Bernie Sanders has endorsed Hillary Clinton. Bernie Sanders also endorsed Bill Clinton in 1996, and I think we can read his words then and gain a great deal of insight into his present endorsement:
“In terms of who to support for president, the choice is really not difficult. I am certainly not a big fan of Bill Clinton’s politics. As a strong advocate of a single-payer health care system, I opposed his convoluted health care reform package. I have helped lead the opposition to his trade policies, which represent the interests of corporate America and which are virtually indistinguishable from the views of George Bush and Newt Gingrich. I opposed his bloated military budget, the welfare reform bill that he signed, and the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which he supported. He has been weak on campaign finance reform and has caved in far too often on the environment. Bill Clinton is a moderate Democrat. I’m a democratic socialist.
“Yet, without enthusiasm, I’ve decided to support Bill Clinton for president. Perhaps ‘support’ is too strong a word. I’m planning no press conferences to push his candidacy, and will do no campaigning for him. I will vote for him, and make that public. Why?
“I think that many people do not perceive how truly dangerous the political situation in this country is today. If Bob Dole were to be elected president and Gingrich and the Republicans were to maintain control of Congress, we would see a legislative agenda unlike any in the modern history of this country. There would be an unparalleled war against working people and the poor, and political decisions would be made that could very well be irreversible.
Medicare and Medicaid would certainly be destroyed, and tens of millions more Americans would lose their health insurance. Steps would be taken to privatize Social Security, and the very existence of public education in America would be threatened. Serious efforts would be made to pass a constitutional amendment to ban abortion, affirmative action would be wiped out, and gay bashing would intensify. A flat tax would be passed, resulting in a massive shift in income from the working class to the rich, and all of our major environmental legislation would be eviscerated.
“The Motor Voter bill would be repealed, and legislation making it harder for people to vote would be passed. Union-busting legislation would become law, the minimum wage would be abolished, and child labor would increase. Adults and kids in America would be competing for $3.00-an-hour jobs.
“You think I’m kidding. You think I’m exaggerating. Well, I’m not. I work in Congress. I listen to these guys every day. They are very serious people. And the folks behind them, the Christian Coalition, the NRA, the Heritage Foundation, and others, are even crazier than they are. My old friend Dick Armey is not some wacko member of Congress laughed at by his colleagues. He is the Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. Check out his views. No. I do not want Bob Dole to be president. I’m voting for Bill Clinton.
“Do I have confidence that Clinton will stand up for the working people of this country—for children, for the elderly, for the folks who are hurting? No, I do not. But a Clinton victory could give us some time to build a movement, to develop a political infrastructure to protect what needs protecting, and to change the direction of the country.”
That was when the Democratic Party took its rightward turn and disavowed its traditional progressive ways. Bernie knew it at the time, and he spoke out against it, even while acting pragmatically in the face of the Republican threat.
Time is a circle.