A Message of Optimism From a Veteran Raiser of the Alarm (Parts 1 and 2))

Recent developments bearing upon the contest for the Democratic nomination for President have revealed to me a possible political scenario by which the ongoing battle over America's destiny - against the destructive force that has taken over the political right -- might just possibly be won.

This scenario begins with a prediction of what will happen in the coming months in the Democratic race, and continues with a prescription for what should happen between our two major candidates - Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders - at a point that will predictably arise in the early months of next year.

The Democratic Race: A Prediction

From now on, the question of what the leadership of the Democratic Party will be like will be focused on Hillary Clinton, because - with her two recent bravura performances -- she is now nearly certain to be the Democratic nominee.

• In the first Democratic debate, she demonstrated an ability to be both commanding and appealing. This is a combination that will make her highly electable.

• In the Benghazi hearings, she showed that not only can she stand up to Republican assaults, but also that she knows how to make them look bad in the public eye. This is of vital importance, because getting the American people to see clearly what an atrocity the Republican Party has become is -- as it has been for some time -- Job One for rescuing America from that destructive force.

With Hillary having demonstrated these strengths, a majority of Democrats will consolidate behind her--a process that the polls show has already begun. And it is difficult to see how someone who has showed these strengths would make a blunder serious enough to turn that process of consolidation back around.

But in the meanwhile, that consolidation will not be complete until we've gone some distance into the primaries. There is an important, even special part of the Democratic Party base that has rallied with great excitement behind Bernie Sanders. They will not quickly abandon that valuable cause. Nor should they.

And indeed, I hope that Bernie Sanders will make a respectable showing in the contests in Iowa and New Hampshire. Because that will give him a kind of moral capital that, as I will explain in the next installment, can be spent - at a point pretty sure to come as the primaries unfold -- in ways that will be good for the Party, and likely even for Hillary, as well as for the nation.

That point in time will be when the unfolding of the process of the primaries -after South Carolina, or perhaps Super Tuesday, or maybe soon thereafter - has so fully confirmed that the Democratic Party has chosen Hillary to be its standard bearer that people will start to look to Bernie to acknowledge her leadership and bring his supporters around behind her.

It is at that point that I believe Bernie will be in a position to make a bold and highly useful move--a move that could help make Hillary's leadership what it should be.

The Democratic Race: A Prescription

Bernie Sanders' candidacy has brought something important into the Democratic race--let's call it "The Spirit of Bernie." It is a spirit of moral passion, and of a willingness to speak the plain truth, and press the battle in fighting for justice. Bernie has embodied that in his issues and in his person, and millions of Americans have responded with passionate enthusiasm to that spirit.

That is a spirit that the Democratic Party - and the nation--need. And it would be a great thing if the Spirit of Bernie could be kept alive even as the mantle of the Democratic nomination is placed - as I argued in the first installment it is now almost inevitable that it will -- upon the shoulders of Hillary Clinton.

Here's how that might be done.

When the time comes for Bernie to acknowledge Hillary as the victor in their contest, he should precede that acknowledgment with a challenge to Hillary:

"Will you pledge to fight the battles that I would have fought, had I become president? And in fighting those battles, will you enlist the help of the American people, as I have said is necessary for us to do if our democracy is to be rescued?"

Presumably, Bernie Sanders could couch those battles that he would have fought in terms both sufficiently strong as to represent a meaningful agenda on his central issues and sufficiently broad to allow a president room for maneuver.

And presumably Hillary Clinton could respond to that challenge in terms sufficiently strong to satisfy the important constituency backing Bernie Sanders. (Indeed, she has already substantially coopted those issues.) And she could respond in terms well enough crafted not to give her Republican foes ammunition against her in the general election.

By this means, the Spirit of Bernie can be passed on to the Democratic leader, which is about going after the force that's risen on the right in defense of our democracy, of the battered middle class, and of a livable planet. And that spirit can in this way be separated from such vulnerabilities - think "socialist" - that came with Bernie himself.

And by this means, Hillary can be given a gift along the lines of what FDR said to labor leaders in 1932: "I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it."

It will be a gift because the public is likely to respect such a conversation, publicly conducted, between Bernie and Hillary, and respect a pledge - to address issues on which a majority of Americans substantially agree with Bernie - given by Hillary in uniting the Party behind her.

When elected president, Hillary would have a mandate - even the moral duty that is conferred by a pledge -- to wage those battles. That publicly assumed duty and electorally conferred mandate will strengthen her hand in those difficult fights. Those battles will be cast, by these means, in a light that will inspire more public support.

My optimism, about such a scenario, is premised on the idea that Hillary has both the ability and the will to go after that right-wing force, to win over the public against that force, and by that means drain away from that force the power with which it has been damaging the nation.

The question of whether that premise is correct I will take up in the next installment.