Bernie Sanders was always going to do the right thing. The question was how quickly and at what price.
Now we know.
Once, Sanders was running for president (that part is over, even if he is competing in the D.C. primary on Tuesday). Now he is having to run just to keep up.
For those wondering how the end game would play out, we have an answer: Very, very quickly. Shockingly quickly. In the town where it takes years for a judge to be confirmed or a budget proposed, Sanders was given a pat on the back and then a gentle shove out the door.
After Sanders met with the president and then with the press, saying he was all in when it came to defeating the danger that is Donald Trump, Obama left little time for Bernie’s supporters to grieve.
Minutes later, the Clinton campaign released Obama’s video endorsement of Hillary, in which Obama, contra Sanders, called Clinton maybe the most qualified person ever to run for the White House. He threw in an testament for Sanders, which is what everyone did on Thursday, just before they closed the door on his campaign.
The Obama announcement was expected. The Joe Biden endorsement couldn’t have been a surprise. But it was that night when Sanders knew, and we knew, the lineup had shifted, and someone else was batting third.
That someone is Elizabeth Warren, who, we’ll recall, was the front-person for the Sanders wing of the Democratic Party before most people knew who Sanders was. After sitting out much of the race by remaining neutral — maddeningly so, for both sides — Warren is now back, with unmatched and unsullied credentials. Sanders addressed a rally Thursday night in which he never mentioned all the momentous politics of the day. Instead, he gave the typical Bernie speech that has given hope to millions, figuring that the bad news could wait a while.
Unfortunately for Sanders, that’s not how the world works. Time and tide and politics wait for no man.
And on that same evening, Warren shook the Bernie side of the world by also endorsing Clinton. And more than that, she stole all the headlines with what the New York Times described as her taunt-for-taunt speech railing against Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell and anyone supporting Trump.
If you missed it, and it’s all over the internet, Warren variously called Trump a thin-skinned bully, a thin-skinned fraud, a disgrace, a loser and, oh, a thin-skinned race-baiter. Meanwhile, Trump called her weak, nasty and Pocahontas.
Later, Warren endorsed Clinton on Rachel Maddow, making the case for Clinton before Maddow’s liberal audience. Today, Warren was meeting with Clinton, and all the news was whether she was being considered for a vice-presidential nod. I wouldn’t be surprised, but in many ways, it’s hardly necessary. Warren doesn’t need vice-presidential enticements to take on Trump. She’ll do it for free.
She could also be a partner alongside Sanders in keeping the causes of income inequality and big money in politics at the forefront of the election. Or she could do it without Sanders. That’s pretty much Sanders’ choice these days.
At some point, Bernie will endorse Clinton, too. He may or may not wait until the convention, but he’ll probably have to do it more quickly if he wants to have maximum impact. There is no political advantage in going it alone these days unless Sanders wants to go rogue — and he has already indicated he won’t.
No one knows what Bernie’s supporters will do, but here’s a guess: It’s what supporters of the losing candidate nearly always do. Look at Republicans who have said they will vote for Trump despite, you know, Trump being Trump. So we can assume most Sanders supporters will come over to Clinton, just as in 2008, most aggrieved Clinton voters moved over to Obama. Those who would switch to Trump were never going to vote for Clinton anyway. And those who say now they’ll vote Green or Libertarian, I’m guessing that will depend on how close the race is in November.
Friends of Sanders have said he’s well aware of what happened to Ralph Nader after 2000 and how Nader basically lost all influence in the Democratic Party. Warren, meanwhile, made her Clinton endorsement in terms that Sanders couldn’t miss.
“I take my cue on every part of this from Bernie himself and what he said right at the beginning … what this is about, what we’re doing here is about millions of people across this country, millions of people who work hard every day and just keep getting slammed,” she said.
“It is not about one candidate. It’s not even about one election. It’s about all of us coming together to help fight, to level the playing field to make sure that everybody gets a fighting chance.”
It was a Sanders speech. And that’s how it ends. Whether or not Sanders gives Bernie-style speeches in support of Clinton — and he almost certainly will — he knows that Warren, his close friend and ally, will be doing it anyway.
Tony Webster, Creative Commons, Flickr