Here's a question to get the old bean working this morning: Would you want Bernie Sanders to be the Democratic presidential nominee even if it meant the likelihood of the Republican nominee winning because your effing principles are more important to you than handing back the keys to the national car to the GOP?
Before we proceed, might I respectfully suggest that Sanders fanatics -- those of you who can't see the electoral forest for the mighty Bernie oak and Feel the Bern when it's actually their hair on fire -- leave the room because what we're interested in here is discussing a hugely frightening scenario, and the usual ad hominem attacks from people blinded by the light emanating from Bernie's halo are only going to get in the way.
Sanders is far and away the best presidential candidate for the times in which we live, and along with Barack Obama and George McGovern, the best candidate of my lifetime. Sanders is far and away the best candidate to build on the not shabby Obama legacy and further distance America from the darkness of Bush era years. Like Hillary Clinton, he talks the progressive talk, but unlike Clinton he actually walks the progressive walk. His advocacy for closing the gap between rich and poor, cracking down on the continuing excesses of Wall Street, on truly universal health care and making public colleges tuition-free, among other policy initiatives, are a breath of fresh air in these deeply toxic political times.
Sanders' campaign, with his army of young foot soldiers, brings back fond memories of 1968.
If you weren't coming home in a pine box or wheelchair from Vietnam, 1968 was a tremendously exciting year, and among the waves of change roiling American society none was quite as dramatic as Eugene McCarthy's campaign to wrest the heart and soul of the Democratic Party from the hawks and take the White House in what would be a bloodless and historic coup d'état. (None of us gave any thought to what would happen if McCarthy somehow won the nomination, but then we got Richard Nixon anyhow.)
I was a junior in college, editor of the campus newspaper and, while avowedly objective in all things political as a young journalist, I secretly and fervently supported McCarthy and even got to interview him. My roommates took leave of classes to slog through deep snow in New Hampshire and volunteer for the maverick from Minnesota. They even cut their long hair and shaved off their beards to "get clean for Gene."
I would trust Sanders with my life, while I wouldn't trust Clinton with going to the corner store for a bottle of pop and a bag of Cheetos and giving me the change from the five dollar bill I gave her.
I'm weary of people attacking Sanders supporters because of their idealism, their leaps of faith and willingness to believe him when he says he understands their struggles, which contrasts starkly with Clinton's brand of cynical realism. All that noted (and I do wish you Sanders fanatics would stop trying to sneak back in the room while we're trying to figure this thing out), he conceivably could win the nomination if the heavens align just so -- say, the electoral equivalent of Mercury, Mars, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn all in a row and all being visible as they briefly were on a morning last month.
But as feel-good as that might be, and as much of a nostalgia trip as it may be for old heads (Bernie, by the way, has a helluva lot more on the ball than Eugene ever did), and as exhilarating his probable victory on Tuesday in another New Hampshire primary nearly 50 years later will be, Sanders stands no chance of being elected president.
That grim reality is inextricably entwined with Sanders' deep belief in democratic socialism, a benevolent system of governance that you and I know is a far cry from the jackbooted Sieg Heil brand of socialism, but will enable gleeful Republicans to unrelentingly tar him in the general election. The tar will stick, and feathers to the tar. The harsh reality is that Sanders' nomination guarantees Republican control of all three branches of government, which would be a body blow to the progressive agenda and a devastating setback for all that still is right about America.
That Sanders also probably would lose in a landslide of Goldwater-esque proportions would be secondary, as well as a cruel reversal of fortune for Democrats and democracy since the heavenly electoral alignment of 2016 favors a runaway victory for someone many voters see as being a flawed but satisfactory fit for the times, and an alternative to Republican demagoguery. Hillary Clinton.
Not doing the right thing because it would result in the wrong thing is indeed a cop-out, in this case an excuse to shirk responsibility of pretty dramatic proportions. This isn't a game of college philosophy class hacky sack. This is the real world, and it is bloody terrifying. So I'll ask again: Is believing in Sanders more important at the end of the day -- or more accurately at the end of the primary season -- when the alternative almost certainly is a president named Raphael Edward Cruz?
Bring on the snark if you must, but think about it. Our future may depend on it.
POLITIX UPDATE IS WRITTEN BY SHAUN MULLEN, A VETERAN JOURNALIST AND BLOGGER FOR WHOM THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN IS HIS 12th SINCE 1968. CLICK HERE FOR AN INDEX OF PREVIOUS COLUMNS.
© 2015-2016 SHAUN D. MULLEN.
IMAGE FROM DONKEYHOTEY/FLICKR. USED WITH PERMISSION.