After Labour Party candidate Jeremy Corbyn had a surprisingly good showing in Thursday’s election, I braced myself for the inevitable and it came: The Bernie Would’ve Won coalition, out in full voice. They’ve been everywhere since the election: in tweets, in memes, even in this one very creepy music video. They WON’T GO AWAY. And the tiniest thing—like an election that was a response to Trump and the wave of white nationalism around the globe—emboldens them.
I have a few thoughts on this brigade that I need to get off my chest. First of all, reasonable people can disagree on whether or not Bernie would’ve won the General Election, I suppose.
You say: Bernie was a populist candidate and America was in a populist mood.
I say: Have you been paying attention to what’s going on out there? The rise of hate crimes and racist rhetoric? Do you really think that Trump’s win was all about economic populism? If so, I have some shares in Sears I’d like to sell you.
You say: Bernie is the most popular political candidate in America. The polls say so!
I say: So was Hillary Clinton right before she ran. Hmmm, what could the difference have been? You do realize that not a single negative ad was aired about Bernie, right? There was no Bernie oppo campaign. No mentions of his unemployment until 40, those weird, misogynist essays that he wrote in his 30s, his dalliances with Castro and other communists, his atheism, which even more than his Judaism, would freak the voters out. Quite the contrary, Karl Rove’s PAC bought ads FOR him.
You say: Hillary had so much baggage, she was bound to lose.
I say: Bernie had baggage too, see above. And Hillary’s so-called “baggage” was minor: A (very secure as it turned out) private email server, not completely different from the Blackberry Colin Powell used when he was SoS; some bad optics with Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton on a tarmac (oh, Bill); the Clinton Foundation, which certainly creates some potential conflicts of interest but is inarguably a force for good in this world. The baggage came because of the excessive mischaracterization of her as corrupt and maybe even murderous, which came from several sources: the right, Russian propaganda, a clueless and compliant news media, and, mostly damningly, FRIENDLY FIRE from Sanders and Jill Stein supporters. (By the way, you played right into the hands of the Russians, who happily helped to widen that divide. Good job, everybody!)
Okay, but enough about that. Like I said, reasonable people can disagree. The question I kept asking myself is, Why are these people harping on the hypothetical of a Bernie win? We have a legit maniac in the White House, a constitutional crisis playing out right before our very eyes, who cares if the guy who lost the Democratic primary by 4 million votes MIGHT’VE won the General Election? He lost. This is the way politics in this country works. You have a primary, the winner of the primary moves on to the General Election. The winner of the General Election moves into the White House (God help us all). Right now, for example, we’re in the midst of the NBA finals, where the Cavaliers are getting thrashed by the Warriors. I haven’t seen a lot of “The Celtics Would’ve Won” memes.
And then it occurred to me: The Bernie Would’ve Won meme grows out of another false and, frankly, dangerous belief: That the primary was rigged.
Correct me if I’m wrong, Bernie Would’ve Wonners: The reason you keep inundating all of our Twitter timelines with this meme is because he think your guy was robbed. In your view, he should’ve been the candidate, rightly, and therefore it’s fair to continue to obsess on this point to punish those who sought to keep Sanders down. Have I got that right?
But here’s the thing: The primary was NOT rigged. It wasn’t. Go back and read the leaked DNC emails. Here’s what they showed: The DNC preferred Hillary. Big whoop. That was their prerogative, indeed, arguably their very reason for existing—to support the candidate they believed was best for the party and had the best chance to win. And it wasn’t just the DNC who preferred Hillary, mind you, it was virtually every Democratic senator and congressperson (and most newspapers, too.) And it’s not even slightly surprising when you consider that Bernie was an independent, who became a Democrat to get the full credibility and financial support of the party. Did you really think the DNC was going to prefer a Democratic carpetbagger?
So what did those leaked emails show? That one numbskull in the DNC wanted to use Sanders Jewish atheism against him—and was roundly ignored. That the DNC was getting impatient with Bernie when he refused to step down from his campaign, even when it was all but mathematically impossible for him to win. That Donna Brazille, in an overabundance of “helpfulness,” gave Hillary Clinton a debate question she surely knew was coming and on an issue Clinton already had mastery of. That’s it. If anything, Hillary was the one who was robbed. Caucuses massively favored Sanders because many of his supporters were young, unemployed and had the time to caucus. Plus, they were a rowdy, spirited group who could intimate other caucusers. In Washington, Hillary WON THE POPULAR VOTE but lost the caucus and that one still went on the ledger for Bernie. RIGGED!!
P.S. Don’t just take it from me, take it from Melissa Byrne, a former Bernie Sanders staffer:
Look, Sanders exceeded expectations in the primary. It was exciting. It was fun. But he still lost by 4 million votes. That’s a lot! For the love of this country, and for your own sanity (and mine), LET IT GO.