Bernie fails leadership test

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Bernie Sanders is facing a critical test of his leadership, and, so far, he’s failing. When some of his supporters threw chairs at a mid-May convention of the Nevada State Democratic Party and threatened the life of Roberta Lange, the state party chairwoman, Sanders’ response was to paint the Democratic establishment — the leaders of the party with which he has had a marriage of convenience for decades — as corrupt.
He sounded more petulant than apologetic, more angry at his Democratic rival than alarmed at the actions of his supporters. That’s troubling.
There is an old axiom, frequently quoted to younger folk facing difficulty, that says you are more accurately judged by your response to adversity than your response to advantage. There’s much truth in that — and Sanders, who is no longer young, should know it.
He is losing. He has run a lively, imaginative and uplifting campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination and has attracted millions of supporters. He has influenced Hillary Clinton, the likely nominee, pushing her to the left on some critical issues, including trade.
But, as often is the case in life, that hasn’t been enough. It’s nearly impossible for him to win. He simply cannot get enough votes in the remaining primaries.
His response? He has accused Democrats of “rigging the system” against him and implicitly threatened to withhold his support from Clinton if he doesn’t win. He has made noises about a contested convention and suggested that he doesn’t care whether his tactics aid the presumptive GOP nominee, Donald Trump.
In so doing, he simply makes the case for Clinton, who clearly is better suited, not only by experience but also by temperament, for a demanding job where you don’t always get your way. She has been just where Sanders is now: remember 2008? She didn’t threaten to turn the nominating convention upside down or insist that she’d been cheated.
Clinton ran an energetic contest against a young senator named Barack Obama — a contest that was sometimes rancorous and racially tinged. There were suggestions of a breach that would never be repaired, of a rivalry that was all-consuming, of a Democratic Party that would be riven for decades to come. But Clinton never suggested to her supporters that they stage a revolt.
And after she lost, she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, campaigned tirelessly for Obama. She later became his loyal and dedicated Secretary of State.
(Obama, for his part, exhibited the equanimity for which he has become well known throughout the testy 2008 primary season. Though he started far behind Clinton in support from super-delegates, he persuaded many of them to change their allegiance to him without resorting to hints of blackmail. Can you imagine, by the way, what would have happened had the supporters of a black candidate thrown chairs and issued death threats?)
Sanders’ tactics, by contrast, are not only shortsighted and immature, but they are also dangerous, fueling the cynicism and suspicion that are already eating away at the civic fabric. He is leading his voters to believe that he is being cheated out of the nomination, but that is simply not true.
The party rules that hand over outsized power to unelected super-delegates, most of whom are Clinton supporters, are not democratic (small “d”), but those rules have been in place for decades. Sanders never complained about them before.
Of course, Sanders hasn’t been a Democrat before, either. He has spent most of his career as an independent, a self-described socialist. While he usually votes with Democrats in the U.S. Senate, he has often snubbed them publicly, suggesting his colleagues were too wedded to a corrupt system. That is not the sort of history likely to persuade those same colleagues — many of whom are super-delegates — to support him for the nomination.
Sanders should reconsider his strategy. He could stay in the race until June (as Clinton did in 2008) and still gracefully concede and back her candidacy. He would return to the Senate in a position of power and prestige.
But if he continues his current course, his legacy might be to elect Trump as president. Is that terrifying prospect what Sanders wants?

Comments

  1. Margaret Grace says:

    Thank you for your incisive, eloquent essay regarding Bernie Sanders. The word petulant rings so true to me. Having taught high school English for nearly 40 years, I am very sensitive to tone, and there has always been something about his tone that sometimes borders on adolescent snarkyness. The point is that the party needs to unify in order to defeat Trump, and Sanders should encourage his supporters to support Clinton if she is the nominee. The bigger picture is getting lost.

  2. Mary Ann Mahoney says:

    I love your article on Bernie Sanders, Cynthia! What you wrote is exactly what I’m thinking. If Bernie Sanders continues to cast aspersions at Hillary Clinton and The Democratic Party, he will be responsible for a possible win by Trump. Let’s go with the true Democrat and not the Socialist, who has the experience and brains to run the presidency, Hillary Clinton.

  3. jeffrey wagner says:

    Ms. Tucker, I’ve read your article ” Bernie fails leadership test” three times. I guess what bothers me is why a professional, Pulitzer Award winning journalist would resort to lying and throwing out the race card for a total waste of newsprint.
    Race card you ask? That one sentence about “had it been a black candidate’s people throwing chairs and making death threats”. Where does that even come from? there is ABSOLUTLY no proof of any chair throwing or death threats from Sanders camp or any other. NONE! This sensational diversion was made up by another main stream media shill who had already left the arena and was pumped with steroids by Fox (faux) news. Surely you have at least the same resources available as I to vet this garbage. I was always under the impression that news journalist were unbiased. Or is the news you report the news your report
    what your paycheck signer says is news. That is how it appears to probably not just me. the newspaper business is falling through the toilet in case you haven’t noticed. Great newspeople have always tried for that “big story”. You have ALL missed the “big story” this year which IS Bernie Sanders. It is so sad that instead of reporting and airing the important issues concerning us, our children and grandchildren and planet we get a $5mil. a year HACK like Wolf B showing us another Donny and Hilliar rerun.
    On a side note there were a few tributes to Morley Safer (real news guy) RIP. There is still time to do the right thing. Unless tributes are bad Thank you, j.wagner

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