At the Democratic convention in Philadelphia, which began yesterday and runs until Thursday, Bernie Sanders was roundly booed by many of his own supporters as he urged them to get behind Hilary. “I’m proud to stand with her”, he said.
There have already been other notable scenes of Sanders supporters shouting their disapproval in the hall. Bernie could have ridden this discontent and refused to back Hilary; he could have even told his supporters not to bother voting in November, that the choice between Clinton and Trump was a false one. Instead, he has made a distinction and saw that Hilary being president would be much better for those of his political bent than Trump. Not just because Hilary is a sort of lesser of two evils; she’s a Democrat, and the Feel the Bern thing was a sea change within the Democratic Party, one Hilary won’t be able to ignore.
Trump has taunted Sanders on social media, saying that everything he did in the primaries was now for nothing given he’s endorsed Clinton. Of course, he’s wrong, as usual – because of the Sanders surge, Hilary will now have to placate the Sanders bunch, policy wise. Her presidency is set to be much more left-wing, at least when it comes to home affairs, than it otherwise would have been.
All of which makes what is going on in Britain on the Left that much more sad. Sanders didn’t get the nomination mostly because of the super delegates. The establishment of the Democratic Party kept him out, in other words. But he decided the party was more important, in the end, unlike Corbyn who has decided that the normal rules – having a parliamentary party that supports him – do not apply any longer. Faced with stepping aside to be assured that the party would remain in one piece, Corbyn did the opposite thing that Saunders did: he decided he wouldn’t budge.
Some people, even on the right of British politics, have said they admire Corbyn’s “guts”. But what Corbyn is doing takes no bravery at all – it is actually borne of fear of letting his coterie down. Instead, Sanders is doing the genuinely courageous thing in facing down his own hardcore supporters and telling them what’s what. That must be really hard for him, but he’s taking the pain because he knows that Hilary may just need him to win. And that if Hilary wins, there will be someone in the White House he and his supporters can push to do things from his agenda – whereas if Trump wins, that route is completely closed down.
In a populous age, this isn’t said enough: doing whatever the hell you like, just because it’s a bit of fun and who cares about the results, may be many things but it is not gutsy. Being a grown up and facing reality is the really unflinching thing to do.