The problem with Bernie isn’t with his analysis of the situation or even with his proposals to fix it, most of which I support. The problem is with the way he communicates his analysis. The reason the so-called “moderates” or “party establishment” (virtually all of whom are/were to the left of Obama in 2008) distrust Bernie is because he spends about as much time attacking them and the Democratic Party as he does Trump and the Republicans. Instead of praising past Democratic accomplishments and saying he wants to build upon them, he spends much of his time attacking the Democratic establishment and painting a picture of false equivalency between them and the Republicans. Then, he and his followers wonder why “the establishment” isn’t more friendly or receptive to their message, even seeming rather hurt or annoyed that the people they openly despise aren’t loving them in return. Telling people how corrupt they are is about as likely to get them to come over to your side as telling the Pope there’s no God will get him to abandon Catholicism. Bernie and his supporters seem never to have heard the phrase “you’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”. Of course, that assumes their goal was to bring the flies out to vote for him in the first place.

This article is a perfect example of the problem. You equate “moderates” with a father who blames his child for having a potentially life-threatening reaction to a bee sting and then wonder why they are arguing Bernie and his supporters seem to take a “my way or the highway” approach to politics. I voted for Bernie in the 2016 primaries. Unfortunately, he spent about as much time attempting to expand his base over the past four years as Trump has spent trying to expand his. He refuses to join the Democratic Party, attacks Democratic Party leadership as “elite” and “corrupt”, then is surprised when registered Democrats and Democratic Party leaning voters don’t vote for him in larger numbers or candidates who are life long members of the party doubt there is any room for them or their point of view in a possible Bernie administration and therefore jump to endorse someone else at the first opportunity. Did it ever occur to Bernie and his revolutionary followers that people who identify as Democrats may not share their loathing for Democratic elected officials in both government and party leadership positions? Did they even care what “mainstream Democrats” thought or what arguments they might find persuasive?

An outsider political insurgency strategy is a legitimate strategy but a very difficult and risky one. That’s true under the best of circumstances and 2020 wasn’t the best of circumstances for such a campaign. In 2016, there were only two candidates: Senator Sanders and an opponent with high unfavorable ratings. This time around, no one had Clinton’s unfavorability numbers and there were lots of candidates to choose from. To add to Bernie’s woes, Trump is in the White House and most Democratic voters are primarily concerned with getting him out. Running as an outsider who’s going to save the Democratic Party from itself always depended upon the majority of Democrats remaining divided between the other candidates because the fact is a majority of Democrats don’t think there’s as much wrong with the Democratic Party as Bernie and “the revolution” do. Indeed, they think it looks pretty good, especially given the current alternative. Bernie’s strategy failed and he needs to own that failure as he is responsible for the strategy his campaign followed. That’s not blaming the victim. That’s just the truth.

That said, events have overtaken the presidential race. It seems increasingly likely America will see the wisdom of universal healthcare, be it single-payer or some other form, and Andrew Yang’s UBI proposal far sooner than anyone could have imagined — to say nothing of because of a lot more suffering than anyone anticipated as well. Before the current pandemic is over, perhaps even a few Republicans will have seen the wisdom of such policies. Bernie deserves credit for bringing much needed attention to these issues and for pulling the Democrats to the left. However, in hindsight he is clearly much more effective as the leader of a movement that changes the direction of the Democratic Party (and the country) than he would ever likely have been as the party’s leader or the country’s president. Your reference to MLK is apt in that he too was the leader of a movement applying pressure from outside the institutions it was trying to influence.

Written by

US citizen residing in British Columbia, Canada. Degrees include anthropology and environmental studies. Activism, politics, science, nature.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store