Bernie’s Disingenuous Pledge

Bernie’s Disingenuous Pledge

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I’d guess I’ve heard it at least a dozen times: Bernie pledging that “I’ll do everything I can to prevent Donald Trump from becoming president.”

The problem is, he keeps not doing everything he can to prevent Donald Trump from becoming president. It would be easy to identify things that Bernie could be doing now – but is refusing to do — that would help ensure that Donald Trump does not become president.

So Bernie’s “I’ll do everything I can” pledge rings hollow.

Oh, a defender of Bernie might say, he says he will do everything he can. He doesn’t claim that he is already doing everything he can. It is future tense.

Unfortunately, that defense does not rescue the honesty of Bernie’s repeated statement.

Aside from the fact that we are already a couple of months into that future since Bernie first started making that pledge, he pointedly refuses to pledge that he will do those things that would help most to prevent Donald Trump from becoming president.

Last night, for example, in an interview with Bernie, Chris Hayes tried – overly gently in my view – to elicit a bit of detail about the meaning of his pledge. Chris brought up how Elizabeth Warren is boosting Hillary – and thereby lessening the chances of Donald Trump becoming president – with her endorsement and her warm embrace of the soon-to-be Democratic nominee. Does Bernie’s pledge mean, Chris asked, that he will do the same?

Here’s an answer that would show real integrity in his pledge: “When I say, ‘everything I can,’ you can assume that means everything I can. So of course I will do whatever it takes, for example, to persuade those who have followed me to help Hillary win.” But he said nothing of the sort.

He evaded Chris’s question, instead responding to it by saying that he’s working to get Hillary to agree to get the platform to move toward his position on certain issues.

It is certainly understandable how Bernie might desire getting a platform that is maximally representative of his views. But is withholding support that could be a powerful boost to the effort to defeat Donald Trump consistent with Bernie’s repeated pledge to “do everything I can to prevent Donald Trump from becoming president”? This is not a pledge that, if it’s honest, leaves any room for doing less in order to achieve other goals.

(Even if we put the pledge aside, are we – even we who agree with Bernie’s positions on the issues — to applaud Bernie’s choice to use his leverage by withholding his support in order to get a few additional good planks into the platform? In view of Bernie’s repeated statements that a President Trump would be an utter “disaster” for the nation, it’s not clear that such a choice passes a reasonable cost/benefit analysis. As many have observed, history does not suggest that party platforms have great enduring impact.)

One might say that it’s just a matter of time. One might say that Bernie is just being cagey. One might say that Bernie is planning after the convention to do a full Elizabeth-Warren-level bolstering of the only alternative to President Donald Trump.

But, even if that is so, I cannot imagine any path forward for Bernie that would be as effective at stopping Trump as what he could have been doing since he first made his pledge.

As far as I can see, he’s been breaking that pledge since he first started announcing it. And he is breaking it still.