Playing the Game

First thing’s first: I support Bernie Sanders, and will be voting for him on April 28 in the Democratic Primary in New York. Sanders is my preferred candidate because he is the most radical, far-left candidate in the race and is calling for a major overhaul of America’s current governmental system and political culture. It is a cliche at this point, but Bernie Sanders has consistently been on the right side of history and is, generally speaking, uncorrupted by the most evil and dastardly forces in American politics.

However, Bernie Sanders has zero moral claim to the Democratic presidential nomination.

Sanders’ supporters can wax philosophic about his presidency being the “one true road” to a better America out of the remaining Democratic candidates, and they may be right. However, they have no leg to stand on when they whine and moan about the DNC screwing him over, or when they disparage others for placing their support behind another candidate. Including Elizabeth Warren, who, relatively speaking, is closely aligned with Sanders on policy.

Why does Sanders have no moral high ground or claim to the Democratic Party’s nomination? Well, it’s because he is not actually a Democrat. 

Bernie Sanders has been an Independent for nearly all of his political career, only registering and identifying as a Democrat when it is time to run for President again. This may be a trite technicality, but it matters when he is seeking the nomination of a party that he has resisted joining and frequently criticized. Of course the DNC is hoping that he does not get the nomination. This man has refused to acknowledge them as the flagship party of left wing politics for decades! Rightfully so, but the point still stands. Bernie Sanders is seeking the nomination of a party he openly despises, and the party will do all they can to ensure he does not win that nomination. He is similar to Michael Bloomberg (who recently dropped out) in this respect, seeking the nomination of a party whose values he does not actually embrace. 

Of course, in his seeking their nomination, it shows that even though he holds the party in contempt, he understands how deeply entrenched the antiquated institution of the two-party system is in America. He is disgusted by the system, and openly calls for its dismantlement, but he also must play within it every four years if he wants to be president.

It would be nice if a wave of progressives winning office in federal, state, and local elections followed Bernie Sanders’ ascendance to the presidency, leading to this USA flipping to a largely Democratic Socialist nation in 2021. However, that is a pipe dream. The reality is that Bernie Sanders has had difficulty affecting change and achieving major accomplishments as a senator because he is extremely difficult to work with, and because of is unyielding moral high ground. It is precisely why he is so appealing to motivated progressives, and precisely why he is unappealing to establishment Democrats. 

Sanders reluctantly plays the game only when he has to, because it is more convenient for him to have one of the two major party nominations than to run as an independent. That comes with its share of valid criticism on why Sanders even deserves the party’s nomination if he acknowledges its legitimacy only when he sees fit. If he was a true fringe candidate, he’d keep the “I” at the end of his name and trust his supporters to carry him to victory, two-party system be damned. But Bernie is a pragmatist. He knows better.

If we weigh loyalty to the Democratic Party against a progressive political agenda, Elizabeth Warren had the most righteous claim to the throne. However, now that Warren has dropped out, a lot of her educated supporters are up for grabs. Sanders needs to be graceful and savvy in his pursuit of the Warren constituency, two traits he has traditionally lacked.

As a Sanders supporter, I understand that comes with a territory. Bernie Bros, the largely male, very vocal, extremely online contingent of Sanders supporters, do not have a reputation as being kind and welcoming in the political discourse. Their energetic spirit and vigor for progressive politics is overshadowed by their hostile attitude to anyone who is not completely aligned with their cause. However, we have to understand that, although we have a disdain for the American political system, we are currently operating within it in hopes that we can change it from the inside out. Sanders supporters need to take a page out of Bernie’s playbook, and work to understand that, although we despise it, we have to make concessions if we want to win elections and affect the change we espouse. We are on their turf. The only thing left to do is play the game as best we can. This means making peace with the less leftist but still progressive Warren faction of the Democratic Party, and seeking to mend fences and find common ground with them.

Sanders supporters need to navigate the current political landscape with tact and eloquence, and without calling those of whom they slightly disagree shills. Otherwise, we will be looking at a lot of Biden 2020 signs very soon.