After making the case as to why Bernie Sanders is far better than Joe Biden both in terms of policies and likelihood of beating Donald Trump, Nathan J. Robinson tries to understand why the party establishment refuses to accept this. Like me, he is baffled by why the party establishment is uniting behind someone who has all (and more) of the negatives of Hillary Clinton and none of the positives. What makes them think that the “feeble and uninspiring Biden” can bring back the other kinds of swing voters that Ibram X. Kendi identified, those who voted for Barack Obama in 2012 but then either sat out the 2016 election or voted third party?
It is a long article and I have excerpted just a tiny portion below. He begins by explaining why Sanders has a far better chance of beating Trump than Biden, before getting to why it is essential that Sanders be the nominee.
If Trump gets reelected, untold horrors will be released. Unless Sanders prevails, Trump will get reelected. Therefore Sanders must prevail. We must do everything possible to get Sanders the nomination. There is no alternative.
This same reasoning seemed just as obvious to me in 2016, when Democrats didn’t notice that nominating Hillary Clinton was a catastrophic blunder, and proceeded to lose to Donald Trump, ignoring the warnings of people like me and Michael Moore. And when I say I feel like I’m “going crazy,” it’s because it’s really hard for me to believe that after all these years, the lessons have still not been learned. “Oh my God,” I think. “They’re really going to do it again. They’re still not going to nominate Bernie. They’re going to put up another establishment candidate, this time an even weaker one who doesn’t even have the promise of ‘historic change’ that Hillary would have represented.” They’re literally going to fight Bernie to the death, even if it very obviously would result in the suicide of the Democratic Party as an institution.
A crude Marxist analysis, of course, would say that it’s all a matter of class. Ultimately, Sanders is a candidate fighting on behalf of the working-class against a party dominated by rich capitalists and members of the professional-managerial class, all of whom stick together at the end of the day. Bernie poses an existential threat to their power and status, because he thinks Congress should be full of bartenders rather than lawyers and business owners.
Perhaps Democrats trying to stop Bernie really think he can’t beat Trump. As I say, there isn’t really evidence of this, beyond the theory that the word socialism will turn toxic in a way it hasn’t so far. Still, they might be sincere in their error, for all I know. For some of them, however, there is something else: Bernie’s success would discredit and humiliate them. And whether they know it or not, that may be subconsciously affecting how they think about him. Let us say Bernie did beat Trump, and that he did pass Medicare for All, and that it was a success. What would that mean for people like Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton? It would mean that they were wrong when they had not chosen to fight for these things. Completely wrong. In fact, they stood in the way of progress and prevented us from getting things we could have had all along. They “compromised” all of the important values for nothing. They should have been standing with Bernie and instead they were standing against him, creating needless barriers to fundamentally important social changes.
My theory for why some people hate Bernie so much is that Bernie shows them a person they could have been, but found some excuse not to be. They didn’t have to sell out. They could have stood alone, never ceasing to fight against injustice. But they did sell out, and the only consolation they got was that it was the reassurance that they were pragmatic and sensible and smart. What if it wasn’t even that, though? What if it was incredibly dumb? So I’m not surprised they’ll do anything they can to keep Bernie from being the nominee. If left policies and politics turn out to work, to engage people and improve things, people will have spent their life on the wrong side. And it’s probably easier to reelect Trump than to stomach the revelation that you were deeply wrong in a way that caused terrible harm.
Although one should always be cautious of ascribing psychological reasons to the actions of groups of people, I think Robinson is on to something here about the factors playing an important role in why the party and liberal establishment is so against Sanders, in addition to the usual class factors and the selling out for money.
It is terrible to find that you have been on the wrong side of history. It must feel worse that even though you said you agreed with the goals, you actively sought to slow down or even stop the activism of others towards the achievement of those goals because of your belief that your way would be better in the long run, and then later find that you were actually on the wrong side
I am reminded of the “white moderates” who Martin Luther King, Jr. castigated in his 1963 Letter from a Birmingham Jail, who argued against the demonstrations, sit ins, and marches, and said that he was moving too fast and was too confrontational and should be patient because he risked causing violence and alienating white allies.
I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
Were the white liberals that King was addressing hoping that he would fail in his efforts so that their stance would be proved to be the correct one? How did these people feel later when King did not pause and within just a year or two the methods they deplored resulted in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965?
King then went on to make a prediction that turned out to be extraordinarily accurate.
One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy two year old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: “My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest.” They will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience’ sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
History has always looked more kindly on those who fought for noble causes even if they lost than on those who fought to maintain the status quo.
“Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.” How true.