Home 2016 elections A Win-Win Way for Bernie to Lead Now

A Win-Win Way for Bernie to Lead Now


Dear Bernie,

There are some – such as you and some of your followers – who believe it is worthwhile for you to keep fighting Hillary for the nomination.

There are others – just about everyone else on the Democratic side, including some of your supporters like me – who believe the battle for the nomination has been effectively decided, and that it’s time to pivot to the must-win battle against Trump and the GOP.

Fortunately, there is a way for you to lead now that serves both purposes and should satisfy both groups.

This strategy engages directly with your claim – important if true – that the Democrats should nominate you because you would be better able to defeat Trump in November.

It’s time for you to prove it. Start now showing us your general election campaign.

It’s not enough for you to just keep pointing to those polls. They don’t really prove your case (for reasons that have been well shown.

Show us that you’re the guy to take on Trump by doing just that– taking on Trump.

Elections aren’t like golf, with each guy doing his own thing, and the guy who does it best wins. They’re more like boxing matches, where the winner is the guy who beats his opponent in the exchanges. Especially with a guy like Trump—the guy who beat “Little Marco” and “Lyin’Ted” and is already going after “Crooked Hillary.”

Show us if you can land a punch and come out the winner.  Elizabeth Warren has shown how it can be done—powerfully and still with truth and integrity.

Show us what you’ve got, Bernie.

Let’s hear your general election speech. You’re going to need a lot more than that stump speech that we who have followed you have heard so many times. Have you got new messages to meet the new challenges?

Let’s hear the speech you’d make to those who might vote for Trump or might vote for you. How well can you expose Trump’s con to those voters who are not automatic Democratic or Republican votes? How well can you show them his barrage of lies, why he can’t be trusted, how he’s not on anybody’s side but his own?

Show us how you’d persuade those voters who might just stay home on Election Day that they need to come out and reject Trump in favor of you.

Show us how you’ll campaign, as the standard-bearer of the Democratic Party to take power away from the obstructionist Republicans in Congress, which must be overcome for anything to be accomplished now matter whether it’s you or Hillary who wins the White House.

And let’s hear the speech you’d make to your followers to motivate them to do all they can to make sure that Donald Trump doesn’t become president. You’ve said yourself how vitally important that is. Let’s hear how well you can persuade your supporters to see what you see about the urgency of stopping Trump, so they’ll understand that there are core American values at stake here regardless of who comes out of the convention with the nomination.

You can dramatize these stakes with a “whoever is the nominee” speech.

Let us hear, when it comes to your three core issues how you’ll explain to your supporters, and to the voters generally, why the whole Republican ticket needs to be defeated:

  • that it is Republican-appointed justices that gave us “that disastrous Supreme Court decision, Citizens United, that has helped the billionaire class and the corporate system steal our democracy;
  • that it is the Republicans in Congress who work tirelessly to give tax cuts to the rich at the expense of the struggling middle class; and
  • that the Republican Party is the only major political party in any advanced democracy that consistently lies to the people about the reality of climate change.

Showing us all that is win-win, because at the same time as you are demonstrating that you are the candidate to lead the Democrats into battle, you are also setting the stage for the party coming together no matter who ends up being the standard-bearer in the battle against Trump and the GOP.


The first win is that you’ll be making the strongest possible case for yourself, backing up your claim that you are the right champion for the Democrats to send out into the field to do battle with Trump. You need to back of that claim with evidence people can see, and here’s your chance to provide it.

The second win is that you’ll be working to assure that – whoever is the nominee – Trump doesn’t become president. There are two ways your speeches auditioning for the general election can do that:

  • by helping Americans generally see Trump for the dangerous and irresponsible person that he is; and
  • by helping all the forces involved on the Democratic side to come together to fight the common foe.

Show us what you’ve got, Bernie, for the battle ahead.

  • Jim Butler

    Bernie is too busy debating the Donald to care about the general election.

  • Andy Schmookler

    I can’t say I follow you there, Jim Butler, as it seems that debating the Donald and showing what he’s got for the general election are different ways of saying the same thing.

    Not knowing whether the idea of such a debate has already been shot down or is still alive, I would like to make a few points.

    First, months ago I wrote encouraging Bernie to debate with Trump one way or another– an actual debate if possible, or one through the media (as one might say Elizabeth Warren with her tweets has done).

    Second, I do not agree with the writer on Salon.com — Sean Illing — who lamented the idea of such a debate because, as he saw it: a) Bernie would inevitably be compelled to pile on to Hillary, as Trump would go after her with indictments that align with Bernie’s critiques, and b) the only beneficiary of the debate could be Trump.

    Those assumptions reflect a terrible lack of imagination. If I were in Bernie’s place, and Trump went after Hillary and tried to enlist me to do the same, I’d respond along the lines of: “Whatever my disagreements with Secretary Clinton, I am certain that she would make a way, way better than you would, Mr. Trump. and here’s why….” And by that means, such a debate could actually strengthen Hillary vis a vis Trump, and could lead to the outcome — not imagined by Illing — that the only loser of the debate would be Trump.

    Having said that, I confess that I have diminished confidence that Bernie would conduct his side of the debate in that constructive fashion. So my point is simply that it could be done, and it might be a good thing.

    To illustrate my case against the assumptions and conclusions in the salon.com article, let me propose this: if you heard that Elizabeth Warren were going to go toe-to-toe with Trump in some kind of debate format, would you not regard that prospect with pleasurable anticipation?

    I know I would. And I think that if Bernie is able to get back to his center, and to see himself and his efforts in the larger context, and realize that it is not all about him at this point, I believe he has the smarts and the moral passion to get the best of Trump.

    Such a debate could indeed be win-win in the way I described above. And in the absence of any such debate, it is still in Bernie’s power to play a very important constructive role in defeating Trump. Not as the nominee, but as an important voice in support of the overall democratic effort.

    • Jim Butler

      Basically I was making lite of Bernie doing a debate with Trump which is highly unlikely. At this point he is doing damage to the democratic party. When he decided to enter the fray I doubt that he though he would do as well as he has done, but all indications seem to show he or his advisers somehow think they can win and don’t mind throwing a little dirt on Hillary in the process.

      • Andy Schmookler

        ” somehow think they can win” That raises one major question: do they really think that they can win, when pretty much all the objective observers regard it as close to impossible?

        If they do, what does that say about their contact with reality?

        And if they don’t, what does Bernie’s encouraging of that belief in his followers say about where he’s coming from?

        I ran for Congress, and I know there’s an expectation that the candidate will always talk about how he’s going to win until the ball game is over. I resisted that expectation, but it’s there. And some supporters actually do believe it despite the lack of evidence and logic to support it.

        But Bernie’s is not a process where there are no polls numbers, and no results until Election Day. Enough of the precincts are already reporting that the :networks” can declare a winner. It is not “too close to call.”

        Moreover, this is a primary where the expectation is that there will be competition up to a point, and then there will be a coming together to cooperate in defeating the adversary.

        It pains me to denounce the decisions that Bernie has lately been making, because in many ways he is my kind of guy: a culturally Jewish, somewhat intellectual guy in his 70s speaking truth to power, standing up for justice for the little guy and all those whom the mighty are seeking to exploit and roll over.

        (He’s got four years on me, but I began my own kindred path 11 years ago publishing on Common Dreams a piece titled, “What America Needs Now: A Prophetic Social Movement that Speaks Moral Truth to Immoral Power.” http://www.nonesoblind.org/blog/?page_id=27 So, earlier I found in Bernie a spirit more kindred than I’ve usually seen on the public stage.)

        But I see no good coming out of what he’s been doing lately. To my eye, he is displaying fewer of his virtues, which I believe are considerable, and more of the weak spots in his character.

  • Andy Schmookler

    An interesting difference of opinion.

    Tonight, in discussing this Bernie/Trump debate idea, expressed a viewpoint like Illing’s (see my previous comment): she thinks it would inevitably be good for Trump, that even if Bernie “trounced” Trump in the debate it wouldn’t matter because it is not Bernie that Trump will be facing in the fall. I don’t know why she thinks that. It seems to me that Trump would be greatly diminished by being “trounced” by anyone, since his whole shitck is that he’s a winner, a strong man. But that’s what Rachel thinks.

    Meanwhile, Howard Dean — who is a committed Hillary backer — loves the idea. He thinks that Bernie would “clean Wacko Donald’s clock,” and he thinks that would be great for the Democratic side, which will be nominating Hillary.

    It’s still not really clear that any such debate will happen. I would bet that it won’t– that Trump will find some phony way of getting out of it. But Bernie is definitely up for it, and I found it encouraging that the remarks he’s made about such a debate indicate that what excites him is going after Trump.

    One comment he made was about calling out Trump on his bigotry. Another comment indicated that he would challenge him in his role in promulgating the “birther nonsense” to “delegitamize” America’s first African-American president..

  • Andy Schmookler

    Let me throw into this mix an exchange I had on this “Win-Win” piece on Huffington Post:

    Replying to a couple of guys on Huffington Post whose response to that piece was to grouse about how unfair the Democratic Party’s process has been, and what a terrible person/candidate Hillary Clinton is.

    I wrote: “It’s as clear as it should need to be: either Trump
    or Hillary will become president next January. If you recognize that it
    must not be Trump — as Bernie himself has declared numerous times —
    then it is clear what is required. What is required is to do those
    things that will minimize the chances that Trump will become president,
    and minimize the chances that the GOP will be able to hold onto the
    power to prevent anything constructive from being accomplished by a
    Democratic president.”

  • Joe Mancini

    Andy, I see no indications that the Sanders campaign is ready to do anything to lead save playing the “Entitled White Guy” card. Putting a bomb-thrower like Prof. Cornel West on the platform committee so he can rail against Israel, an absurd and counter-productive maneuver that cannot possibly help the party is indicative of this. We are going to be subjected to increasingly shrill complaints about a “rigged” system that somehow guaranteed the candidate who drew 3M+ votes more got the prize.

    • Andy Schmookler

      Some troubling things, Joe, I agree.