It’s pretty clear that Hillary Clinton is going to be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States. Bernie Sanders has fought a good, clean fight and in the process has moved the entire Democratic Party leftward. He has also made Hillary a better candidate, forcing her to sharpen her ideas. But Sanders is losing most of the primaries, despite outspending Hillary two to one in some states. The losses in Ohio and Illinois were devastating blows to his campaign. He won’t make up the difference by winning the super-delegates, who overwhelmingly prefer Hillary.
For the past month I’ve been telling friends that I hoped Hillary would win the nomination by one vote, because that would drive the Democratic Party as far left as possible at this point in history. Something resembling that outcome could only come if Bernie stays in the race, as he has stated is his intention to do. Many pundits and politicos believe that Obama was a stronger candidate in the fall of 2008 because Hillary didn’t leave the race until relatively late.
But I’m beginning to doubt the benefit of Bernie fighting to the convention, mainly because I think there is a much better use for the enormous campaign chest he has accumulated: supporting the most progressive Democrats running for Congress, Senate, governor and other statewide offices across the country. I’m suggesting that Bernie bow out of the race now and earmark his surplus campaign funds to these local campaigns, which is his right under campaign financing laws.
The most likely Republican nominees, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, will both send major Republican financial backers running to the exits, which in this case means the local races. Some leading Republicans such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have already broadly suggested that they would focus on Senate and Congressional races and pretty much ignore the national race if Trump is the Republican candidate. The Republican establishment is painfully aware that a Trump or Cruz disaster would assuredly lead to the loss of the Senate and may even threaten their gerrymandered dominance in the House of Representatives.
Let’s look at two of the various possible outcomes in November: If Hillary is elected with a Democratic majority in both chambers of Congress, she will be able to move the progressive program forward, which means higher taxes on the wealthy, more investment in mass transit, roads, bridges, education and alternative energy and an improved social safety net. If she wins and the Republicans keep both houses, we will have four more years of legislative dysfunction. Which will be better for the country?
The one enormous mistake the Democratic Party has made since the turn of the century was to underestimate the importance of the 2010 Congressional races. By releasing his tens of millions of campaign funds to local candidates who pledge to a progressive, left-looking agenda, Bernie will help the Democratic Party avoid making that mistake again.
The other reason Bernie should throw in the towel is so he can have more time to remind his supporters that they should vote for Hillary and contribute to her campaign. There are indications that some portion of Bernie’s supporters will either sit out the election or vote for Trump because they believe the decades of lies about the Clintons spewed out by the right-wing propaganda machine. On a symbolic level, these are the same people who sat out 2010, voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 and sat out 1968. Bernie can help make sure that these people understand that once again a lot is at stake.
Determining whether Trump or Cruz would be worse for the country reminds me of medieval debates about the number of angels fitting on the head of a pin. They are both so awful as to be unimaginable. Most people know how much electing either of these two mendacious autocrats would hurt the United States. That’s why Hillary will win the election.
It’s time then to start thinking about the type of legislative help and allies in the states our first woman president is going to need. For the better part of six months, progressives have been showing Bernie the love. It’s time for him to give that love back in the form of much needed dollars to elect progressive and left-leaning Democrats to Congress, the Senate and statewide offices all over the country.