On Monday, President Obama scolded journalists for not covering the substance of the presidential campaign. I entirely agree.
Where I disagree with the president is when he criticizes Bernie Sanders and his supporters, as well as Donald Trump, by saying: “When people put their faith into someone who can’t possibly deliver his or her own promises, that only breeds more cynicism.”
Obama is wrong — and insulting to voters — when he suggests that they need him or the media to determine whether they should put their faith in Sanders.
Obama is wrong — and insulting to voters — when he suggests that they need him or the media to determine whether they should put their faith in Sanders. Sanders supporters know exactly why they are supporting the Vermont senator.
Sanders and his supporters believe — and I entirely agree — that Democrats should stand for powerful transforming change. They believe Democrats should mobilize armies of small donors and workers to support that change and should motivate more voters to come out on Election Day to elect more Democrats to the House and Senate, so that the party can negotiate with Republicans from a position of strength and a mandate for change.
Obama and Democrats should consider with prayerful reflection why, since Obama became president, Democrats have lost control of the House, the Senate, governorships and state legislatures across the nation. It is fact, not opinion, that Democrats have suffered extreme damage at all levels during Obama’s presidency, because too many Republican voters were motivated to vote and too many Democratic voters were not inspired and stayed home.
Before Obama further insults the intelligence and idealism of Sanders supporters by suggesting he knows better than they do about which candidate they should put their faith in, he might consider this: The sum of all polling, according to RealClearPolitics, finds that Sanders would defeat every Republican opponent in a general election, would defeat Trump by an epic landslide margin of more than 17 percent and runs stronger than Hillary Clinton against all GOP opponents.
My answer to Obama’s speech to journalists is not that Democrats should support Sanders or Clinton, but that it is profoundly unwise and destructive to Democrats for the president to gratuitously criticize Sanders and insult those who put their faith in him. Regardless of who is nominated, Sanders is a major part of the solution to the challenges that Democrats face, and when Obama criticizes Sanders he becomes the problem, not the solution.
Make no mistake, Hillary Clinton is the probable nominee for the Democratic Party, and if she is nominated I will work like hell to get her elected. But make no mistake about this, either: Bernie Sanders still has a chance to win a majority of elected delegates, and he and his supporters should be respected.
Sanders has touched a chord in American politics. He speaks to the heart of many Democrats. He offers the conviction politics of authenticity and principle that Americans hunger for and find sorely lacking in politics today. He thrills young people, appeals to independents and attracts blue-collar workers who might otherwise be tempted by Trump.
If Obama wants to help his party do better than it has done so far on his watch, while offering high praise to Clinton, he should speak of Sanders with respect and admiration, not condescension and contempt. If he wants to elect more Democrats to the House and Senate, he should sing the praises of Sanders for inspiring small donors to give him more than $43 million in February, and he should offer those small donors a standing ovation worthy of their great aspirations. Then, perhaps, they will donate to progressive Democrats running for the House and Senate regardless of who is nominated for president.
For the same reasons that Sanders should avoid negative attacks against Clinton, Obama should avoid negative opining about Sanders and condescension toward his supporters, who bring enthusiasm, idealism and commitment to the cause that serves all Democrats and is as precious as gold to any nominee, whoever he or she may ultimately be.