By Dick Polman
You’re toast, and I’m smelling the burn.
Time to man up. Start drafting your endorsement speech. If you insist on staggering through the next few weeks, losing big in the string of Democratic primaries that are open only to actual Democrats, wagging your finger at the injustice of it all, at least do the party a favor and nudge it toward unity. If you want to keep hawking your nonexistent revolution, fine. But it’s time to start hosing down your pie-eyed acolytes and focusing on the existential threat of Trump. Just get it done.
Nuked in NY: You were gutted in New York, pure and simple. No lame spin can mask that reality. You devoted yourself to winning it — you spent twice as much as Hillary Clinton on advertising — yet you were eviscerated by 16 percentage points. All your talk about Wall Street and billionaires came to nothing; according to the exit polls (this stat says it all), you even lost by 20 points among voters who earn less than $30,000 a year.
And yet again, just like in the swing states of Ohio and Florida, your “revolution” was feted only in the youngest age bracket. For the umpteenth time: You can’t presume to have a broad-based movement if you’re only cranking up the kids. Last night, people under 30 were just 17 percent of the electorate. You lost all the other age categories. In fact, 65 percent of the voters were 40 and older — and you lost them by a margin of 2-1.
As for your performance among people of color … let’s just say that you’re not in Kansas anymore. I’m not quoting The Wizard of Oz, I’m trying to stage an intervention. Stop talking about Kansas and Wyoming and Idaho and all your other tiny victories in white caucus states that always vote red in November. Stop insulting our intelligence, and start parsing the stats from last night. Roughly 36 percent of the New York electorate was black or Latino — a mirror of the national Democratic electorate. You lost Latinos by 28 points. You lost blacks by 50 points. Game over.
Start Writing, Bud: How’s that endorsement draft coming along? Are you at least beginning to face the fact that staying in Get Off My Lawn mode, that going the scorched-earth route against Hillary, would be, at this point, the most foolish of all political options?
Wait, let me rephrase the question. Did you happen to catch Donald Trump’s act last night? Der Leader was oozingly magnanimous, thanking his family and his team and even “Senator Cruz” (suddenly it’s “Senator Cruz,” not “Lyin’ Ted”) because somehow his few grownup handlers have hammered it into his vanilla head that it’s bad politics to spew hate and racism and misogyny. Better to put a lid on it and act “presidential.”
Bernie, you were 27 in 1968. So surely you remember what happened that year. A paranoid low-road politician named Richard Nixon allowed his handlers to fashion a new Nixon — branded in the press as the New Nixon — and voters were goaded into forgetting his long history of gut-fighting smears. New Nixon was, supposedly, a mature statesman. I bet you didn’t buy that con, and I bet you don’t believe for a second that New Trump can ever mask the clear and present danger that he poses to this country.
Don’t Muck it Up: All the more reason to draft that Hillary endorsement, to think of the greater good. In fact, you can start by putting a muzzle on your campaign manager before he again makes a fool of himself — and you. On New York primary night, Jeff Weaver surfaced on CNN and delivered the most pathetic spin job since the heyday of Baghdad Bob. Remember when Saddam Hussein’s flak kept telling the press that all was well even while the American bombs were falling all around him? Weaver was like that.
When asked about Clinton’s 2.4-million national popular vote lead (which expanded to nearly 2.7 million by late evening), Weaver said the lead is way smaller if we count the teeny caucus tallies in places like Kansas, Wyoming, and Idaho. When asked about the racially diverse states still on the calendar, Weaver said that you’re doing “increasingly well with Latino voters across the country.” (Bernie, didn’t anyone text him last night about the 28-point wipeout among Latino voters?) Then he insisted that you will do “very, very well” next Tuesday in Pennsylvania’s Democrats-only primary (the polls say you’re down in Pennsylvania by 13 points), and that you will fight Clinton at the national convention no matter what.
Earth to Bernie: Don’t do it. Don’t be a fool. Face it, clawing Clinton hasn’t worked. In the exits last night, 65 percent of the voters said they’re “excited” or “optimistic” about a Clinton presidency, and 60 percent said that she’s “honest and trustworthy.” A plurality of voters chose “the right experience” as the most important candidate criterion, and that cohort favored Clinton by a margin of 9-1.
Time to start ratcheting down the rhetoric. Time to stop deceiving your fans, like you did yesterday when you said that independents “lost their right to vote” in the New York primary. As you well know, they never had it to begin with. And I don’t recall you whining like this when you won the closed contests in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, and Maine.
Bottom line: Enough already. Time to take the high road, to draw on the party’s deep reservoir of good will. That is indeed the mood, as evidenced by this striking exit poll stat: A landslide 67 percent said that your contest with Clinton has “energized” Democrats. Only 29 percent said “divided.” (Contrast that with the Republican exits. Only 36 percent of GOP voters said their race has energized the party; a whopping 60 percent said the Trumpian hijinks have divided it.)
So build on that Democratic energy. Don’t blow it. This year, the stakes are too high.
Dick Polman, former political writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, blogs at www.newsworks.org, where this column originally appeared.