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If the Answer is a Specific Leader, It’s the Wrong Answer

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I don’t want to be unfair to Damon Linker’s argument here, where he notes the tepidness of the DNC’s “Fair Deal” proposal and says that what the party really needs is Bernie Sanders as its public leader. And maybe it does need Bernie as its public leader, although the fact that large number of party activists hate his guts is not maybe the greatest thing. But I have to say that I find the tendency on the left to attempt to find the one true leader a real problem. Moreover, whatever the situation, if the answer is “we need this person to lead us,” it’s the wrong answer. Any political situation needs to have the possibility for many leaders. Yes, it was great in 2008 to get a really skilled politician as the Democratic candidate, even if that included fooling large parts of the left that he was a transformative figure when instead he was someone who would gut teachers’ unions and push the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Bernie is not Obama, not in pretty much any way. That might be good and that might be bad. But what Democrats need is a number of capable and quality leaders who can articulate a conversation in a positive way. Whether they have that or not is unclear, but Bernie is a problematic enough political leader that I pretty strongly believe he is not the path forward for the left at this time. He’s part of the solution, but no one should be more than part of the solution and that includes messaging. Linker himself admits at the end of the piece that the message is more important than the messenger and that’s important to keep in mind, even if we need do seem someone of charisma (or more ideally, multiple people) to help deliver that message.

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