Sometimes a single movie scene can perfectly encapsulate a real world event.
In 1972, Hollywood leading man Robert Redford starred in a Michael Ritchie film, titled The Candidate, which told the fictional story of California senatorial nominee Bill McKay. McKay, the son of a former governor, is recruited by election specialist Marvin Lucas (played by Peter Boyle) to challenge the popular incumbent Republican senator Crocker Jarmon in a race where McKay is expected to be the Democratic Party's sacrificial lamb. Since McKay seemingly has no shot at winning, Lucas gives him free reign to say whatever he wants on the campaign trail as a way to at least allow him the feeling of self-respect after what will assuredly be a landslide defeat. However, a funny thing happens: McKay begins to gain popularity by telling it how it is by bringing up such issues as racial inequality and social injustices. Eventually McKay wins over the state's powerful unions and is even endorsed by his father, an act seen as the tipping point in what had become a neck-and-neck race. McKay ends up winning the race and the last scene has him looking bewildered as he pulls Lucas aside and asks, point blank, "What do we do now?"
Bernie Sanders is a modern day Bill McKay.
Because like McKay, Sanders evidently has no idea what would happen should he be elected president. On April 1st, Sanders gave an interview to the editorial board of The New York Daily News, in what is widely being regarded as an unmitigated disaster for the Sanders campaign. The interview showcased Sanders to be a one-trick pony, stuck on talking points and having no real understanding of essential issues that he would be facing as our country's president and commander-in-chief. Sanders' lackluster performance was widely criticized by such media outlets as Mediate, Slate Magazine, The Atlantic, CNN, and USA Today who all lamented the fact that even with ten months of campaigning under his belt, Sanders was unable to answer even the simplest questions in regard to his very own campaign platform. The interview left many pundits wondering why Sanders had not been challenged this way in any previous debates or one-on-one interviews and how he was able to make it this far without having a basic understanding of how government functions.
But despite all the policy issues with the interview as well as Sanders' inability to articulate his vision, it was perhaps Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post who offered the biggest critique of the Sanders fiasco as well as the one that cuts to the heart of the problem and goes beyond simple discussions of policy and vision. At the end of his review of the Sanders interview with The New York Daily News, Cillizza said:
And it is that very sentiment right there that should give every single Bernie Sanders supporter pause from this point forward. Because Cillizza is right: Bernie Sanders has not considered what would happen if he is actually elected president of the United States. If he had, he would know such things as how he would actually break up the big banks, something that has a central campaign issue for Sanders since the start of his candidacy. The fact that Sanders doesn't know how he would break up the banks should leave potential voters with one of two conclusions: either Sanders is completely ignorant and has no idea of the basic functions and capabilities of the executive branch of government or that Sanders is well aware of the limitations of the executive branch but never thought that he would reach a point where his policy proposals would be seriously vetted.
With The New York Daily News interview having taken place and Sanders' policy positions having become exposed, it is becoming more and more apparent that the latter is true in that Sanders never thought he would make it this far. When Sanders' political advisor Tad Devine recently stated the campaign "didn't compete" in the early states, it drew raised eyebrows from many political pundits as well as the ire of MSNBC's Rachel Maddow who personally disproved this claim with her own network's reporting. But this claim might actually have merit, at least in terms of a general campaign philosophy. According to an April 4th article in The New York Times, Sanders was "originally skeptical that he could beat Mrs. Clinton, and his mission in 2015 was to spread his political message about a rigged America rather than do whatever it took to win the nomination." That same article goes on to say that, "By the time he [Sanders] caught fire with voters this winter and personally began to believe he could defeat Mrs. Clinton, she was already on her way to building an all but insurmountable delegate lead."
When you view the Sanders candidacy through this lens, it makes perfect sense as to why his campaign is being run so haphazardly, despite being led by Jeff Weaver and Tad Devine, two political veterans: it simply wasn't designed to be in it for the long haul. It's why the campaign recently experienced its third FEC violation and has had consistent problems in handling its record number of donations as they seemingly never expected to handle this sheer volume of donations. It's why Sanders brought on anti-Obama surrogates like Cornel West, Killer Mike, Rosario Dawson, and Susan Sarandon in an effort to run against a rigged system and the person Sanders saw as the head of that rigged system in President Obama. It's why the campaign has been renting out huge venues that cost a significant amount of money as those venues have been the most effective place for spreading Sanders' message. And it's why Sanders chose to run as a Democrat for the media exposure rather than run as an independent with little to no access the free airtime associate with the Sunday talk shows and Democratic debates.
Because like our fictional friend Bill McKay, Bernie Sanders never thought he could actually win. There was no way that the American people would actually believe that a "political revolution" could all of a sudden break the gridlock in Washington especially without a single dollar being spent on down-ballot races. There was no way that things like universal health care, a nationwide $15 minimum wage, and free in-state tuition would be enacted, especially after President Barack Obama had already done everything he could in regard to those issues. There was no way that first-time voters would pass up the opportunity to vote for the 20-time most admired woman in the world and instead vote for a 25-year veteran of Congress with only three bills to his name. There was no way that the American people would actually see a single vote on Iraq as making up for a candidate being woefully uninformed in matters of foreign policy. And there was no way that a self-professed Democratic socialist whose ran as a single-issue candidate could ever compete with one of the most qualified Democratic presidential candidates of the past quarter-century.
But then a funny thing happened in that just like Bill McKay, Sanders actually began to win. With each ensuing victory Sanders began to actually believe he could win the Democratic nomination. Not even the insurmountable delegate deficit could deter him or his campaign. His supporters had bought his kool aid and were drinking it down honor of their chosen candidate. Record donations were pouring in, first in January, then in February, and most recently in March. Sanders boasted of 6 million individual contributions, despite all of his campaign's ongoing financial issues. After March 15, Sanders put together a string of victories in favorable states but this was seen as an indicator that Hillary Clinton was in no way invincible. Sanders' political advisor Tad Devine referred to Hillary Clinton as a "weak frontrunner" and began creating a plan to steal superdelegates away from Clinton at the convention. All this combined with a lazy media that refused to question Sanders as well as several million voters who had been convinced that Sanders was the one for them. There now existed a state of euphoria where life appeared almost too good to be true.
And then Bernie Sanders came crashing back down to Earth.
Because this is not a Hollywood movie, Bernie Sanders is no Robert Redford, and this race is too important to involve a candidate whose motivations for running had never come into question. This is real life and there are consequences for your words and actions. The New York Daily News did what no journalist, moderator, anchor, or radio host had previously done: research. They exposed Sanders for the fraudulent candidate that he is; someone who has a stump speech and nothing else. They proved Sanders to be nothing more than a progressive version of Marco Rubio who could spout off talking points but couldn't go beyond those talking points when pressed for answers. They even showed Sanders to be even worse than Donald Trump in that at least Trump has some idea of how he will implement his major policy goal of building a wall on the southern border whereas Sanders had absolutely no idea as to how he would break up the big banks. Like our fictional friend Bill McKay, Sanders at no point had considered what would happen if he actually won.
Which shows that Sanders' campaign to be what some critics have long considered it to be: a farce perpetrated on the American people. Sanders cannot simply decide halfway through a presidential campaign that now is the time to start trying. He is either in it from the beginning with a thorough and realistic plan for what he hopes to accomplish in the Oval Office or he is in it to challenge a front runner and to push her on certain issues before bowing out gracefully and helping to unite the party. Sanders can't have it both ways. He can't be two months from the finish line and just now realize that he has no clue how he would deal with an integral part of his platform that he has been campaigning on for ten months and has no idea how to implement should he be elected. If that is happening, then Bernie Sanders needs to ask himself one simple question: What should he do now?
If he can't answer that, he doesn't deserve a single vote moving forward.