If Sanders Loses, Honor, Rejoice and Weep For Him

Chris Bowers, speaking for much of the Netroots, has an important reminder. Win or lose tonight, Bernie Sanders and his organization and the blogosphere and other progressive organizations have already beaten expectations. And, for that, the long knives are already out.

Every major poll analysis outfit–from Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight, to the Huffington Post’s Pollster.com to Real Clear Politics–all show Hillary Clinton to be the favorite to win the Iowa caucuses Monday night.

If she does indeed win, there will no doubt be a lot of pundits and wags who will use that victory as opportunity to dismiss the Bernie Sanders campaign as ineffective and historically unimportant. The record breaking rally sizes, the three million contributions, the volunteer-based distributed field campaign, the rise from single digits in the polls to become a serious contender–all of that will be, to some, just another George McGovern or Howard Dean-esque failure of liberal, grassroots campaigns that can shout loudly at rallies and in the comments but predictably flame out when real Americans start casting their ballots.

For some reason, this recalls Brutus’s speech on the occasion of Juluis Caesar’s death.

If there be any in this assembly, any dear friend of
Caesar’s, to him I say, that Brutus’ love to Caesar
was no less than his. If then that friend demand
why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my answer:
–Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved
Rome more. Had you rather Caesar were living and
die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead, to live
all free men? As Caesar loved me, I weep for him;
as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was
valiant, I honour him: but, as he was ambitious, I
slew him.

Or, as Marc Antony said, “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.”

This campaign may be long and protracted, or it may be over in a flash. Tonight’s results will have a lot to say about which way it goes. But, there are many people in the Democratic Party, the Clinton camp, and the media who are eager to shovel dirt on Sanders and the effrontery of his challenge.

That would be a mistake.

As Chris notes:

There has never been a contested Democratic presidential primary in history where elected Democrats and leaders of progressive advocacy campaigns have so unanimously thrown their support behind one candidate–a candidate who is actually well loved by Democrats, to boot. And yet even then, the combined power every elected Democrat and progressive advocacy organization has proven insufficient to prevent the bulk of the progressive grassroots from mounting a serious challenge to Hillary Clinton.

And there is tremendous tapped energy here. It can be alienated, humiliated, and marginalized, or it can be respected and acknowledged and empowered.

This is about more than a choice between two individuals. Clinton supporters should not view the Sanders’ challenge as some ambitious beast in need of slaying–put back in its box and relegated to our history books.

Like Sanders or not–see him as fit for the presidency or not– most of his goals and the goals of his supporters are also the goals of Clintonian Democrats. And if his campaign has expanded what’s permissible in our political discourse and moved the Overton Window to the left, it has already accomplished much of what it set out to do.

Tonight we find out if they’re capable of even more.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.