Before the 2016 presidential race, Bernie Sanders exuded some charm as an unapologetic lefty with a Brooklyn accent. But when his campaign gained traction, the authoritarian took over. Unwilling to concede that Democratic primary voters preferred Hillary Clinton to him — she had amassed nearly four million more votes — he continued to undermine her all the way up to the party convention. Without a doubt, he helped elect Donald Trump.
Recall this scorched-earth attack, at a rally when Clinton had all but clinched the nomination: "Are you qualified to be president of the United States when you're raising millions of dollars from Wall Street, an entity whose greed, recklessness and illegal behavior helped destroy our economy?"
It happens that those speeches didn't include anything particularly supportive of Wall Street's goals. As a senator, she continually voted against its interests. But she did represent New York, where the financial industry is a major employer and provides the biggest payroll. As a senator from Vermont, Sanders routinely voted money for Lockheed Martin's F-35 fighter jets, a $1.5 trillion boondoggle. Why? Because the F-35 program was employing a lot of Vermonters.
Sanders is no stranger to hypocrisy. Last summer, he praised the Democratic National Committee for greatly reducing the power of superdelegates — powerful Democrats who can back any candidate, regardless of how the people vote. But in 2016, when it became clear that he was losing the nomination, Sanders beseeched the superdelegates to ignore the voters and support him instead.
Dismissing the will of the people is a Bernie specialty. No one can forget the Nevada Democratic state convention, held after Clinton had won the Nevada caucuses by a comfortable margin. The "Bernie bros" erupted, shouting the C-word at the women running the event. That included its chairwoman, who also received death threats against her and her grandchild.
Forced by circumstances to issue a statement, Sanders didn't condemn the violence until the third paragraph — and that was quickly followed by a "but" that, in Trumpian fashion, blamed both sides. (We note that the statement has been removed from the official Sanders campaign website.)
The Sanders base has always been heavily weighted in the white gentry. African-Americans, on the other hand, tend to distrust him — and for good reasons. During the early primaries, he waved off his losses in the Southern states, with their large black electorates, as not mattering.
It didn't help that his top black surrogate, academic Cornel West, had called Barack Obama "a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats."
There was always a racial undercurrent in the 1960s migration of many New York liberals to Vermont, an overwhelmingly white state with moderate politics. Racial tensions in the city were high, and black militants were not so keen to sit at the knees of white intellectuals and be told what was what. Up in Burlington, white liberals could safely sit in cafes and talk radicalism to one another into the night. Sanders became one of them.
Why Democrats let Sanders, an independent, drop by when he needs their services while they do all the hard work has long been a mystery. While seeking re-election to the Senate last year, Sanders briefly joined the party to run for the nomination as a Democrat. (That way, he could keep a real Democrat off the November ballot.) Once he won, he refused the nomination, allegedly to preserve his independence. Independence from what, a differing opinion?
We shouldn't care that Sanders is old, white and male. And some of his ideas are good. Problem is, he lost his moral authority in the 2016 election of Trump. It should be over for him.
(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)