I’m wondering if the pro-Bernie bombardments on my Facebook feed have diminished because his followers are losing faith in his high-mindedness or because the algorithms dictating what I see there have determined I consider Sanders a tiresome scold, an inflexible ideologue, a magical thinker, a self-righteous prick capable of cruelty.
Let’s take the last charge first. Here’s a piece from the 16 April 2016 New York Times:
In Vermont, however, Mr. Sanders was known for belittling opponents at times, rather than merely challenging their ideas. During one debate in the 1986 governor’s race, Mr. Sanders was asked if he viewed Governor Kunin as “the lesser of two evils,” given his descriptions of the Democratic and Republican parties as “Tweedledum” and “Tweedledee,” and if he thought he might contribute to her political “demise.”
Mr. Sanders chuckled and then looked at Ms. Kunin, seated a few feet away.
“Governor, how does it feel to be the lesser of two evils?” he asked. “I think that really is what this campaign is about.” Ms. Kunin was stone-faced.
Here’s an example of self-righteousness:
Peter Smith, the Republican candidate for governor in 1986 and the congressman Mr. Sanders ousted in 1990, said that Mr. Sanders used passion to create “a contrast between him and his opponent that may not, in fact, exist.” Mr. Sanders’s aides in the 1990 campaign said they would regularly taunt Mr. Smith about his positions on issues like the minimum wage, which the congressman would dispute, and then Mr. Sanders would come forward and accuse Mr. Smith of dishonesty. As a result, a running theme of that campaign was that Mr. Sanders had integrity and Mr. Smith lacked it.
“The tool he uses is his intensity and his belief that, on the major issues he cares about, there is only one right answer,” Mr. Smith said. “And it is his.”
No wonder Sanders wanted to meet the Pope — he could meet a peer in infallibility.
In his current race, of course, he has abandoned the high road he promised to take and has now launched a series of negative ads even though the only way he could possible win the nomination is if Clinton is indicted over her email server. In the 2008 cycle, Clinton found herself in a similar position mathematically, and although she didn’t drop out (as I wished she had), she did start to tone down her attacks on Obama. Although Sanders has backed off from questioning Clinton’s qualifications, you can bet either Cruz or Trump will use Sanders’ quotes in blistering TV ads.
Of course, if in the unlikely event that Sanders were to be the Democratic nominee, it would take an unprecedented landslide in Congressional races to provide him with the pie-in-the-sky Democratic majorities needed to enact legislation so he could break up the banks, provide free tuition, etc. However, Sanders doesn’t bother to raise money for Congressional races. I guess he believes the force of his righteousness is contagious or either he doesn’t want to dirty his hands, like Brutus in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, raising tainted money.
I can’t help but wonder if Senator Sanders’ hatred of Wall Street trumps his compassion for people, if he sees them as abstractions, figures on a spreadsheet. Certainly, some of his supporters who don’t bother to vote for down ballot Democrats in primary and caucuses and say they’ll sit out an election between Clinton and Trump or Cruz.
So what if the ACA is overturned, if Trump gets to appoint the next Supreme Court justice, if Medicaid is slashed if it means you have to vote “for the lesser of two evils?”
Of course, none of the above will convince the true believers of the Bernie Cult. As someone on my Twitter feed said, “Admitting you’re for Hillary sort of feels like coming out in the ‘60s.” Sanders supporters tend to take criticisms of him personally as if he’s a religious figure beyond censure. If Clinton supporters took criticisms of her personally, they’d very well might need hospitalization.
I sort of dread posting these comments, and I certainly expect a tsunami of dyspepsia in response to this post; however, I felt that venting a bit of spleen of my own might be therapeutic this melancholy spring.
 Cf “self-righteous prick.”
 Cf. “magical thinker”