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by Mitchell Abidor
HILLARY CLINTON has modeled herself after George Washington in this year’s election. No, I’m not saying she has probity of the Father of our Country. Rather, like the Washington who commanded the revolutionary armies, she has lost her way to victory. Like Washington, she loses battle after battle, but still has taken away just enough to carry the day in the end. And that she has carried the day is, however sad, undeniable.
Unlike Washington, Clinton went into a game rigged in her favor. Which in no way means it was rigged against Bernie; rather it was rigged in favor of whoever the Democratic leadership wanted. This has been the case since the McGovern crushing of 1972, and if the Democratic muckety-mucks had lined up behind Martin O’Malley (though maybe not behind Lincoln Chaffey) instead of Hillary, Bernie would still have started out hundreds of super delegates behind.
As would have any other insurgent. Too many Bernie supporters don’t accept that he wasn’t the target of the leadership; anyone wanting change was the target. There’s a difference.
Unfortunately, the Sanders campaign, which gave us all so much hope, which drew the attention of the world to a brighter side of America, has now degenerated into the paranoid conspiracy-mongering that we have come to expect of any leftwing movement — and has turned violent, with death threats issued to Nevada democratic leaders, chair-throwing, obscenities, the whole shmeer, all based on the twin notions that Bernie has been robbed of victory and that he still has a chance. Neither is true. That he refuses to accept the latter and insists on the former makes him responsible for the pathetic denouement of his campaign.
Had Bernie been a Democrat, he’d have known he was sailing into strong headwinds from the beginning. Complaints about the New York primary blocking independents from voting, thus cheating Bernie, were the fruit of ignorance: Anyone registering in New York knows — or should know — that if you register as independent (or Green, or Working Families), you have excluded yourself from participating in the Democratic primary. That so many Bernie supporters didn’t know this is entirely their fault.
Bernie’s refusal to accept reality makes him culpable in the degradation of his campaign. Staying in to the end is noble, perhaps, but staying in to the end thinking he’ll win is delusional and feeds the delusions of the young who made his campaign so magnificent.
Even if staying in means he can influence the party platform, who gives a rat’s ass? Does anyone read that thing? They could be written in ancient Etruscan for all the difference they make. If Bernie thinks sticking around will have any impact in that regard, he’s living in cuckoo land.
BERNIE HAS CHANGED American politics. He pushed Clinton to the left (whether she’ll stay there, when appearing as a centrist in the face of Trump will do the job quite well, is another matter). He mobilized millions. None of this should be underestimated.
None of us will feel any enthusiasm voting for Clinton. That she is already talking of turning the economy over to her husband, with his obsequiousness before the filthy rich, and who gave us the rampant deregulation that led to the crash of 2008, is only reason to distrust her more, and makes Bernie shine even brighter. But any Bernie supporters who think there’s no difference between Hillary and Trump, or that after Trump we will have the revolution, should be reminded of German Communist Party leader Ernst Thaelmann’s “After Hitler, us.” That worked out real well, didn’t it?
Sanders has refused to condemn the violence in Nevada, and even explains it away with his usual boilerplate. “It is imperative that the Democratic leadership, both nationally and in the states, understand that the political world is changing and that millions of Americans are outraged at establishment politics and establishment economics,” he said. Which is true. And in the context, meaningless.
Yet those who condemn the Bernie-or-Bust people should remember that in 2008, when Clinton lost the nomination, many of her embittered supporters said they could never vote for Obama. They wised up and did. Berne can play a great role in making sure the same thing happens this time around. If he wants to.
Bernie simply needs to be the grownup in the room and tell us that there is no Santa Claus. Just as Clinton lost battle after battle and won the war, the whole Bernie saga only matters if it means that this campaign, this glorious campaign, was just a battle. He won’t be the standard bearer in the next one, but he led us into a battle. The war isn’t over. We should take Bernie’s defeat to mean that the Long March — which we’re so bad at, which we lack the patience for — has begun.
Mitchell Abidor, our contributing writer, is the recipient of a Hemingway Grant from the French Ministry of Culture for his new translation of Emmanuel Bove’s A Raskolnikoff. His other new books are Voices of the Paris Commune and his collection of writings by and about the anarchist “propagandists of the deed,” Death to Bourgeois Society. His translations of the poetry of Benjamin Fondane can be found in the collection Cinepoems and Others, published by NYRB Poetry.
Mitchell Abidor, a contributing writer to Jewish Currents, is a writer and translator living in Brooklyn. Among his books are a translation of Victor Serge’s Notebooks 1936-1947, May Made Me: An Oral History of My 1968 in France, and I’ll Forget it When I Die, a history of the Bisbee Deportation of 1917. His writings have appeared in The New York Times, Foreign Affairs, Liberties, Dissent, The New York Review of Books, and many other publications.