Sanders, Warren, and Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

Ideas and Issues National Politics
Bernie Sanders campaign appearance in Portland last summer. Bukaty/Associated Press
Bernie Sanders campaign appearance in Portland last summer. Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press

New Orleans   Run for President in the United States or anywhere around the world, and everyone is a Monday morning quarterback, and some people even make their livings that way.

Like it or not, and believe me, there’s a lot not to like, more than a dozen Republicans threw their hats into the ring and took a shot, and three are still racing to the finish. For many of them it was “go big or go home,” and home is where they landed often bruised and battered permanently like Dr. Ben Carson and former Governors Bobby Jindal and Jeb Bush, and likely Senator Marco Rubio.

On the Democratic side, as more and more of the story trickles out, it seems like the real story of the now almost inevitable nomination of Hillary Clinton may have simply been that she had won before the formal campaign even began. Like a world class athlete she had trained and worked harder before the game began, and by doing so intimidated her opponents into seeing their real chances as quixotic rather than competitive.

In an afterthought, seeing how the campaign has unraveled for Clinton and her vulnerabilities, the biggest favor she got from the outset was the reticence of Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who took herself out of contention early and often. Given the mood of the electorate on both sides of the party line, it is almost inarguable that with her history of taking on Wall Street and a host of others, and winning, she would have ended up in the White House.

But, at least Warren was clear and consistent. As the story trickles out from the Sanders camp, it seems that they are already in the doldrums of debating “woulda, shoulda, coulda” given his unexpected success thus far. Though the public storyline has consistently been that he was “in it to win it,” reports from everyone from his campaign manager to wife to key supporters and observers are now conceding that he entered the race believing he could not and would not win, but would use the campaign as a platform for his issues and interests. He was not exactly a protest candidate, but neither was he ready to “go big or go home.” He was one foot in the water, and one foot on the solid shore, campaigning on weekends and holidays and making sure he kept his day job while he hit the hustings.

Politically, I’m not sure what this is? Maybe it’s a pre-post-mortem, if there’s such a thing as that. Somehow we’re getting the fatal diagnosis even before there’s a cadaver. The campaign insiders are essentially saying that he lost the race in the locker room, even though he was winning on the field. They say he should have gone all in during 2015, been earlier in Iowa, built better bridges to African-Americans in the South, and organized more extensively in Nevada. They also believe he gave Clinton a pass on the emails and kid gloved her on her cozy Wall Street speeches and Clinton Foundation conflicts, rather than hitting hard on those troubling issues, which I can guarantee you we will hear endlessly before the election is finally over in November from the Republicans.

What’s the story for progressives? Is it that we would rather be right, than win? We owe ourselves and our people better than a good fight. We owe them going hard and bringing home the victory. Politics and elections are not “hey, good game, you came so close,” but winners take all. Trump knows that completely, and Sanders seems to be discovering that too late in the game.