most popular. If there is another viable candidate, I’d like to hear the argument. But it’s very clear to any honest person that there isn’t.

So now what? Well, the good news is, Bernie is a strong candidate to take on Trump. As this magazine has written about fifty bajillion times, Bernie Sanders is capable of neutralizing Trump’s populist, anti-establishment message. He’s got a phenomenal base of committed organizers, a powerful message and a vision, and people respect his authenticity. He can even peel away people like Joe Rogan who might seem more naturally inclined to vote for Trump. 

But what we need to do as quickly as possible is pivot to fighting Trump. Donald Trump is a strong president. Do not underestimate him. He is running on a good economy, he has a well-crafted message, and he’s very well-funded. We are going to need everything we have in order to defeat him. Everyone will need to sign up. “Unity” has to really mean unity. Everyone who says they oppose Trump needs to get on board with Bernie as soon as possible. Every moment they are not getting on board with Bernie, they are strengthening Trump.

I am serious. We can’t fuck around here. Do you know the kind of horrors Trump inflicts on migrants? Do you know the threat he poses to the health of this planet and the people who live on it? Of course you do. So look: we’ve got to do what it takes to defeat him. And since there are no plausible Democratic nominees other than Bernie Sanders, it means that starting now, everyone who understands the threat of a second Trump term needs to be figuring out how to help Bernie defeat Trump. 

It can be done. Spare us this crap about his “radicalism.” Bernie’s signature proposals, let us remember, are: 

  • A national health insurance program, of the kind that already exists around the world (and that is far less radical than the perfectly reasonable nationalized hospital system of Great Britain)
  • Free tuition at all public schools, with colleges adopting the same model that already exists at elementary, middle, and high schools
  • A national plan to tackle climate change, of the kind every serious climate analyst admits needs to happen
  • A living wage, meaning making sure people are paid enough to be able to pay their rent
  • A fairer system for allowing people to move to this country and work here, one that doesn’t end up brutally deporting those who have already invested endless hours of labor and paid their taxes

These are the big, ambitious things! The things that will be watered down before being passed! Anyone who says this is too radical to run on is out of their minds. How unambitious do you have to be? How pathetically uncommitted to ensuring a universal basic standard of living? You really think this stuff is so zany as to be electoral poison? In fact, it all polls well, when you actually frame the polling questions accurately instead of scaring people by describing a plan to boost their insurance as a plan to “take away their insurance.”

As I say, though, like it or not, there is no alternative right now. In November, Trump will either be reelected or he will be ousted, and if you want to see him ousted, then even if you think “a living wage” is an insane radical socialistic notion, it’s what the Democratic candidate is running on. So set aside your opinion of it. Nobody in the Democratic party should be spending a single breath attacking Medicare For All, because we need to beat Trump, and if you attack the party nominee’s signature proposal during a critical election, you might as well be working for Trump’s communications team. The time to discuss your objections, or to propose your alternative “Medicare For All Who Can Figure Out How To Navigate Our Complicated Dysfunctional Online Portal” program, is during the legislative fight, which will happen once Bernie Sanders is elected president. At that point, you can work on stalling his agenda for improving people’s lives, and then when you succeed, you can crow about how he was too ambitious and failed to accept Political Reality (the political reality that you worked day and night to maintain). It will be a glorious triumph for you as you watch the $15 minimum wage bill crash and burn, and millions of families continue to struggle to stave off eviction in the name of Market Efficiency. 

But all of that is for later. For now, we have a goal, and that goal is to expel Donald Trump from the White House. If we agree on that goal, then now that Bernie Sanders has won the Democratic primary, the only route to way to meet the goal is to go all in for Bernie. The clock is ticking. Trump’s approval rating is rising and rising as Democrats squabble. There is an argument to be made that a failure to immediately join Sanders will create direct moral responsibility for the human consequences of a second Trump term, should he be narrowly reelected. Do not be the person who sees Trump squeak through, and then wishes you had perhaps spent a little less time tearing down Sanders, or come around to him a little earlier. 

As Killer Mike says, the time is now. We must end the Trump presidency. We can do it this year. We can be rid of him forever. But we need to end the Democratic primary as soon as possible. We need to raise money, build the organization, spread the message, persuade people of the agenda. Delay helps Trump. We can kick his ass in November. But please: no more cable news nonsense about how “Putin won Nevada.” No more lies about how Medicare For All will leave people uninsured. No more ludicrous suggestions that Bernie Sanders is supported by “shadow groups.” Bernie is a moderate, his agenda is perfectly reasonable, and the panic about him from Democratic and media elites has not only been massively over-the-top, but has significantly aided Trump. Anyone suggesting Bernie is some kind of existential threat to the country, rather than a social democrat pushing for the basic package of reforms that almost every European country takes for granted, is behaving irresponsibly. The question for them is: do you or do you not appreciate the threat that Donald Trump poses? Because there is only one obvious way to stop that threat. Either Bernie will beat Trump, or he won’t, and if he won’t, it will not be because he was too radical, but because a bunch of people who should have been on his team spent their time telling the public that he was too radical. 

In every generation, there are those who push for necessary social change, and those who spend their time distorting what the activists’ goals are, or telling the activists the change is impossible and they will fail. Look back at history. See which of those groups you would have wished to be in. And then make sure that when the history books are written about our own time, you will be proud of the side you took, and the consequences you had. We have got to kick out this horrible president. Let us get down to business. 

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