This article was originally published on HuffingtonPost.com.
Last Sunday, I drove back to my old ‘hood in the Flatbush/Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn to show my son where I was born. It is the same neighborhood where Bernie Sanders and my mother were born and raised and attended James Madison High – which boasts quite a legendary roster of graduates, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Spielberg, Chuck Schumer, and noted Nobel laureates, too many to mention.
The neighborhood surrounding James Madison has always been deep blue Democratic. My mother was a precinct worker, poll watcher, and canvassed for Democrats up and down the ballot throughout World War II into the ’50s and early ’60’s. She paid her dues as a proud Democrat.
I had my first taste of Democratic electioneering in 1960 handing out leaflets urging Brooklynites to vote for Jack Kennedy. I kept that Democratic tradition alive in my family, serving as a Democratic precinct chair, and elected to Central Committee of my local county Maryland Democratic Party. It was an article of faith that FDR saved the world, and that Harry Truman kept Europe from starving. Robert Kennedy was my ideological hero, as was his brother Ted. No better president than Bill Clinton, in my books.
I am a proud Democrat. I wish Bernie Sanders was. But Sanders chose a different path. To paraphrase Groucho Marx: Sanders refused to become a member of a party that would have him as a member. Unlike my mother who toiled proudly for the Democratic Party from the time Sanders entered James Madison in 1955, Sanders shunned it – and as a result he paid no dues as a member. In fact, from the time he settled in Vermont, Sanders never ran for office as a Democrat, never supported a Democratic ticket, and never raised money for the local Democratic Party. And in virtually every electoral race Sanders competed in, he ran against the Democratic Party nominee – often causing the Democrat to be defeated as a result.
Because Sanders is an unabashed socialist and not a true blue Democrat, he is a guest in my Party–which accorded him the privilege (and not the right) to run for president on the Democratic Party ticket–permitting him to borrow its historical brand, even as an insurgent.
I admire Sanders and share many of his progressive values. But the distinguished Vermont senator appears increasingly hell bent on wrecking the Democratic Party for his own less than lofty purposes. With each passing day and each new warning of disruption, he is devolving from a crusader into a grumpy old man–caring not that he is mirroring Donald Trump in issuing threats and ultimatums to the GOP leadership. Sort of like a guest in the house demanding the silverware and the china and the punch bowl!
Sanders has smelled the greasepaint and heard the roar of the crowd–and it has gone to his head.
I agree with Sanders that the entire primary process warrants a top to bottom reboot – although them the rules now. Watching him descend into gutter warfare against the leadership of the Democratic Party, threatening and obliquely condoning violence because of grievances – some real/many imagined is inappropriate and destructive. If he were a Democrat he would be excommunicated for such antics. I am reminded what “Uncle Joe” Stalin’s infamous adage justifying his bloody Soviet purges that one must break eggs to make an omelet. Sanders’ warnings have the malodorous waft of rotten eggs.
Putting aside the impossibility and impartibility of Sanders ever wrestling the Democrat Party’s presidential nomination–and I would bet my mortgage and my car on that–Sanders is treading dangerously close to the red line over which he will be intentionally damaging Mrs. Clinton so that she emerges mauled from a raucous convention. He can’t have it both ways – asserting he is merely demanding his due while playing into Trump’s stubby hands.
It would be a shame if Sanders’ legacy is one of a divider and not a uniter.
I cannot help but conclude Sanders is stealing a page from Trump–surreptitiously attempting a hostile takeover of the Democratic Party…even if Mrs. Clinton is defeated in the process. She falls, he gains–making a post-election play for the Party apparatus. A Sanders zero sum game? Maybe that is campaign manager Jeff Weaver’s Machiavellian mischief to avoid having to return to his day job selling comic books for a living.
No self-respecting Democrat should stand idly by and let these shenanigans go on. Democrats who have endorsed Mr. Sanders have a duty to bring him back onto the reservation. At what point does accommodation become appeasement?
Mr. Sanders has vowed to fight for the nomination all the way through the California primary. OK, but it won’t change the delegate math, and suggesting otherwise is duplicitous Voodoo. And because California won’t change the math he should take the high road and bow out of the process after the California primary, accompanied by a full throttled endorsement of Mrs. Clinton (on a loop that can be heard everywhere/everyday). Thereafter, he can then turn his powers of persuasion to supporting Mrs. Clinton, and to the issues he has transformed into a potential political movement – focusing on reforms that progressives and even moderate Democrats can embrace. There is nothing untoward galvanizing supporters–so long as he and we keep our eye on the real target–defeating Trump at any cost.
No one expects Sanders to embrace all of Mrs. Clinton’s ideas or programs; indeed he need not embrace the basic positions and policies which have been the pillars of the Democratic Party for decades–after all, HE IS NOT A DEMOCRAT. But what would a Trump presidency mean for the very youth of America who have embraced him?
Sanders is our 21st century version of the beloved Hubert Humphrey–the happy warrior championing the little guy/gal and the besieged middle class. It has been quite the rodeo ride and he has deservedly earned accolades for his candor and compassion and for the mantle of leadership he has earned from millions of well-meaning Americans. He has inspired me, too, no doubt about it.
But if Sanders is true to his word – that he really wants to defeat Mr. Trump as much as any self-respecting Democrat, then by golly, he needs to show a lot more deference to the Democratic Party and its presumptive nominee, Mrs. Clinton and cease all the rabble-rousing and acting like a sore loser.
Ralph Nader was no Democrat either. He helped to hand the presidency to George W. Bush in 2000 by running as a spoiler to Al Gore. God help us all if Senator Sanders so undermines Democratic Party unity so as to harm Mrs. Clinton’s electoral chances that he leaves that legacy as his primary footnote in history. A stellar career of public service championing progressive rights deservedly down the tubes.
Follow Marc Ginsberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@ambmcg