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Bernie Sanders betrayed his supporters the second time. There won’t be a third

Nebojsa Malic
Nebojsa Malic

is a Serbian-American journalist, blogger and translator, who wrote a regular column for Antiwar.com from 2000 to 2015, and is now senior writer at RT. Follow him on Twitter @NebojsaMalic

is a Serbian-American journalist, blogger and translator, who wrote a regular column for Antiwar.com from 2000 to 2015, and is now senior writer at RT. Follow him on Twitter @NebojsaMalic

Bernie Sanders betrayed his supporters the second time. There won’t be a third
The Vermont senator who preached revolutionary American politics has now bent the knee to the establishment not once, but twice. If Democrats believe his voters will follow his lead, it means they too failed to learn from 2016.

Bernie Sanders dropped out of the presidential race on Wednesday, endorsing Joe Biden as the Democrat challenger to President Donald Trump in November. It was an ignominious end to a campaign that never quite recaptured the passion and zeal of his bid four years ago, when he kept going until the convention before finally bowing to the establishment-anointed Hillary Clinton.

I was there in the arena, watching him concede in 2016 – and shortly thereafter in the media tent, where a bunch of Sanders delegates had walked out in protest. A colleague of mine was outside the perimeter fence, covering the protest by tens of thousands of Democrats outraged by the party establishment’s conduct. When we interviewed them, a lot of these people vowed never to vote Democrat again.

Also on rt.com Bernie Sanders suspends 2020 Democratic presidential campaign

A few months earlier in Atlanta, I heard Sanders volunteers bluntly say they’d rather vote for Trump than for Clinton. When WikiLeaks published those internal emails showing the party was behind Hillary and actively sabotaging Bernie – which party chair Donna Brazile later confirmed as true – the DNC ran damage control by blaming Russia. But the voters remembered – and Trump won.

Sanders tried again in 2020, but the script began repeating itself right from the start. In Iowa, the party establishment and their media allies desperately propped up Pete Buttigieg (anyone remember him?) and others. Biden, anointed as the front-runner for the purposes of Ukrainegate, wasn’t even on the map – until he won South Carolina, and everyone suddenly fell into line behind him.

There is no question Sanders did worse in 2020 than he did in 2016. An honest assessment as to why would inevitably conclude the key difference was adding the ‘woke’ identity politics of race and gender to his class-focused socialist platform. It played well on Twitter, but not at the polls.

I wonder, however, to what extent that day in the Wells Fargo Center played into it. There is that American saying, famously butchered by former President George W. Bush, ‘Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me’.

Sanders said he would stay on the ballot and continue gathering delegates so he could “exert significant functions” at the convention. That was the consolation prize last time around, too, and it clearly underwhelmed. Within minutes of Sanders dropping out, “Congrats to Trump” began trending, as disillusioned would-be revolutionaries vented their rage.

The problem with preaching revolutionary politics – as Sanders did – is that one can’t just back off into politics as usual. It didn’t work in 2016, and everything points to it not working now. As one conservative observer noted, Sanders had the means, but lacked the will to become the nominee – refusing to go after Biden on documented corruption or credible sexual assault claims.

Trump has already invited the “Bernie people” to join him instead. After all, his campaign for a revolution was successful – first winning the Republican Party, then the presidency. He was helped in no small part by the Democrats who went ‘deplorable’ in 2016.

Democrats are keenly aware of this, suddenly going into overdrive to woo the very people they demonized as sexist ‘Bernie bros’ as late as yesterday.

“I know that I need to earn your votes,” Biden tweeted. “And I know that might take time. But I want you to know that I see you, I hear you, and I understand the urgency of this moment. I hope you’ll join us. You’re more than welcome: You’re needed.”

Oh, so now they’re needed? While this is a better strategy than Clinton’s scornful entitlement, the big question now is, will it work? After all, this is the party that came up with the patronizing slogan “Vote Blue no matter who.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi once disdainfully quipped that a glass of water labeled ‘D’ could have won in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s district. It is hard to imagine Sanders supporters suddenly forgiving the establishment and turning out in droves to back Biden.

With the Covid-19 pandemic still keeping millions of Americans under de facto house arrest, every day seems like a year. November 3 is months away, but feels like a lifetime from now. Anything can happen between now and then, but a Sanders comeback is not in the cards. It is clear now that his big chance was four years ago and he simply could not, or would not, follow through this time.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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