BERNIE’S CHOICE

1. It’s Wednesday, May 17, 2016.

2. There is little doubt that Bernie Sanders has been good for the 2016 campaign. His issues are real ones: income inequality, campaign finance reform and the sense that the economy doesn’t work for the lower and middle classes.

But at some point, the Vermont senator needs to decide which is better: either a) losing the battle and winning the war or b) trying too hard to win the battle, losing it anyway, and then losing the war as well.

Sanders won the Oregon primary last night. It was a fair-and-square win; he beat Hillary Clinton by 10 points in a contest only with Democrats participating. She won in Kentucky, but barely.

But Sanders indicated that he is not through fighting for the Democratic presidential nomination. And he believes that part of the reason he isn’t the presumptive nominee already – and Clinton is – is that the Democratic Party’s rules favor people who say they’re Democrats.

This might seem obvious. Most of Sanders’ wins have come in states where independents were allowed to vote in the Democratic primary. He believes that all of those voters are looking to make the same kind of changes that he advocates.

3. But, as last week’s West Virginia exit polls show, something smells a little off.

Sanders won the majority of voters who want a president less liberal than President Obama. That conflicts with the fact that Sanders is running somewhat to the left of the President. And it hints at the idea that many of the people voting for Sanders could be, in fact, trying to screw around with the Democratic race in order to help Donald Trump, who appears to have clinched the Republican nomination.

So Sanders can yell – and he does like to yell – a lot about how his supporters are trying to start a revolution. But being fractious with the party that he only embraced for the purpose of this presidential run is no way to get anything he wants.

4. Because if he fails to accept the inevitability of Hillary Clinton as the nominee, creating problems for her general election run and making President Trump a reality, he and his supporters will NEVER be forgiven by the people usually most sympathetic to their ideas.

They will never have the support of Hispanics and African-Americans who are worried about the bubbling of what has been latent racism. Women will never forgive the further erosion of their rights. The economic hardship a Trump presidency will cause – I second Mark Cuban’s remarks about the calamity awaiting stocks – will be blamed on Sanders.

He could instead be a team player. Support Clinton enthusiastically with the understanding that the things he’s advocating become priorities in her administration. Make certain that Trump doesn’t get a sniff of the White House.

5. There is precedent.

In 2008, one of Hillary Clinton’s points of contention was that Barack Obama wasn’t sufficiently committed to the cause of health care reform. That was considered a key difference between them.

But she stepped aside when the math was against her, as it is with Sanders.

Now, eight years later, Hillary Clinton is running for President to try to defend a health care reform law that has reduced the percentage of Americans uninsured to single digits. It’s called Obamacare. He did what she wanted.

6. Sanders shouldn’t drop out. His supporters in the remaining states, including the big prize of California, should have their say.

But by California, she will have enough delegates to be the presumptive nominee. And he then must embrace her and warn his followers that their plans for change will come to naught if Donald Trump becomes President.

Sanders can be the Hillary Clinton of the 2020s. Or he can be the Ralph Nader, whose intransigence helped give America eight years of George W. Bush. It’s his choice.

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