By the time Hillary Clinton ended her 2008 presidential campaign, she had been on the campaign trail for nearly 17 months and had shattered, as she so memorably put it, the “hardest glass ceiling” with “about 18 million cracks.”
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Hillary then put aside her own presidential ambitions, turning all of her considerable campaign energy and passion to getting Barack Obama elected, tenaciously and successfully working to turn those 18 million votes for her into votes for her former rival.
It’s time for Bernie Sanders to do the same, marshaling his own supporters for Hillary.
Bernie already has had an amazing impact on the political discourse and right path for our nation. And having named five people to the party’s platform-writing committee, compared with just one more for Hillary, Bernie is poised to have tremendous influence on the final platform as well.
The more willing he is to end his campaign — now, before the Democratic national convention in July — the more helpful Bernie will be in increasing the number of progressives in the House and Senate and the more involved he will be in in charting the policy agenda for a potential Hillary Clinton administration.
When Bernie entered the race, many Democrats saw his chances at the White House as more romantic than realistic. His steadfastness and popularity, particularly among young and independent voters, have been inspiring and have reignited the fight for a progressive future. There is much to learn and gain from Bernie and his supporters. Nonetheless, Hillary has significantly more votes and more delegates to her name, and just as she recognized back in June 2008 that she would hurt the eventual Democratic nominee were she to continue her campaign any longer, it is time for Bernie to do the same.
By dropping his campaign now, Bernie allows the party to avoid a potentially bitter, hotly contested convention, with possible ugliness by some of his more virulent supporters, and coalesce around Hillary well ahead of the general campaign.
In doing the right thing, Bernie can demonstrate to his supporters that defeating Donald Trump, whose campaign continues to have echoes of racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism, is the ultimate goal.
It’s time for Bernie to stop highlighting contrasts between himself and Hillary, and rather underscore the sharp differences between Hillary and Trump, between Democrats and Republicans.
Bernie has a loyal and passionate base, and some polls have frighteningly indicated that a significant number of his supporters would turn to Trump in the general election. While historically voters ultimately come around, this year’s presidential campaign has thus far bucked traditional trends, making it even more crucial to get an early start on the general campaign.
Only Bernie can rally his troops to Hillary by fully investing himself in her campaign and demonstrating to his supporters that she has their interests at heart.
Bernie isn’t known as a team player, but he is known to be loyal to ideals, and I am confident that he recognizes that his ideals and Hillary’s align far more than do his and Trump’s. So in an echo of the 2008 Democratic national convention when Hillary led the New York delegation in giving Obama the needed delegates to secure the nomination, let’s see Bernie head a Vermont delegation this year that enthusiastically and wholeheartedly puts Hillary over the top to clinch the nomination.
And, let’s see Bernie campaign for Hillary as passionately as he has for himself.
Bernie can go down in history as a politician who inspired a generation to get involved in politics, to vote and to keep out of the White House a man who will be a danger to our nation and the world and instead put in the White House a woman who is eminently qualified to lead our country.
Or he can play spoiler and put our nation and world at risk.
Bernie, I know you are a mensch – so be a mensch. Do the right thing.
Marc R. Stanley is the immediate past chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council and is a member of the Platform Committee for the 2016 Democratic Convention.