Bernie Sanders Shouldn’t Drop Out

Bernie Sanders Shouldn't Drop OutAlthough I’ve long been as certain as I am about anything that Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination, I have never wanted Bernie Sanders to drop out. Part of this is just an intuition that I’ve had that these hard-fought battles really don’t hurt candidates in the general election. So I was pleased to see some backup on this from political scientist Julia Azari over at FiveThirtyEight, Sanders Shouldn’t Drop Out For Clinton’s Sake. The take away from the article is that it doesn’t look like hard-fought primary fights affect the general election.

But this, I think, is key, “You could cherry-pick studies to argue that contentious primary races hurt a nominee, but even those effects are small.” So this idea that Sanders ought to drop out of the race for the good of the Democrats’ general election chances don’t really hold up. I don’t blame Clinton supporters for calling for him to step down. (To her credit, Clinton has not called for him to drop out, as far as I know.) This is always what supporters who are winning say. But the idea that Sanders is doing something wrong is sub-mental (ie, tribal). And I think we really should allow this process to continue, even though I don’t personally like the conflict.

“You could cherry-pick studies to argue that contentious primary races hurt a nominee, but even those effects are small.” —Julia Azari

On the other hand, if Sanders really does want to litigate this at the DNC, I might change my mind — especially given that he is likely to lose California by a good deal. But I don’t really think that’s what’s going on. I think Sanders is just positioning himself to get as much out of this campaign as possible. And as one who thinks that the Democratic Party has moved much too far to the right (and thus deserves a good deal of blame for the Republicans moving into crazy-land), I want to see some changes. And the fact of the matter is that there are only about five percentage points separating Clinton and Sanders. And I don’t think that’s nearly a fair assessment of the Democratic Party base, because Clinton has a long history and a lot of good will among the base.

What was most interesting in Azari’s article was here discussion of a recent study that found that hard-fought primary battles don’t divide parties, but rather the other way around. Hard-fought primary battles are the result of divided parties. And I think that’s clearly the case in the Democratic Party. The party has moved steadily rightward and it is due for a correction. (And I’ve written before about how the right turn of the party was not necessary, so I won’t go into that.)

But there are some practical issues here. Clinton didn’t drop out this early in 2008. She stayed in the race until after the final primary. And I mean no disrespect, but we should remember that Sanders has done better as time has gone on, and the opposite was happening to Clinton in 2008. So if she didn’t drop out then, why should Sanders drop out now?

What I most dislike about this idea is that I think it does represent a kind of aristocratic impulse in people. Ultimately, people do want a coronation — if they think they happen to be winning. And this is something that really bothers me about us as a species. I think that liberals are a good deal more rational than conservatives in the modern political context. Yet we are all motivated by these primitive instincts. It’s sad.

But it is way too early for Sanders to drop out.

Anniversary Post: Sinking of the Lusitania

LusitaniaOne hundred and one years ago, the RMS Lusitania was sunk by a German submarine. It is widely credited for getting the United States to enter the war. It seemed a heartless act: the Germans sinking a ship filled with civilians. But if there is one thing that I have learned in this life, it is that things are never that simple. In general, people have reasons for doing things. They don’t just go around doing evil things for the hell of it. It is a matter of perspective. Yet everywhere I look in the world, I see people who don’t understand this. As smart a guy as Sam Harris seems to think no deeper about the 9/11 attacks than George Bush’s facile, “They hate our freedoms.”

Both sides in the early days of World War I gradually increased the field of battle. On 4 February 1915, Germany announced that the entire sea around the United Kingdom was now a war zone. I’m not clear why the Lusitania was not given military escort into the United Kingdom. It was, nominally, a civilian ship. But it was carrying a lot of military equipment, including over four million rifle cartridges. Technically, everything it was carrying was legal, but the information was kept from the public given that it did tend to muddy the waters. It made it seem much less black and white.

I understand the outrage factor of the sinking of the Lusitania. Just the same, in an objective sense, it doesn’t mean much. World War I was a terrible tragedy. There were roughly 10 million military deaths and over two million civilian deaths. When the slaughter gets that big, it is hard to put a face on it. But the sinking of the Lusitania was a much greater tragedy in terms to pushing the war forward than it was because of the 1,200 people directly killed — tragic as that alone was.

So we mark this sad day just over a century ago.