Since it is almost the end of 2018, we are well into 2020 presidential campaign speculation season already. Though it is still too early to know very much, I do know one thing: BERNIE DON’T RUN.
Why did so many people get behind Bernie Sanders in 2016? Besides the fact that he was the only candidate offering policy prescriptions that matched the scale of our nation’s biggest problems, his appeal was also rooted in the fact that he clearly believed in a set of principles. Unlike most nakedly ambitious presidential contenders, he seemed to actually be concerned with trying to solve the problems that he spoke about—including, above all, the growing inequality that underlies almost everything else. His campaign was a way to start a movement to improve the country; the movement was not in service only of his own career.
Okay, he didn’t win. Fine. Here we are, getting ready for the next election. This is, I would argue, the most promising political landscape for the left in my lifetime. Shit is so fucked up that people are ready to try some wild shit. They even tried Donald fucking Trump. That, obviously, is and will continue to be a disaster. Now the time is ripe for us to try left wing solutions that mainstream pundits normally dismiss as being out of bounds. Universal health care? Free college? Stronger regulation of Wall Street? Forceful downward redistribution of wealth? A true “Green New Deal?” None of these things are implausible now. And all of them are ideas that Bernie Sanders stands for. So what is the best way for him to contribute to the possibility of bringing them into reality?
BY NOT RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT. Bernie, you’re old as hell man. Too old I’m afraid. In eight years there is a distinct possibility that you will have declined into a lurching, vacant-eyed Ronald Reagan character. We don’t need that. It’s not the time for an 80 year-old president. The movement needs young blood. A new generation of political leadership is already bursting forth. Bernie, you can take satisfaction in the knowledge that you played a leading role in pulling these left wing ideas into the mainstream. You will not be president, though. And that is fine.
Here is what Bernie Sanders should do: endorse a Democratic presidential candidate who will best carry on his own ideas. I don’t really give a damn who it is. Warren, or Kamala Harris, or Sherrod Brown, or whoever. Pick one and get behind them from the very beginning. Any solid top-tier true left wing candidate should, barring a serious fuck-up, be able to win the Democratic nomination if Bernie Sanders hands them all of his supporters on a platter. He still commands a significant percentage of Democratic primary voters. In a large field, his endorsement should prove decisive. That means that Bernie Sanders can, right now, ensure that whichever candidate best represents his own movement can be in the strongest possible position to be the Democratic nominee. As an added benefit, that candidate may not have some of the flaws Bernie himself his. That candidate may be decades younger than him, and possibly not a white man! Everybody wins.
Alternately, Bernie himself could run for president. What would this accomplish? It would accomplish the splintering of the left wing vote in the Democratic primary, which would open a lane for an “establishment” centrist Democratic to take the nomination. Bernie could very well shave off enough votes from Warren or Harris or whoever else represents the true left that all of the lefties in the race would fall short of Joe Biden—or of fucking Mike Bloomberg, or Mark Cuban, or whatever other nightmare candidate may emerge from the muck. You can’t take anything for granted these days.
So the choice that faces Bernie Sanders is: Will you be a kingmaker, or a spoiler? Why not help to cement the power of the left in the Democratic party, rather than dividing it? Why not be the man who ensures that all of your ideas live on in a presidential nominee, rather than the man who opens the door to some “We must run to the center to attract disillusioned Republicans in 2020" bullshit? Do not run, Bernie. Endorse. Don’t blow your purity with an ill-advised late career power grab.
Bernie my man I love you but please do not fuck this up.