This is a very difficult morning for those of us who support Bernie Sanders. We went into yesterday believing that the Michigan win of a week ago was the beginning of a wave that would carry through Ohio, Illinois and Missouri. We went to bed (late) thinking that we might well win Illinois and Missouri, and we woke up to the news that Hillary Clinton had likely won them all (she is the "apparent winner" at the time I write this). In some ways, this is the end of the road. It's time to acknowledge that he is unlikely to win the nomination, and it is time for Sanders to do exactly what Clinton is going to do this morning — pivot the campaign so that Donald Trump is the principal opponent.
Sanders should recognize that [Clinton] is now our best hope to defeat Donald Trump, and that the battle against Trump is of historic significance.
Because the big story of last night was that Trump continued to win. Notwithstanding the violence at his rallies, notwithstanding his campaign manager's apparent assault of a reporter, and notwithstanding his overwhelming dishonesty, Trump's trip to the GOP nomination continues. The GOP suddenly realizes how dangerous he is. Last night, Speaker Paul Ryan would not rule out accepting his party's nomination at a brokered convention. Like John Kasich's confetti, Ryan is engaging in fantasy. They seem very unlikely to stop him. In the end, Trump will have prevailed because they did not act quickly enough.
Sanders has an opportunity to make sure that the Democrats do not repeat the GOP's error. Last night, in a speech no television network carried, Sanders went after Trump and repeated the central ideas of his candidacy. After assailing Trump for his "pathological" lying, the hatred he has spewed at Muslims, Mexicans and others, Sanders returned to his themes of income inequality, investment in infrastructure (to create jobs), health care as a right for all and the end of mass incarceration and institutionalized racism. He made no mention of his losses. This speech, part anti-Trump, part-political revolution, is a blue print for his campaign from here. He needs to continue down this road and to abandon direct arguments against Clinton.
I do not think Sanders should suspend his campaign. Unlike all of the other candidates running, Sanders' campaign is only partially about getting elected. Indeed, the campaign's relentless focus on its message largely explains the success of a grumpy 74- year-old Democratic Socialist in a series of primaries in a party he has never fully embraced. People have come to love Sanders because he is saying exactly what they think is right. He should take that message across the country because it will continue to resonate and to bring new people to the party and to politics.
We must be united in the face of hatred and in support of hope and equality. It's time to get started together.
At the same time, Sanders should abandon his direct battle with Clinton. Let the Wall Street contributions and speeches go. Forgive her lateness to the game on trade agreements and stubborn refusal to reject the death penalty. Instead, Sanders should recognize that she is now our best hope to defeat Trump, and that the battle against Trump is of historic significance. Accordingly, he needs to spend the time he would otherwise spend on Clinton attacking Trump and his vile message of racism, hatred and violence. He needs to persuade his people that defeating Trump is a necessary predicate to the change that unites them. As the race goes on, Sanders will still win some (maybe many) primaries, and he will have a significant moment at the convention in Philadelphia. But that is all less important than making sure that Trump is never president.
For weeks, Clinton has sought to pivot her campaign to the general election. It's time. Sanders should do the same thing. Together, on parallel tracks, they can lay the important case against Trump. Sanders need not abandon his campaign to join that effort. Indeed, those of us who support him need to join him (and Clinton) in that battle. We must be united in the face of hatred and in support of hope and equality. It's time to get started together.