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Hard-to-swallow advice for divided Democrats

Robert Reich, professor of public policy | June 2, 2016

With the Democratic primaries grinding to a bitter end, I have suggestions for both Clinton and Sanders supporters that neither will like.

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders

First, my advice to Clinton supporters: Don’t try to drum Bernie Sanders out of the race before Hillary Clinton officially gets the nomination (if she in fact does get it).

Some of you say Bernie should bow out because he has no chance of getting the nomination, and his continuing candidacy is harming Hillary Clinton’s chances.

It’s true that Bernie’s chances are slim, but it’s inaccurate to say he has no chance. If you consider only pledged delegates, who have been selected in caucuses and primaries, he’s not all that far behind Hillary Clinton. And the upcoming primary in California – the nation’s most populous state – could possibly alter Sanders’s and Clinton’s relative tallies.

My calculation doesn’t include so-called “superdelegates” – Democratic office holders and other insiders who haven’t been selected through primaries and caucuses. But in this year of anti-establishment fury, it would be unwise for Hillary Clinton to relay on superdelegates to get her over the finish line.

Sanders should stay in the race also because he has attracted a large number of young people and independents. Their passion, excitement, and enthusiasm are critically important to Hillary Clinton’s success, if she’s the nominee, as well the success of other Democrats this year, and, more fundamentally, to the future of American politics.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton (Marc Nozell photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Finally and not the least, Sanders has been telling a basic truth about the American political economic system – that growing inequality of income and wealth has led inexorably to the increasing political power of those at the top, including big corporations and Wall Street banks. And that political power has stacked the deck in their favor, leading to still wider inequality.

Nothing important can be accomplished – reversing climate change, creating true equal opportunity, overcoming racism, rebuilding the middle class, having a sane and sensible foreign policy – until we reclaim our democracy from the moneyed interests. The longer Bernie Sanders is on stage to deliver this message, the better.

Next, my advice for Sanders supporters: Be prepared to work hard for Hillary Clinton if she gets the nomination.

Some of you say that refusing to fight for or even vote for Hillary will show the Democratic political establishment why it must change its ways.

But the “Democratic political establishment” is nothing but a bunch of people, many of them big donors and fundraisers occupying comfortable and privileged positions, who won’t even be aware that you’ve decided to sit it out – unless Hillary loses to Donald Trump.

Which brings me to those of you who say there’s no real difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

That’s just plain wrong. Trump has revealed himself to be a narcissistic, xenophobic, hate-monger who, if elected, would legitimize bigotry, appoint Supreme Court justices with terrible values, and have direct access to the button that could set off a nuclear war.

Hillary may not possess Bernie Sanders’s indignation about the rigging of our economy and democracy, or be willing to go as far in remedying it, but she’s shown herself a capable and responsible leader.

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Some of you agree a Trump presidency would be a disaster, but claim it would galvanize a forceful progressive movement in response.

That’s unlikely. Rarely if ever in history has a sharp swing to the right moved the political pendulum further back in the opposite direction. Instead, it tends to move the “center” rightward, as did Ronald Reagan’s presidency.

Besides, Trump could do huge and unalterable damage to America and the world in the meantime.

Finally, some of you say even if Hillary is better than Trump, you’re tired of choosing the “lesser of two evils,” and you’re going to vote your conscience by either writing Bernie’s name in, or voting for the Green Party candidate, or not voting at all.

I can’t criticize anyone for voting their conscience, of course. But your conscience should know that a decision not to vote for Hillary, should she become the Democratic nominee, is a de facto decision to help Donald Trump.

Both of my morsels of advice may be hard to swallow. Many Hillary supporters don’t want Bernie to keep campaigning, and many Bernie supporters don’t want to root for Hillary if she gets the nomination.

But swallow it you must – not just for the good of the Democratic Party, but for the good of the nation.

Cross-posted from Robert Reich’s blog.

Comments to “Hard-to-swallow advice for divided Democrats

  1. Prof. Reich, amazing how much our world has changed in just four years since the last presidential election. Global Warming controls our short-term future now and none of the candidates are talking about it, violence is overwhelming the entire human race and politicians are making it worse, the majority party in the Congress of Hate over the last four years has negated the power of the presidency, and we have an oligarch running for president in a party that is on its knees to obey him. Solon would probably find this impending overthrow of American Democracy to be a worst case scenario lesson in history that we have totally failed to learn. And Socrates would probably wonder if his sacrifice was worth it now that our latest presidential primaries have proven that Truth and Morality really are impossible dreams.

  2. Robert, I submit the following recommendation for your advocacy so we can achieve imperatives with the greatest sense of urgency, including universal equality, overcoming violence and preventing global warming from destroying our quality of life:

    In a recent conversation with The Huffington Post’s Impact & Innovation managing editor, David Freeman, Neil DeGrasse Tyson addressed a question about how science courses in U.S. schools are lacking. The education system, he said, is too focused on getting students to memorize information they’ll likely forget instead of teaching them analytical skills.

    “We think of education all too often as, a student walks into a classroom with an empty mind and then you pour stuff into the head, and now they’re educated,” he said. “And at no time are you actually trained how to think, how to analyze, how to process information, how to judge information.”

  3. Robert, my first and proudest vote ever was for Ike when I was a kid in the Air Force earning my GI Bill so I could afford to go to Berkeley. But I dropped out of the republican party when Nixon made me think no one could possibly be a worse president. Then “W” came along and was incredibly worse. Now we have reached the sewer level of presidential candidates with Trump. God Help American Democracy! because Trump has already become the new worst case scenario demonstrating once again why so many democracies have failed before ours.

    Up until yesterday I was for Bernie, but he has disappointed me with some of own hypocrisy, and Hillary’s speech yesterday was an awesome new beginning for her trip to the White House.

    So I have finally settled on Hillary, even though I greatly wish she would kick Bill out of her life after his hideously unforgivable attack against women’s rights in the Oval Office while he was the most powerful person in the world. I can at least hope she bans him from the White House.

  4. This posting is excellent advice from Robert Reich. Like many other venues in life, our choices typically are framed as many different “flavors” and we sometimes actually get to choose the flavor we like best, similar to a visit to Baskin-Robbins ice cream store.

    However, sometimes the menu does not include our “favorite” flavor and we must settle for the alternatives we are offered. So — please meditate and consider carefully what Robert Reich has counseled. Make the country better, even if only a little bit, with your vote in November.

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