The clock is ticking for Bernie Sanders. For weeks, the insurgent presidential candidate has held on, brushing aside logic, reason and delegate math, to continue to fight Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.
His quest has led him to California, where he received an unexpected drubbing at the polls this week, and will lead him Tuesday to Washington, D.C., where he’s expected to receive another drubbing in the final primary of the year.
Still, the senator from Vermont is nothing if not stubborn. Even after meeting with President Obama at the White House on Thursday, he refused to say whether he would leave the race. Instead, he offered mixed messages.
Sounding like the seasoned politician that he is, Sanders said he’s looking forward to meeting with Clinton “in the near future to see how we can work together” to defeat presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.
But then, sounding like the conspiracy-minded populist candidate that he also is, Sanders talked about taking his “issues” to the Democratic National Convention in July and about how a full tally of votes in California’s primary will show he didn’t lose by much to Clinton.
Enough of this. For the good of the entire country, it’s time for Sanders to unwind his campaign and find a way to encourage his bloc of loyal supporters to back Clinton.
It will be a difficult task. Sanders has recklessly allowed a deep mistrust of Clinton to take root among his supporters. At a rally in Santa Monica this week, the boos for her were louder than the boos for Trump.
But uniting the Democratic Party is the only way to prevent the certain disaster that would be a Trump presidency, and Sanders is running out of reasons for staying.
Clinton is already the presumptive Democratic nominee. She has won a majority of the popular vote, pledged delegates and superdelegates. Tuesday’s primary won’t change that.
And the party establishment is already circling the wagons. Obama endorsed Clinton on Thursday. Less than an hour after Sanders left the Oval Office, the administration released a video in which Obama praised Clinton’s courage, compassion and “heart to get this job done.” He added that there’s never been “someone so qualified to hold this office.”
The president also took a moment to thank Sanders for courting new, left-leaning voters and bringing critical issues, such as income inequality, to the forefront. Then, like a one-two punch, word leaked that Sanders ally and progressive Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren planned to add her own endorsement of Clinton on Thursday night.
In short, it’s over.
It’s not easy to give up the dream of being president. It can’t be easy for Sanders’ supporters, either. But blaming the loss on the media for “cheating” or “the system” for being “rigged,” as some in the California Nurses Association have done, isn’t a fair or productive response.
It’s time for Sanders to be the adult in the room; to accept defeat, embrace the winner and show his energetic supporters that progress is a long game.
Meaningful change takes more than one campaign season. You win a few, you lose a few. Maybe you build a political coalition to elect more progressives into all-important seats in Congress.
But you also know when to fold ’em. Sanders and his troops have made a real contribution. It will go to waste if they don’t live to fight another day.