Bernie Sanders is clearly winding down his campaign for the Democratic nomination. In speeches and interviews over the weekend, he started turning his lance away from Hillary Clinton and toward Donald Trump.
Though most of his supporters say they will make the transition to Clinton, a sizable minority — 28 percent, according to a recent poll — insist they will not. Some vow to cast ballots for Trump. The dedicated liberals among them (as opposed to those just along for a populist ride) are being called “dead-enders.”
I feel some of their pain, for I was once considered a dead-ender. The year was 2008. Barack Obama had clinched the Democratic nomination after a grueling contest.
Some Obama bros had subjected Clinton and her female supporters to vile sexist attacks. And it wasn’t just the knuckle draggers. The late Christopher Hitchens called her an “aging and resentful female.”
The caucus and primary results, meanwhile, were a lot closer then than those between Clinton and Sanders.
It all seemed so unfair. Hillary the workhorse had labored at putting together a coherent health reform plan. The glamorous Obama floated by. Political expedience prompted him to oppose an individual mandate — unpopular because it forced everyone to obtain coverage but absolutely essential for universal health care.
I was sore. At the Democratic National Convention in Denver, I spent much time interviewing women still fuming over Clinton’s treatment and unable to support Obama. “Dead-enders,” these Clinton die-hards were called.
A poll in April 2008 had 35 percent of Clinton voters saying they would vote for Republican John McCain if Obama were to be the Democratic nominee. I, too, briefly toyed with the idea. After all, McCain at that time had retained a reputation for moderation. (He would have made a more plausible president than Trump ever will.)
McCain’s choice of the abominable Sarah Palin as his running mate quickly cured the so-called dead-enders of that notion.
And boy, were we wrong about Obama. Obama pulled America from the brink of another Great Depression. He championed the Dodd-Frank finance reforms and oversaw the passage of the Affordable Care Act (individual mandate included). He did it with virtually no Republican support and not a whiff of personal scandal. Obama will go down as one of the greatest presidents of our lifetime.
Has Sanders been treated unfairly as the Bernie camp asserts? There may be a valid grievance here and there, such as the scheduling of the debates in a way that benefited Clinton.
But no, the system wasn’t rigged against Sanders. It was in place before his candidacy. And Sanders gained extraordinary access to the infrastructure of a party he never joined.
As the apparent (if unannounced) truce between Clinton and Sanders sinks in, some of his dead-enders will cool down. Sanders surely knows that his movement will have far more influence docked in the Democratic Party than sailing off into third-party oblivion.
One last but important point: Participating in a party primary or caucus in no way obligates one to vote for that party’s eventual nominee. Anyone who genuinely wants a vulgar and unstable authoritarian to lead the nation has every right to vote for Trump.
But those who don’t want Trump — but rather wish to punish Clinton for prevailing over their hero — have things to think about. The country, for starters.
In politics, there’s no building your ideal car. We end up choosing the preferable of two models. Doing something else with one’s vote also affects the outcome.
Frustration can hurt, but it helps to not over-identify with a candidate. To the dead-enders of 2016, peace.