SANDERS' CALL FOR A REVOLUTION IS A VAGUE, DEEPLY DISINGENUOUS IDEA THAT IGNORES THE REALITY OF MODERN AMERICA. . . . I HAVE BEEN TO THE REVOLUTION BEFORE. IT AIN'T HAPPENING. ~ JAN WENNER
Rolling Stone magazine publisher Jan Wenner and actress Susan Sarandon think they know a political revolution when they see one.
They were born within months of each other in 1946, but that's pretty much where the similarities end. The pragmatic Wenner, who was a George McGovern acolyte in 1972, is not swayed by Bernie Sanders' revolutionary rhetoric and will vote for Hillary Clinton, while the petulant Sarandon is in awe of The Bern' and says she will sit out the election if he doesn't get the Democratic nomination.
Wenner, who bitterly remembers the 49-state drubbing McGovern took, resulting in a second and disastrous Richard Nixon term, fears that there are a lot of Sarandons out there, most of them idealistic young people who have yet to navigate the shoals of the real world. Some surely will go PUMA, which stands for Party Unity My Ass, and like Sarandon will prefer to stay home than vote for Clinton, whom they consider an establishment toady.
Sarandon also played the purist card in 2000 when she went head-over-heels for Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader, who some people bitterly believe siphoned off enough votes to throw the Al Gore-George Bush nail biter into the Supreme Court. (I do not happen to be one of those people, but no matter.)
Well, as uncertain as this political year has been, Clinton will be on the November ballot as the best hope to prevent the kind of Republican dominance in Washington that makes Nixon seem in retrospect like a not-so-bad guy.
The outlook for Sanders is stark: He needs 988 more delegates to wrest the nomination from Clinton. He would have to take 57 percent of the remaining delegates while Clinton would only have to take 34 percent.
And lest we forget, primaries are elections for delegates, and indirectly that strange Democratic superdelegate hybrid. Primaries are not popularity contests, although Clinton has amassed two million more votes than Sanders.
Sanders scored three impressive caucus wins last Saturday in three largely white and liberal Western states receptive to his message and may well take Wisconsin and a big chunk of its 96 delegates on Tuesday. He also is likely to do well in Oregon, Rhode Island, West Virginia and Montana, but victories in those small delegate yield states would only forestall the inevitable.
The democratic socialist is running out of caucuses, where he has done well because they attract diehard supporters like his own, while Clinton's delegate and superdelegate lead is insurmountable because the largest remaining primary states — including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and California — are tailor made for her strengths, notably black and other minority support. Clinton is likely to cross the finish line with upwards of 500 delegates more than Sanders.
Beyond the delegate numbers, Sanders' biggest problem is that even after a 35-year political career, his base remains narrow and his claims that he would successfully fight the entrenched power of Washington are fantasy.
That is a bitter pill for the foot soldiers in Sanders' young army to swallow. But all is not fair in war as in love, and to mix another metaphor, times change but Clinton has not: Despite trust issues, she is the ultimate establishment Democratic candidate -- a deeply knowledgeable and battle-scarred veteran able to seem liberal or moderate depending upon the occasion, and an accomplished debater with a substantial war chest and sophisticated campaign organization. And just enough seemingly fresh new ideas to not seem ossified compared to Sanders.
(And guess what, Sanders diehards? Clinton and Sanders voted the same way 93 percent of the time the two years they shared in the Senate.
Asked to be specific about how his revolution will be carried out, which is something Sanders has been notably reluctant to do, his stock reply is that "The only way we can take on the right-wing Republicans, the only way we can get things done, is by having millions of people come together."
That is pablum.
In 2008, Obama helped Democrats win 255 seats in the House and 56 seats in the Senate. Despite an absence of Republican support, the young president did get Congress to pass an ambitious stimulus package, health-care reform and a host of smaller but still important laws. The circumstances would be much worse were Sanders to be elected even if Democrats manage to eke out a Senate majority.
There is nothing in Sanders' stump speechifying or own history to suggest that he will succeed with obdurate, governing-resistant Republicans where Obama has repeatedly failed, and it is important to remember that Obama's first-term accomplishments were because he had the support of every Democrat in a majority Democratic Senate, including centrists like Joe Lieberman and Evan Bayh (remember them?) who pushed him toward a political middle that sometimes made a mockery of the Hope and Change mantra. Sanders would have to similarly capitulate if he were to accomplish anything, and so Washington would remake him, not the other way around.
"America chooses its presidents from the middle, not from the ideological wings," Wenner notes. "We are faced with that decision again. . . . This is not the time in history for a 'protest vote.' "
It is easy to forget that at this point in the 2008 primary campaign, Clinton was nipping at Obama's heels as Sanders is now nipping at hers, and she did not concede for another month to the future first black president whom she will now succeed as the first woman president. And that a fairly large number of diehard Clinton supporters, primarily women, declared that they were going PUMA. Evidence suggests that many if not most relented and voted for Obama rather than staying home.
Let’s hope Sanders' most starry-eyed fans also see the light.
POLITIX UPDATE IS WRITTEN BY SHAUN MULLEN, A VETERAN JOURNALIST AND BLOGGER FOR WHOM THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN IS HIS 12th SINCE 1968. CLICK HERE FOR AN INDEX OF PREVIOUS COLUMNS.© 2015-2016 SHAUN D. MULLEN.
PHOTOGRAPH BY DICK POLMAN/NEWSWORKS