How Bernie Sanders Is Mangling His Media Moment

Things haven't gone so smoothly for Bernie Sanders since the primary season ended with a cascade of victories for Hillary Clinton. His big speech at the end of last week on the future of his campaign and movement was marked by network cutaways when he declined to acknowledge Clinton's insurmountable lead in the Democratic presidential contest. That was followed by coverage dismissive of his ongoing efforts, only some of which are about actually seeking the presidency.

Before that, his ballyhooed return to Washington, replete with several very high-level meetings and a low-key rally at RFK Stadium was almost entirely overshadowed by a rush of remaining big endorsements for Hillary Clinton. Sanders got the respectful meeting with President Barack Obama, but Hillary got the full-throated endorsement from her onetime bitter rival-turned-boss.

There are good reasons for Sanders to continue, and as a Sanders primary supporter, I think he should. But he does need to find a way to more clearly acknowledge the obvious, that Clinton will be, absent the most unlikely of occurrences (no, not the silly e-mail "scandal"), the Democratic nominee in a race that must be won. Not only a race that must be won, but won decisively, to preserve and reinforce the Enlightenment ethic on which this Republic was founded and which is clearly under threat in a new era marked by a dangerous sort of reactionary ignorance.

Senator Bernie Sanders vowed that the political revolution will continue in this address to supporters last Thursday evening. But what happens if the revolution is not televised?

Donald Trump and the aggressively know-nothing neo-fascism he represents must not only be defeated but decisively defeated. I saw him coming last year and I continue to believe that it's no sure thing. Everything is going Hillary's way right now, yet her regained lead in the polls isn't really all that big. If there's a downturn from our very uneven economic recovery (which could be triggered by several things, including a British exit from the European Union) or a jihadist terrorist attack or three -- and Trump refrains from acting like a deranged jackass -- this election could again go south in a hurry.

Yet the mission of Bernie Sanders retains its importance.

If Sanders and some of his most vehement supporters can't find a way to more clearly acknowledge the reality of their situation, they simply won't get the sort of coverage they need in order to move forward into the Philadelphia convention next month and beyond.

Politics is the art of the possible, but it is also about expanding the sense of the possible. Sanders has demonstrated that there is far more support for doing more on economic inequality than most had imagined or wanted to acknowledge.

If he ends his campaign much before the convention, he risks the ability to drive his message forward. But if he does not acknowledge the obvious fact of Clinton's ascendance -- say, by congratulating her on winning seven of the last nine contests, including a decisive win in the hoped-for Sanders lynchpin state of California -- he will be seen as a dead-ender. That will make it easy for the media, which has, despite sometimes hyping his chances, generally given him ridiculously short shrift, to ignore and devalue his efforts.

Sanders also needs to deal with a problem around some of his supporters, who are frankly seeming more than a bit delusional about the reality of the situation.

In Santa Monica, at Sanders's last election night party of the campaign, as I wrote earlier, Sanders backers cried "Bullshit!" at TV news reports of a sizable Clinton California lead, forcing the feed to be shut off.

Since then, Sanders backers have been hostile at the California delegation meeting over the weekend -- in sharp contrast to the Obama-Clinton lovefest I reported on in 2008 -- and jeered the election of Governor Andrew Cuomo as head of the New York delegation to next month's convention.

The thing is, Clinton won big in both California and New York, as she mostly did in nine of the 10 biggest primary elections.

Clinton even won Santa Monica, the erstwhile "people's republic," which Sanders selected as the site for his last big election night event of the campaign.

Having encountered Sanders on the weekend before the California primary, I have no doubt he grasps the reality of the situation. Even if his pollster did erroneously state after the primary that Sanders might end up losing California by a low single-digit margin in percentage points.

But right now, Sanders, and especially too many of his fiercest supporters, are in danger of looking like they live in the sort of "Denialistan" of strictly filtered "information" which flourishes all too often in social media but doesn't work in real life.

And that's getting in the way of their mission to positively impact the Democratic Party and the next Presidency.

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