The time has come for Sen. Bernie Sanders to bring his long-shot, but determined, presidential nomination bid to a close.
That may sound curious in the wake of his recent triumph in the Indiana primary vote last week, and the possibility he could pick off a few of the other remaining primaries in the next few weeks in places like Oregon, West Virginia and maybe even the motherlode of California, which votes on June 7 and offers 548 delegates up for grabs. But, many of those are the so-called "super delegates" — party loyalists and officeholders, who are likely to plump for Hillary Clinton. As of this week (and not counting the results from the Nebraska primary on May 10) she was only 159 delegates shy of clinching the Democratic Party's nomination. California's delegates, along with those from the other states, are going to be divided proportionally. To have a chance at winning the nomination, Sanders would have to capture about two-thirds or 66 percent of the remaining delegates in play. That's more than a tall order — that's mission impossible.
As has often been said over this long, tedious and often bizarre primary election season, our junior Senator gave it a hearty try and went a lot further than many, including this newspaper, would have expected. He raised important issues about wealth and income disparities, and by putting Hillary Clinton through her paces, probably made her a better candidate and campaigner than she would have been otherwise. A critical moment in Sanders' campaign came during the New York primary, when he badly muffed questions about exactly how he would go about "breaking up the banks." For someone who had made cutting the big banks and Wall Street investment houses down to size his centerpiece issue, not having a play-by-play scenario at his fingertips and a plausible plan to get whatever measures needed passed by a Congress likely, despite all its missteps, to be still or partially controlled by the Republican Party, was jaw dropping. It exposed the fact that the Senator hadn't fully done his homework on what would have been massively disruptive changes to the economy. You can argue that income polarization is a bad thing and an even worse threat in the long-term to the economy, as well as the nation's social fabric, but he should have been able to spell out how it was going to happen, and he couldn't.
Nevertheless, he has had a big impact on the 2016 presidential election and more importantly, did so in a reasonably classy way. He has shown a new way of political fundraising which does not rely on millionaires and Super PACs. He did not get down into the mudslinging until it became apparent that was necessary to shift the dynamic. And for sure he probably wishes he hadn't given Clinton a free pass on her "damn emails" earlier in the process. She didn't deserve that helping hand, because the lack of judgment bordering on arrogance that allowed her to not see the sloppiness of using her own private email server rather than a bulletproof government one is a legitimate campaign issue.
However, we're now at a point where Clinton is virtually assured of scooping up 159 delegates in the next few weeks and the gaze now shifts to the general election and Mrs. Clinton's likely matchup with the rogue candidate of all time, Donald Trump, the four-time bankruptcy survivor who prides himself on understanding the art of the deal better than anyone else on the planet.
There is nothing more important than ensuring The Donald returns to his comfy digs in Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue the day after the election to lick his wounds. Not all of his ideas are crazy, but since what he thinks about anything shifts daily, it seems, and his pompous, bombastic temperament and personality are the epitome of "unpresidential," this is a man uniquely unqualified to be President. He deserves to be defeated soundly, and sent back to the penthouse he came from to mutter darkly about Mexicans and Muslims at a safe remove.
At this point, Sen. Sanders can only continue his quixotic campaign at Clinton's expense, goring her more and weakening her for the general election. She is far from many people's idea of an ideal candidate. There's all that Clinton baggage from the 1990s, and a perception that Mrs. Clinton is less than fully trustworthy (see above under 'damn emails'). She doesn't score high in the likeability index either. Many voters will no doubt hold their nose in the voting booth before marking an X on the ballot next to her name. But she is qualified for the job, and does have a pragmatic and intelligible platform and program which attempts to address issues like the growing polarization of wealth, broadening health insurance coverage, and dealing with the known — and potential — foreign policy challenges likely to confront the next occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Donald Trump, on the other hand, strikes out on all those fronts. The best you can say about his campaign is that he did focus a spotlight on those left behind by the accelerating trends of globalization of trade and technology. The nation needs to do much, much more to bring those folks back into the economic mainstream with hope and optimism for the future. Had the Congressional GOP found it possible to put the interests of the nation first, rather than thinking they were positioning themselves for a Presidential win 2016 by playing an obstructionist hand over and over to thrawt President Obama's every initiative, more of those voters now backing Trump might not have been hurting so badly. But in a justified, if cruel irony, the GOP now has its reward of the wrong guy — Trump — winning the nomination, and threatening a complete rupture of a once-great political party. And it deserves the rupture, so it can rebuild itself and return at some point with a coherent set of pragmatic ideas where the word "compromise" is understood to be a 10-letter word, not a four-letter one.
There is nothing more important than defeating Trump. Bernie can only do more harm than good by staying in the race now. It must be tough after all the time and effort to let go of something wanted so badly, but political pragmatism, the best interests of the nation, and his own historical legacy demand he take this difficult step, and urge his millions of supporters to back Mrs. Clinton in the general election in November.
He fought the good fight, acquitted himself well, and got Vermont on the map. Now is the time to retire gracefully from the field and get behind Mrs. Clinton. She's going to need all the help she can get. To those who think there's no way someone like Donald Trump could ever be elected President, think again. We're one nasty terrorist event a la Paris, Brussels or the 2013 Boston Marathon from having this election get turned upside down — again.
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