POLITICS

Whoever Wins The Democratic Primary Is Responsible For Party Unity

Let's talk about how "magnanimity" works, and how it will be on Hillary Clinton to show some.

So, that happened. As you may have heard, for the first time in the storied history of Las Vegas, plans went awry. Last weekend, the Nevada Democratic convention turned into a raucous fracas as Democrats met to finalize the process of selecting delegates. During the proceedings, supporters of Bernie Sanders formed the opinion that those in charge were manipulating the rules in a way that benefited Hillary Clinton. There was an eruption of displeasure, the exact details of which have been litigated several times over, with several more litigations no doubt to come.

Now, in the aftermath, a two-pronged media narrative has crystallized. Has the Democratic Party's primary become historically acrimonious? Can Sanders prevent the party from fracturing fatally? On this week's podcast, we discuss how this narrative is not only overhyped, but gets the issue of who is responsible for future reconciliations backward. 

If you view this Democratic primary from a certain perspective, it's easy to come away with the impression that it has been one of unprecedented nastiness. On Twitter -- a social media platform designed to provide users with up-to-the-minute information about how they are the worst persons ever and why their deeply held beliefs belong in the garbage -- the fan bases of Clinton and Sanders routinely piddle into the streams, performing daily acts of spirited debasement. If your only entry into this world is through the lens of those who either have, or imagine themselves to have, a life-or-death stake in the contest, you might miss the fact that most Democrats are happy to support either candidate in the general election. 

And if you've gotten so drunk on this primary's rancor that you believe something unprecedented is unfurling, Vox's Matt Yglesias will sober you up very quickly. As he points out at length, this Democratic primary has been tame, when compared with others -- and really, the 2008 primary between Clinton and Barack Obama really was a full-on pit of snakes with flamethrower-hot WTFery coming from all directions when held up against the current one.

But the secondary issue is this: Ever since the fooferaw in Nevada, the media's focus seems to have fixated on whether Sanders will do enough to heal whatever rifts have been opened, whether he'll summon up the grace to join Clinton in unity at the party convention, and the extent to which he'll have to endeavor to talk his supporters down from the tree. The assumption that underlies all of this chatter is that Sanders is going to lose the primary. That's a well-founded assumption: He is going to lose the primary.

But this overlooks the fact that the responsibility of unifying the party falls to the winner of the primary, not the loser. To anyone who thinks otherwise: Come on, now. This is literally the job of the person who becomes the presidential candidate, not the person who is going to be pursuing politics in some other office. An election is not a contest between warring factions, where the winner gets to spend the next four years stunting on the losers. The electoral process will decide which candidate will serve all Americans. And all Americans are owed something, no matter how the votes were cast.

This is how magnanimity works. I literally had to go to Australia to find someone who has gotten this right. Congratulations to Nicole Hemmer, columnist with The Age, for writing it this way

But Sanders' success points to a significant insurgency among Democrats: Clinton faces a far more daunting task than simply nabbing the nomination or winning the election -- she must secure the future of the Democratic Party.

Over the next six months, the choices Clinton makes will help determine whether the Democrats will be the new majority party or be consigned to the wilderness for a generation. Can she bring Sanders supporters into an enduring majority, or will she alienate them and leave a fractious, fractured party in her wake?

The challenge -- and opportunity -- for Clinton comes from the unusual political conditions in the U.S. The two major parties are shuddering through a period of realignment. As the coalitions built in the 1980s and `90s break apart, a throng of interest groups are scrambling to shape new partnerships that will take their place.

This is correct. Sanders' campaign has successfully revealed what had been some previously muted truths about the way many Americans live, and the way they perceive how successful or inept the institutions that are supposed to serve their interests are doing their jobs. Those people are owed something and everybody knows it. Since Clinton is the likely nominee, this is her responsibility. It's not Sanders' job to deliver up his followers, as if they were a vanquished army -- it's Clinton's job to induce their continued participation. And she won't succeed if she treats their concerns as a dead letter simply because she won more delegates.

Similarly, this act should not be seen as Clinton caving to demands. This should be seen as a vital part of her political education. She should be eager to step up, find a way to reckon with the concerns of Sanders' supporters, and offer them a view of a future in which they can participate. This isn't done out of niceness. This is the secondary purpose of a primary election -- exposing truths that would go missed if the candidates were simply left to view America through their own blinkered perspective.

There's plenty worth litigating about Sanders, his campaign, and some of the more infamous grotesqueries for which he and his supporters are responsible. For instance, in a perfect world, there should be consequences for the wretched nimrods who threatened Nevada Democratic Chairwoman Roberta Lange with bodily harm. These people need some time away from politics, to become as fair-minded as the "system" they'd like to see govern our lives.

More broadly, the Sanders family view of the primary process as something that was uniquely rigged against it in particular deserves some re-examination. Yes, the process is byzantine and nonsensical. It has been that way for decades. Yes, the process tends to favor the candidates preferred by party elites. That should have been planned for in advance. I'd argue that 2012's Ron Paul supporters -- who, compared with Team Sanders, learned more about their primary process, and more skillfully manipulated it in their favor -- got screwed over much worse. And brazenly so, right on the stage of the Republican convention.

But none of these matters should be litigated by Clinton. That's not her job. Her job is to view this primary as an opportunity to see where some of the real fault lines in America are running right now. Sanders and his supporters have played a vital role in this, and when she secures this nomination, it will be her job to repay their generosity.

And it's going to be good practice for her, because her next step will be attempting to contend with the real concerns of Donald Trump's supporters as well, because ultimately, they -- like everyone else served by the person we like to call "the leader of the free world" -- are owed some consideration as well. And if there truly is something dark in our country that's animating them -- as many believe -- that's something no president can avoid addressing. 

Elsewhere on this week’s podcast: The 2008 financial collapse spurred a terrifying foreclosure crisis across America, forcing countless people from their homes. But what many homeowners discovered when they tried to save their homes is that the entire foreclosure industry was underpinned by rampant fraud and forged documents. Author David Dayen met many of the people who fought on the front lines of this battle, and wrote a book about it called, "Chain Of Title." He's here to talk about what many people missed about this aspect of the financial crisis.

In addition, Congress is taking its best shot at dealing with multiple crises at the moment. In Washington, legislators are proceeding in relatively swift and bipartisan fashion to address America's opiate addiction crisis, optimistic that they'll have a law signed soon. Joining us to talk about these goings-on is Wisconsin GOP Rep. Reid Ribble.

Shaping up more slowly is Congress' response to the Puerto Rico debt crisis. The island territory could miss a $2 billion payment in July, creating the dire need for a loan restructuring plan before the problem deepens. Our own Laura Barron-Lopez has been covering this story from San Juan to Capitol Hill. She'll join us to talk about whether Congress will miss its shot.

“So, That Happened” is hosted by Jason Linkins, Zach Carter and Arthur Delaney. Joining them this week: author David Dayen, Wisconsin Representative Reid Ribble, and Huffington Post reporter Laura Barron-Lopez.

This podcast was produced, edited and engineered by Christine Conetta.

To listen to this podcast later, download our show on iTunes. While you’re there, please subscribe to, rate and review our show. You can check out other HuffPost podcasts here.

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