For a good long while, it seemed as if getting tickets to “Hamilton” would be easier than getting Bernie Sanders to endorse Hillary Clinton.
Right up until the moment when Sanders, in a Portsmouth, New Hampshire, gym Tuesday, finally uttered the much-anticipated words -- “I have come here to make it as clear as possible why I am endorsing Hillary Clinton" -- some might have believed the irascible Vermont senator would find a way to bash presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump, but stop short of publicly supporting Clinton.
Having spent so much time kicking dirt on Clinton, it seemed unlikely whether Sanders could or would help unify the party.
After all, the acrid stench of a surprisingly competitive primary season between Clinton and Sanders is still detectable in the humid summer air. Just three months ago, Sanders was on CNN declaring that the former secretary of state was "not qualified" to be president. For months, he slammed Clinton’s Senate vote in favor of the catastrophic war in Iraq, and demanded she reveal the content of wallet-fattening speeches she gave to such Wall Street bogeymen as Goldman Sachs after she left the State Department. Having spent so much time kicking dirt on Clinton, it seemed unlikely whether Sanders could or would help unify the party.
A longtime Independent, Sanders admitted he only became a Democrat so that his campaign would receive media attention it would otherwise be denied as a third-party run. In recent weeks, Sanders often acted like he couldn’t care less if the party failed for want of a unified front. He was a man insisting the party wasn’t over just because he wasn’t ready to go home.
And every day without his endorsement shook Clinton and the Democrats.
At the same time, some hardcore Sanders supporters and Bernie Bros, their dreams deferred, caterwauled about rigged elections and how the prospect of Clinton as president is so odious, they would rather vote for Trump. This, of course, never makes a lick of sense. Anyone truly enthralled by Sanders, a self-described “Democratic socialist” who called for “a political revolution,” would be more likely to set their hair on fire than vote for an insult-flinging, race-bating hate machine like Trump.
We’ll never know of all the deals struck and promises made by the Clinton camp to get Sanders and, they hope, the 13 million voters who cast primary ballots for him, on their side. We do know Sanders helped shaped the Democratic platform, pushing the party to adapt what he called "the most progressive platform” in its history. That, obviously, is what he wanted.
After spending so many months "feeling the Bern," Sanders backers may now feel betrayed. To them, Sanders is a traitor who promised, then sold out the “political revolution” they believed had finally come. Yet they surely must know what Sanders, even in his most recalcitrant moments, understood: to divide the party could provide just enough daylight for Trump come November.
...to create an opportunity for someone as manifestly unqualified and unstable as Trump to move closer to the presidency would shatter everything to which Sanders has devoted his political life.
Yes, the Democratic Party is flawed and can fall short of its professed values. Still, to create an opportunity for someone as manifestly unqualified and unstable as Trump to move closer to the presidency would shatter everything to which Sanders has devoted his political life. Like Ralph Nader in 2000, Sanders risked being forever cast as a selfish agitator who cared more about his tender ego than the fate of his nation. Instead, he has finally flipped the script. His supporters, as testy and heartbroken as they may now be, need to do the same.
Eight years ago, Clinton endorsing Barack Obama helped pave the way for his presidency. In literally and figuratively embracing Clinton, Sanders may achieve the same for the woman he once so ardently opposed.
In politics, sometimes the enemy of your enemy is still your enemy.