Give them credit…but only so much, for now.
Bernie Sanders and his most passionate supporters are right and wrong at the same time. The Democratic nomination contest will not technically be over until superdelegates vote at the Democratic National Convention next month in Philadelphia, and without question, he has a right to ask superdelegates who currently back Clinton to reconsider their support. However, if those superdelegates reject such a request, I fear that he and his strongest backers will inaccurately declare that he was robbed of the nomination.
I have suggested that Sanders is now guided by personal animus towards Clinton, and that his animus may well boil over in his remarks at the convention. I hope that Sanders can restrain himself from personal attacks on Clinton and Democratic National Committee head Debbie Wasserman Schultz when he speaks, because if he overcomes his opprobrium, he could deliver one of the most powerful progressive speeches in recent memory.
It’s very likely that pro-Clinton superdelegates will not defect to Sanders because of concerns that if he were to be declared the nominee, he would be destroyed by right-wing media entities eager to strip the bark from a self-professed democratic socialist and corporate-owned television networks fearful of a President Sanders using the Oval Office as a bully pulpit to pressure those networks to focus on news in the public interest as opposed to news that doesn’t run the risk of offending advertisers. Perhaps Sanders, in his DNC speech, will once again call upon the Democratic Party to finance an anti-Fox cable network; as he suggested in 2009, the sponsorship of such an entity might have been effective in pushing back against the false narratives advanced by the right about the Affordable Care Act. Such a call should be paired with a request for his supporters to make their voices heard in the corridors of mainstream-media power, as Sanders himself did a few years ago in urging broadcasters to improve their climate-change coverage; it is rather odd that progressives, for the most part, still haven’t learned the lessons right-wing pressure groups have taught over the decades about how to effectively lobby mainstream-media entities to cover issues that progressives regard as important.
Above all, in his speech Sanders must recapture the optimism of the early days of his campaign. Sanders needs to think about the people who miss those days, who remember when Sanders’s message did not involve suggesting that Clinton wasn’t qualified to be president or that Southern primaries didn’t really count. Before Sanders takes that podium, he should remember that for many in this country, he once served as a symbol of hope. He should remember that there are so many Americans, black and white, rich and poor, young and old, religious and agnostic, who were disappointed when the tone of his campaign changed earlier this year, who were broken-hearted when he began to communicate contempt for Clinton. He should remember that in America, we don’t have many heroes left–and it hurts like hell when we lose another one due to his own actions.