There's lots of discussion as to how Bernie Sanders wants to deal with Hillary Clinton at the Democratic convention. That strategy may become far more clear once the Republican nominee is selected. For example, Ted Cruz and John Kasich may stop Donald Trump and together they may actually find a path to reconstructing the Republican Party. But however it turns out, Clinton needs Sanders' support and the support of his following to win. She may brag that she had more voters casting ballots for her, but we all know that many of the independent voters who wanted to vote for him were barred in primaries like New York's. Bernie has a far greater following than she does.
The Sanders campaign naturally will want a big say in creating the party platform: $15 minimum wage, breaking up the big banks, single payer health care, and all the other important issues that Bernie Sanders has pushed for. But the platform is basically window dressing. When you're dealing with a person like Hillary Clinton who changes her position any way that suits her convenience, Bernie has to get tough and insist on more control. So here's an idea that may work.
Before we get to the convention, Bernie should advance the idea of selecting a cabinet to campaign with the presidential and vice-presidential nominee.
Before we get to the convention, Bernie should advance the idea of selecting a cabinet to campaign with the presidential and vice-presidential nominee. This is an original idea in the U.S., but it's completely common in parliamentary systems to have a “shadow cabinet” that is ready to spring into action immediately following an election. In fact, the Green Party in the U.S. has a shadow cabinet. Bernie should begin to assemble people who would be willing to be in the cabinet regardless of who is nominated as president. In other words, his campaign should begin to find people who would be willing to take cabinet positions whether the nominee is Hillary or Bernie.
I can give one name who would almost certainly be willing to serve under either nominee: Robert Reich. He served as Labor Secretary under Bill Clinton, he has known Hillary Clinton for many years, and yet he endorsed Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders over her. He has excellent credentials, and he would be a great Treasury Secretary. Another possibility might be Brad Deutsch for Attorney-General. He has acted as Bernie's campaign attorney since last April. But I'm sure that there are many attorneys who would be willing to serve as attorney-general. And here's a list of foreign policy experts who have endorsed Bernie (one of them worked for Ronald Reagan!) Surely there must be one among them who would be acceptable to Hillary.
The goal would be to find candidates for the Cabinet who would be
- acceptable to both Hillary and Bernie and
- willing to campaign with the nominee for the platform that includes the major planks that Bernie has proposed.
Bernie and his delegates would go to the convention proposing both a platform and a cabinet.
If a cabinet were selected at the convention, that means that Hillary as president would be surrounded by people who wanted Bernie's platform. Yes, such people might be willing to compromise once in office. Yes, Hillary might prove herself to be a complete rat and refuse to nominate some of them once elected. But the latter situation would cause her to lose too much support just as she entered office.
This strategy of proposing both a platform and a cabinet would put Hillary in a box. If she rejected both the platform and the cabinet, it would be clear that her goal was only personal power. This would leave Bernie and his delegates with the right to walk out of the convention and try to form an independent party.
Normally, an independent party would not get anywhere. But Bernie has proven sources of funding that are independent of the Democratic Party, and he has become well known. Furthermore, if (say) Trump were the Republican candidate, Bernie would appeal both to the left wing of the Democratic Party and (as we have seen) many independents. It is very possible that he could win if he adhered to his platform and could retain a group of experts to serve as his shadow cabinet.
So most likely Hillary would be forced to work out a strong platform and also agree to a cabinet that would be left-wing. The alternative would to destroy the Democratic Party so long as Bernie insisted on getting both the cabinet and the platform. My guess is that she would back down and give Bernie what he wanted so long as the cabinet members were not extreme.
The result would be to unite the party but give Bernie continuing power and a continuing relationship with his followers, because the latter want his program. If the cabinet wanted the program, too, we would have a relationship between the cabinet and Bernie's supporters, which would be a real revolution.
Michael T. Hertz