Will democrats rally for unity?

San­ders los­ing con­trol over his own rev­o­lu­tion

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - Thomas Walkom’s col­umn ap­pears in Torstar news­pa­pers.

Bernie San­ders is urg­ing his in­sur­gents to unite be­hind Hil­lary Clin­ton’s bid for the pres­i­dency of the United States. Will they com­ply?

The Ver­mont sen­a­tor and self-styled so­cial­ist made the pitch Mon­day night to del­e­gates at the Demo­cratic na­tional con­ven­tion in Philadelphia. “Our rev­o­lu­tion con­tin­ues,” he in­sisted. He said he was sorely dis­ap­pointed to find out from leaked emails that Demo­cratic Party of­fi­cials, some with close links to Clin­ton, had con­spired to hob­ble his cam­paign to be­come the party’s pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee.

But he told his sup­port­ers to vote for her any­way — largely on the grounds that Repub­li­can nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump would be worse.

He ar­gued that his in­sur­gency has al­ready made great gains by per­suad­ing the Demo­cratic es­tab­lish­ment to agree to what he called the most pro­gres­sive plat­form in the party’s his­tory.

In­deed, much of that plat­form does re­flect San­ders’ themes.

It says trade deals, in­clud­ing the con­tro­ver­sial Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship, must in­clude “strong and en­force­able labour and en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dards.”

It says ex­ist­ing deals, such as the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment, should be re­viewed.

It says Amer­i­cans should have the op­tion of join­ing a pub­lic, Cana­dian-style health care in­sur­ance scheme.

It calls for a mod­ern­ized ver­sion of the 1933 Glass-Stea­gall Act, which, by sep­a­rat­ing com­mer­cial from in­vest­ment bank­ing and un­til its re­peal in 1999, helped to pre­vent fi­nan­cial crises.

Yet it is not clear this will be enough for all of the 30 mil­lion peo­ple who voted in the pri­maries for San­ders. Even the roughly 1,800 San­ders del­e­gates at­tend­ing the con­ven­tion are split.

He was jeered Mon­day when he urged his sup­port­ers to vote for Clin­ton in or­der to fore­stall Trump. On Tues­day, he was jeered again.

“It’s easy to boo,” he told them in ex­as­per­a­tion. “But it is harder to look your kids in the face who would be liv­ing un­der a Don­ald Trump pres­i­dency.”

Much of the rea­son for the San­deris­tas’ an­i­mos­ity to Clin­ton is that she is ex­actly the kind of politi­cian San­ders warned against dur­ing the pri­maries.

She is in­ti­mately con­nected to Wall Street and cor­po­rate Amer­ica. She is a mem­ber of the po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment. She is the ul­ti­mate in­sider.

As well, her party’s plat­form — no mat­ter how pro­gres­sive — is far from bind­ing on her.

In Canada, party plat­forms are taken rel­a­tively se­ri­ously be­cause of the elec­toral sys­tem. If a gov­ern­ing party has a ma­jor­ity of Com­mons seats, it is ex­pected to keep its cam­paign prom­ises.

In the U.S., by con­trast, party plat­forms are largely as­pi­ra­tional. A pres­i­dent may push for, say, bet­ter en­vi­ron­men­tal laws. But un­less he wins sup­port in both houses of Congress, he will fail.

In 2008 and 2012, the Demo­cratic Party plat­form called for gun con­trol. But Pres­i­dent Barack Obama was un­able to de­liver on that prom­ise be­cause he could never win Con­gres­sional sup­port.

Will the San­ders rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies em­brace her any­way? Many, par­tic­u­larly those de­ter­mined to stop Trump, will do so. Oth­ers may throw their sup­port to the Green Party’s pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, Jill Stein. Some may not vote at all.

And some, par­tic­u­larly those an­gered by free trade deals, may vote for Trump. Like San­ders but un­like Clin­ton, he has made op­po­si­tion to such pacts a cen­tre­point of his cam­paign.

While Clin­ton may not like the idea of re­in­sti­tut­ing the Glass-Stea­gall Act to reg­u­late fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions (her hus­band, Bill, signed the bill that re­pealed it), Trump does. At his in­sis­tence, Glass-Stea­gall is part of the Repub­li­can plat­form.

Bernie San­ders started a rev­o­lu­tion. He’s right about that. But rev­o­lu­tions are hard to con­trol.

He may not be able to stop this one.

THOMAS WALKOM

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