In a classy homage to fellow failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders recently took the opportunity of a media interview to blame the media, and not himself, for the failure of his own campaign.
Bernie Sanders ran for president in 2020 because he thought he could win, but the Vermont senator says had no illusions about what he was up against and how difficult it would be.
Now, as he takes a step back and reflects on his second failed bid for the White House, he remains proud of what he accomplished, but still believes there is a lot more work to do to bring more working class Americans into the political system and implement many of the progressive policy positions he has long advocated for.
What did he accomplish?
“It’s hard,” Sanders said in an interview with CNN. “But we knew what we were doing, and nothing that happened really shocked me.”
“I think what we saw from Nevada on out was a cry the rooftops, from the political establishment, from the media that they wanted anybody but Bernie,” Sanders said. “My God, I don’t know how many articles there were about that. ‘We need anybody but Bernie’ and you know they ended up succeeding. And that’s that.”
Once upon a time, there was a presidential candidate that the political establishment and media did not want.
He was orange.
In spite of his citric hues, he won. No one read the mean articles about him, because reading news requires reading something longer than a tweet. Nobody has time for that. He won because people liked seeing him talk.
He stayed in the race longer in 2016 and will end up earning fewer delegates this year than he did four years ago. But Sanders emerged as a front-runner this cycle, bouncing back after a heart attack in the fall, fundraising more than his rivals and winning over key endorsements from other progressive leaders. When Sanders won the popular vote in three of the first four primary contests, the nomination seemed within his grasp, but his hopes were dashed after Joe Biden’s victory in South Carolina.
The former vice president’s win there streamlined the establishment backlash to Sanders. Other moderate candidates dropped out and rallied around Biden, setting off a sweeping realignment of the contest that ultimately drowned Sanders, whose campaign was not prepared to weather a storm it so confidently predicted. And while Sanders had increased turnout and enjoyed strong support from young voters, their impact was not nearly what he and his campaign predicted.
While many of Sanders’ supporters were ready to claim the nomination after his victory in Nevada, the senator himself understood the challenges he faced.
In the aftermath of Sanders ending his bid, there has been a rigorous debate about the way the Sanders campaign approached Biden. Some forces in the Sanders world thought he should have been more aggressive in laying out the differences between the two candidates. But Sanders was insistent that any distinctions that were drawn not come at the expense of the personal relationship between the two men, one built while they were colleagues in the Senate. It is a decision Sanders does not regret – and he argues those lodging complaints likely don’t know the whole story.
“I think probably, what you’re going to find for the next five years is half of America was intimately involved in my campaign,” Sanders joked. “Look, there are difference in tactics, but I don’t think it was the tactics ended up helping us lose.”
In what sheltered fantasy world does it seem principled to prioritize his relationships with establishment politicians, over his stated goal of universal access to health care and higher education for millions of people?
Why didn’t he just run on that, then? “Vote for me, and I’ll be friends with Joe Biden.”
Bernie 2020: Friendship is Magic
Back in the real world, there is no path forward for an American presidential campaign without going negative. Every successful campaign in recent memory has done this. Trump’s path through the 2016 primary was carnage, and even Obama vs. Hillary in 2008 went negative, both on stage and in ads, until a victor emerged.
People detest politics and politicians, and they want to see them torn down and humiliated. The primal hindbrain of the American looks at an election, and it recognizes in it the ancient struggle for dominance. Negative messaging is an assertion of dominance, and a refusal to engage in it computes, on the most basic level, as a display fear and weakness.
When you see this, you recognize an act of submission.
It would be one thing if Bernie had wanted to have his cake and eat it too, and was now coming to terms with having failed his millions of supporters. But, from this interview, we can surmise that he will die of old age before he ever accepts his own responsibility for refusing to play to win.
The next time you pay off your student loan debt instead of buying a house you could start a family in, just smile, and remember what’s truly important. It’s all the media’s fault, but at least Bernie is still friends with Biden.