It's as Much up to Hillary as Bernie to Win Over Bernie's Supporters to Defeat Trump


Defeating the racist, misogynist, xenophobic Donald Trump will require a principled and united front between Hillary, Bernie and their supporters.

So yes, Bernie should come around to endorsing Hillary, campaign for her, and urge all of his supporters to vote for her to defeat Trump. And whether it takes a few days, a few weeks or longer for Bernie and Hillary and their surrogates to negotiate the terms of their united front, there's little doubt that Bernie will ultimately do so.

But whether Bernie can bring along enough of his supporters -- particularly independents, voters under 50, and new voters -- to show up at the polls and vote for Hillary will largely depend on Hillary and the Democratic establishment. It must be a two-way street.

If they don't open up to Sanders and his supporters -- who will have approximately 45 percent of the pledged delegates -- they risk many of Sanders' supporters staying home or voting third party, which in an already unpredictable Presidential race between two unpopular candidates, makes the frightening prospect of Trump winning the White House more likely.

It won't be enough just to give Bernie a speaking slot, and then wham, bam, thank you m'am, expect most of his supporters to fall in line. Hillary and the Democratic establishment will need make some meaningful compromises to Sanders' constituency both on policy and democratic process.

If Hillary and the Democratic establishment disrespect Bernie and his followers and treat them as troublemakers who need to be handled, rather than equals who've earned a seat at the table, it will be self-defeating.

Were the U.S. a parliamentary democracy like much of Europe, most likely the Center-Left would be represented by at least two parties: a moderate, centrist, corporate-friendly party led by Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer and a populist, progressive, social democratic party led by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. (Likewise, the right would most likely be represented by at least two parties: a business-oriented, free-market, neoconservative party led by people like Paul Ryan and Jeb Bush and a nationalist, right-wing populist party led by Donald Trump.)

In all likelihood, none of these parties would obtain a governing majority and would have to form a coalition with one or more other parties in order to govern, as is common in many European countries. Such a coalition would involve, among other things, dividing up ministries with the larger coalition party getting the majority but the smaller one getting a substantial number; and agreeing on a governing platform that included ideas from both coalition parties.

It doesn't quite work that way under the American two-party system, but something akin to that kind of coalition between the Clinton wing and the Sanders-Warren wing of the Democratic Party offers the best chance of defeating Trump and of bringing the progressive change the country so badly needs to address pressing problems like economic inequality, well paying jobs, the buying of elections by big money and the decline of the middle class.

What would that kind of united front look like?

First, as Elizabeth Warren has said, personnel is policy.

Hillary should agree to only appoint Supreme Court justices who will overturn Citizens United (and prior Supreme Court decisions allowing unlimited campaign spending as unrestricted "free speech"). That might mean asking President Obama to withdraw the nomination of Merrick Garland -- who could well uphold Citizens United on grounds of precedent -- rather than allow him to be confirmed in the lame duck Congressional session.

It would mean pledging not to appoint a Treasury Secretary or other high Treasury department officials who come through the revolving door from Wall Street.

It would mean promising Bernie Sanders an important Senate committee chairmanship of the Senate Banking Committee or Budget Committee.

It would mean Debbie Wasserman Shultz resigning as DNC chair and withdrawing from presiding at the Democratic Convention. It's in Hillary's interest to keep Schultz as out-of-sight as possible at the Convention since her chairing the proceedings would almost certainly lead to a prime-time spectacle of booing and floor demonstrations from Sanders delegates which would not be in Hillary's interest.

And it would mean choosing a vice presidential running mate from the progressive wing of the Party like Sherrod Brown or, best of all, Elizabeth Warren. (I assume neither would accept if it were just a ceremonial post and they were not promised significant responsibilities, like a prominent role in financial policy.)

Second, it would mean democratizing the Democratic Party to open it up to new voters, younger voters, and independents. Super Delegates should be abolished for future conventions so the will of the primary voters controls, as it does in the Republican Party. As many Democratic primaries as possible should be open to independents, who represent over 40 percent of the electorate and whose votes Democrats need in order to win. And caucuses -- which exclude many working people and parents who don't have the time to attend -- should be discouraged and open primaries encouraged.

Third, the Democratic Platform should be a unity document which incorporates the best from Bernie and the best from Hillary, and Hillary should pledge to campaign and govern based on it, instead of ignore it as most candidates do with their Party's platform.

Platforms are usually insignificant documents that are filed away and never looked at again. But given the need to create a coalition between the centrist Clinton wing and the progressive Sanders/Warren wing of the Democratic Party, the Platform takes on added importance as a statement of the basic principles that unite the new Democratic coalition. It will require concessions from both the Sanders camp and the Clinton camp.

The Platform should encompass the "vision thing" which Clinton is weak on and Sanders has in spades. Hillary's latest poll tested slogan "Stronger Together" is pure pabulum that could be the slogan of just about any candidate of any party and gives no vision for what she'd actually do for the country.

It's not realistic to expect Hillary to fully adopt Bernie's rhetoric. But a good starting point for a vision might be a "New New Deal" -- to return the Democrats to the Party of FDR that built a strong middle class through a social safety net and regulation of the excesses of big business and crony capitalism

Specific planks could include expanding social security benefits, a $15 minimum wage, massive infrastructure investment to create millions of well-paying jobs, paid family leave, equal pay for equal work, a carbon tax and a ban on fracking to combat climate change, overturning Citizens United and true public financing of elections, ending the revolving door, restoring voting rights, ending mass incarceration, and comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship.

There may need to be compromises on issues over which Bernie and Hillary have significant differences. On health care, the Platform should enshrine the principle health care as a human right for all Americans, but could acknowledge that there are differences on how to get there -- A compromise might include the right of middle aged Americans to buy into Medicare. On college education, the platform should enshrine the principle that everyone who wants to should have the financial ability to go to college, but could acknowledge differences between "debt-free college" and "free tuition at a public institution." The platform should support the need to break up Too-Big-To-Fail Banks, but might acknowledge this could be done either through existing Dodd-Frank authority or by passing a 21st Century Glass Steagal Act.

You get the idea.

The question is: Can Hillary acknowledge that the Democratic Party and the electorate is different from what it was in 1992. Today corporate neoliberalism does not represent an ideology either to win elections or to govern; and can Bernie make enough compromises to his strongly held principles to find common ground?

According to Nate Silver, in Democratic primaries and caucuses where independents could vote, Sanders beat Clinton by 31 percent among independents. According to the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, Sanders had a 31 point edge over Clinton among independents. This is the future of the Democratic Party.

Hillary and the Democratic establishment can treat Bernie and his supporters with barely concealed contempt, as naïve youngsters and aging hippies who never grew up, like dandruff that must be dusted off their lapels. They can choose to hard line efforts by the Sanders forces to open up the Democratic Party. Or they can open up the Democratic Party to Sanders' more democratic procedures and more populist policies, which are so appealing to the general electorate in 2016.

If they don't do the latter, with 66 percent of voters believing Hillary to be untrustworthy (compared to 57 percent who believe that of Trump) they risk losing the election to an authoritarian racist who would likely put America and the world in grave jeopardy.