Running Up That Hill

Is Bernie Sanders qualified to speak at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia (assuming, of course, that he fails to secure the Democratic presidential nomination)?

I’m not quite sure what to make of the idea that in the event Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic primary, the former Secretary of State must make certain concessions to Sanders in order to ensure that the Vermont senator will encourage his supporters not to flake out on Election Day. Why should Clinton genuflect to someone who a) explicitly said she doesn’t have what it takes to be president, b) called for a primary challenge to the current Democratic President, and c) is not a Democrat?

Speaking of concessions, a compelling case can be made that if Sanders suspends his campaign after losing badly in this Tuesday’s New York Democratic primary, he should be excluded from speaking in any capacity at the Democratic convention. It would be rather divisive to give a prominent speaking position at that convention to someone who seems to believe that the Democratic Party has prostituted itself to economically powerful johns and contracted the social disease of “corporatism.” If Sanders addressed the convention and repeated his campaign rhetoric, would he not offend convention attendees who regard certain elements of Sanders’s shtick as a tone-deaf and tacky trashing of President Obama?

Giving a token slot to Sanders would not satisfy the “Bernie or Bust”-ers who plan to sit out the general election and risk the possibility of Donald Trump or Ted Cruz wrecking the economy and the ecology. Having said that, the organizers of the convention should consider selecting a keynote speaker who can appeal to those who were attracted to Sanders’s message, but who aren’t close-minded when it comes to Clinton.

Perhaps the DNC should select two keynote speakers who can touch upon the themes Sanders raised in his campaign in a manner that Democrats won’t regard as divisive: Senators Elizabeth Warren and Sheldon Whitehouse. Warren is arguably better than Sanders at articulating the frustrations of a put-upon middle class, while defending the Democratic Party’s ability to remedy the economic woes that have put the American Dream beyond reach for millions; Whitehouse has long been a strong advocate for the most aggressive action possible to reduce carbon pollution. I can’t imagine Sanders (and his less emotional supporters) would be displeased by the speeches Warren and Whitehouse would likely deliver.

Yes, if Sanders were to be excluded from the Democratic convention, there would be weeks of howling from offended “Bernie bros.” However, the organizers of the convention would be advised to ignore such complaints. Those who are thinking dispassionately will not be offended by the exclusion of Sanders from the convention, and will understand the reasons why he wasn’t invited to speak. One theme of the convention will be the defense of President Obama’s accomplishments over the past eight years: it wouldn’t make any sense to offer a slot at the convention to someone whose implied message is that those accomplishments weren’t good enough.

UPDATE: More from MSNBC.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.