Sorry, Bernie, runners-up don’t get to write the rules


Bernie Sanders and the Golden State Warriors have something in common. They both finished second this year. The Warriors lost in the NBA finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers, four games to three. And Sanders lost to Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries by a tally of 15.8 million votes to 12 million, or 2,220 pledged delegates to 1,831.

But the runners-up are different in one respect. So far as we know, the Warriors have not demanded the firing of NBA Commission­er Adam Silver, or rules changes that would benefit its peerless perimeter shooter, Stephen Curry. (Instead, they worked within the free-agent system and signed superstar Kevin Durant on Monday.)

Sanders, on the other hand, has made a string of demands in the run-up to the Democratic convention later this month in Philadelph­ia. He’s seeking the ouster of Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. He’s demanding a progressiv­e Democratic Party platform that includes planks supporting a $15 minimum wage, backing an end to the death penalty and opposing a trade deal with 11 Pacific Rim countries. If this weren’t enough, he’s calling for open primaries and an end to superdeleg­ates.

Although Sanders should not be dismissed out of hand, the Democratic Party shouldn’t bend over backward to accommodat­e him. He has little standing to make his case, having spent a lifetime in politics as an independen­t. He is asking for what previous second-place finishers did not. And, having lost the nomination, he will have decreasing sway over his supporters, many of whom are increasing­ly edgy about the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency.

What’s more, his list of demands on the platform could push the party too far to the left for its own good. A national $15 minimum wage could be devastatin­g to rural areas. And his call for opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnershi­p would put the party at odds with President Obama.

Moreover, Sanders’ demands on the mechanics of elections are selective, incomplete and selfservin­g.

Take his call for an end to superdeleg­ates. Not once since they were added to the process in 1984 have superdeleg­ates tipped the balance in favor of a candidate who was not the voters’ choice. Democrats don’t need quite so many superdeleg­ates, and perhaps they should refrain from endorsing until late in the process. But some are worth keeping in case voters gravitate toward an unsuitable candidate with virtually no chance of winning the general election.

Noticeably absent from Sanders’ list is a call for Democrats to replace their caucuses in 13 states, three territorie­s and the District of Columbia with primary elections. Caucuses are by far the most undemocrat­ic element of the nomination process. They disenfranc­hise people who work at night, have small children or otherwise can’t take a couple hours out of their schedules.

Ultimately, Democrats should act in ways they think will help their candidates in the future, not let the second-place finisher call the shots.

 ?? CRAIG RUTTLE, AP ?? Bernie Sanders campaigns in New York on June 23.
CRAIG RUTTLE, AP Bernie Sanders campaigns in New York on June 23.

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