“Drop your plans and schemes,” Thomas Cromwell advises doomed Queen Anne Boleyn in “Wolf Hall.” “Put down the burden of them.”
Bernie Sanders could use similar counsel. He’s now behind Hillary Clinton by almost 400 pledged delegates and nearly 4 million popular votes. Spare us the commentary on the crowds, the passion and the noise. The voters clearly prefer Hillary.
After losing California and New Jersey, Sanders again vowed to “take the fight” to the convention in Philadelphia — a message that he still has the power to make things unpleasant for the Democratic Party. He hints that his devotees might withhold votes for Clinton. Threats are all he has left, and he can’t let go of them.
The nominating process is lumpy for sure, but actually, some of the “rigging” favored Sanders. He did very well in the caucuses, low-turnout affairs where participants have to sit in a gymnasium and argue publicly with their neighbors. These were perfect settings for ardent Sanders volunteers to dominate. Clinton prevailed in primaries, in which ordinary Democrats could quickly vote and then go to their jobs or children.
President Obama will have a heart-to-heart with Sanders later this week. Obama will no doubt urge him to deter his fan club from booing at Clinton’s name. Sanders has never been a team player, but if he’s playing for any team now, it’s Donald Trump’s.
One hopes the president will stall Sanders’ latest plot to, in effect, replace the Democrats’ popular vote with polls. The idea is to persuade the superdelegates, the party insiders Sanders once excoriated as undemocratic, to swing his way at the convention because polls show him beating Trump by a wider margin than would Clinton.
No one knows better than the insiders how worthless such polls are. They compare a candidate under partisan assault for decades with one on whom the Republican opposition has yet to spend $2 attacking. You can imagine Trump ads harping on Sanders’ warm praise for a certain bearded dictator, his odd scribbling on sexual matters and his other idiosyncrasies.
Trump himself continues making kind references to Sanders, mischievously fueling the persecution complex that Sanders has cultivated among his people. If you really want to gauge which candidate poses the least danger to Trump, look at the Democratic candidate he wants to run against.
Always moving the furniture, often distorting reality. Recall Sanders’ dismissive wave of the hand at primary results in the Southern states where Clinton won commanding victories, thanks to African-American voters. “Conservative states” was his dissimulation.
Sanders frequently tells his adoring crowds that it’s “not about Bernie.” But it is about Bernie. The sophisticates in his camp know it. Without the grouchy, charismatic haranguer, the cameras go away. Furthermore, with Trump imploding and politically serious Sanders followers moving to the presumptive nominee, Clinton can worry less about a hardcore left bent on intimidating her party.
Back in Tudor England, Cromwell offers to help Queen Anne as much as he can and then abruptly adds, “But do not threaten me.”
Sanders has benefited from running against an opponent loath to fight back and offend his people. Others will not be so accommodating. For example, longtime hippie journalist Al Giordano is mulling a challenge to Sanders’ U.S. Senate seat in 2018. Giordano is steamed at the damage Sanders is inflicting on the Democrats’ chances against Trump — and he has lots of company.
If Sanders’ ego can’t deal with his being a supportive player, he can withdraw from the scene. Burlington, Vermont, is a very nice place.
Above all, Sanders should stop the intrigue and electoral gimmicks. There’s a legacy to think about, and it should be worth something.
Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Photo: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks during a rally in National City, California, United States May 21, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake