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The Sanders Endgame

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This inside-baseball account of the Sanders campaign will get a lot of attention, and it’s certainly interesting reading. A few points:

  • One thing about pieces about losing or lost campaigns is that they inevitably tend to frame choices as mistakes, and to assume that these perceived mistakes are pivotal. For example: “He chose the knife fight over calling Clinton unqualified, which aides blame for pulling the bottom out of any hopes they had of winning in New York and their last real chance of turning a losing primary run around.” Did the “unqualified” line help? Probably not. Was there the slightest chance in hell Sanders was winning New York even had his campaign been flawless? Nah.
  • The problem with seeing the Sanders campaign through the lens of its mistakes (actual or perceived) is that the campaign surpassed any reasonable expectation. On balance, they did a lot more right than a lot more wrong, and if Sanders’s aides want to blame him for the inelegant endgame he has to get the vast majority of the credit for overachieving.
  • Sanders does come off as bitter and petulant at times in the article. But it’s worth putting this in context — as I’ve said before, Clinton’s campaign in 2008 didn’t handle it any better, and while Clinton lost more narrowly the ideological stakes were also lower.
  • I’m not at all concerned that Sanders will fail to strongly support Clinton in the general. Sure, he didn’t drop out tonight, but then Clinton in 2008 didn’t even concede until several days after the last primary. More important was that he opened fire on Trump while notably avoiding attacks on Clinton. He’s not, even in milder form, going Nader. And if he wants to stay in to D.C. that’s his privilege, he’s under no obligation to drop out.
  • He didn’t win, but he accomplished a lot.

 

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