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So Bernie Sanders is now in


Sanders announced he’s running. I sent him a tweet yesterday: “Please don’t be an asshole spoiler when you lose, the way you did last time. You encouraged your followers to boycott Hillary, and when they did, you handed Trump the keys to the White House.”

Sanders has every right to run for the Democratic nomination, even though he’s not even a Democrat. He has the right to introduce his values, many of which I agree with, into the race. This is probably his last big go-around, politically; at the age of 78, he’ll be too old to run in 2024. So I “get” his burning (forgive the pun) desire to achieve the crowning glory of a life well lived.

But he made a huge mistake in 2016. He never let up on his carping of Hillary, even after he theoretically endorsed her candidacy, shortly after she formally won the Democratic nomination. His words sounded good: “I have come here to make it as clear as possible why I am endorsing Hillary Clinton and why she must become our next president. Secretary Clinton has won the Democratic nomination and I congratulate her for that.” But he spoke with a forked tongue. After all the smears he heaped on her during the primary season, it wasn’t possible for him to undo the damage he had done. Even today, it is incredibly irresponsible for Bernie Sanders not to own up to what he did in 2016; but History will hold him to accounts.

Most professional Democrats felt uncomfortable coming out and accusing Sanders of being a spoiler, because they didn’t want to further alienate his followers. But the Republican Party had a much clearer view of what Sanders actually represented. The rightwing Republican website, GOP, which is sponsored by the Republican National Committee, shortly before the 2016 election published “The Top 15 Sanders Attacks on Clinton,” and while they did it for malicious purposes, the actual reporting is accurate. Sanders “repeatedly eviscerated Clinton.” He questioned “her judgment, character and qualifications.” He accused her of having “insider…Wall Street ties,” and even called her a “racist”!!! And he reserved even harsher scourges for Bill Clinton. All of these were, of course, talking points lifted directly from Breitbart and Rush Limbaugh, which soured his supporters and in many cases made them hate Hillary more than they hated Trump.

So when Sanders finally endorsed Clinton, it was too little, too late. And we know the outcome.

Hence my email. Bernie Sanders is not going to win the Democratic nomination. He knows it and so does everybody else. Under the circumstances, it’s not even clear why he’s running, except that once a politician gets a taste of Presidential ambition, it’s hard to return to normal. Sanders wants one more bite at the apple, one final burst of excitement, before he returns to Vermont to live out his remaining years in obscure tranquility.

Based on what he did last time, can we expect Sanders to run a civil campaign, instead of one destined to arouse bitterness in his followers? I don’t think so. He’s shown a streak of nastiness, which fed into and instigated more nastiness towards Clinton in his supporters. The political analyst Lucia Graves, who writes a column for The Guardian US, noted this in April, 2016, as she followed the campaign and witnessed Sanders’ increasing hostility to Hillary. The further behind he slipped in the polls, the more unscrupulous he became. His campaign team, she charged, had become “patently undemocratic” in its attempt to persuade pledged delegates to flip, while “his supporters have gotten nastier.” Sanders’ campaign manager even advised voters “Don’t destroy the Democratic party to satisfy the secretary’s ambitions to become president of the United States.” Surely that is very violent, manipulative language, even for a campaign in the throes of a contested primary. And yet, even after he formally endorsed Clinton, Sanders never repudiated such remarks by his campaign, never apologized. If anyone sought to “destroy the Democratic Party,” it was the non-Democrat, Bernie Sanders.

Democrats have simply got to guard their flanks if they have any hope of winning in 2020. This also includes dealing with a possible Howard Schultz candidacy. There’s no way, of course, that the Democratic National Committee can force Sanders, Schultz and other possible spoilers to play nice. It’s we, the voters, who are going to have to do that. Democratic voters can have a lot of fun over the next year, picking and choosing their candidates and watching how the primaries evolve. But these candidates had better run clean, respectful campaigns against each other, and not resort to Bernie Sanders-style innuendoes and smears. We Democratic voters are watching, and we have long memories.

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