There’s only one person who can beat Donald Trump — whoever the Democrats nominate for president in 2020.
Bernie Sanders knows this. That’s why he’s announced that he’s seeking the Democratic nomination for the second time, even though he remains an independent.
For many devoted Sanders supporters, “There are no other candidates.”
That’s what RoseAnn DeMoro, the head of National Nurses United, which backed Sanders in 2016, told the Washington Post last year.
Sanders has already won the battle to reground Democratic policies toward the left, even if his endorsed candidates haven’t been as successful winning over purple or red seats. His supporters also have some valid grievances about how the 2016 Democratic primary was shaped to benefit Hillary Clinton — creating an animosity that led Sanders to wait until the Democratic National Convention to endorse her. Some of his fiercest backers never ended up “with her,” preferring the “revolution” instead.
Not the ‘revolution’ Sanders backers wanted
We’ve seen the “revolution.”
Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. More than 12,000 kids in camps on the border, hundreds likely orphaned. Thousands left to die in Puerto Rico. More than $1 trillion in tax cuts, targeted to benefit the rich and corporations. Shameless efforts to bury climate science and reverse a decade of gains for LGTBQ Americans.
Sanders diehards can blame this disaster on the Democratic establishment because Bernie would have won. And Clinton supporters can blame Sanders backers for demonizing the nation’s first female major-party presidential nominee and helping Trump slip through the Electoral College.
So who was right? Who knows?
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We do know that the massive rot that allowed a Donald Trump to become president did not grow in one primary season.
And we do know that beef between Sanders and Clinton supporters has largely been overblown. Even after the bruising 2016 election, most Democrats and Democrat-leaners liked both candidates.
We also can guess Trump the GOP’s plan for 2020, if he survives until then. It will look a lot like 2016 — suppress votes; hype up third-party candidates so Trump can win with even less than the 46.1% of the vote he got in 2016; and, most importantly, destroy the Democratic candidate, likely with the help of foreign powers and the press, by accusing her or him of being as corrupt and compromised as Donald Trump.
Bernie Sanders is doing Democrats a favor
The last thing we want to do is help Trump, so here’s how we can make sure we don’t destroy the only candidate who can beat him.
►We’re all in this together. To anyone who loves to point out that Bernie is not a Democrat, you are praising the Bern, not burning him. He could guarantee Trump’s reelection by running as an independent. He’s doing you and America a favor.
►Save your fury for Trump. The lesson of the 2016 GOP primary is that in a field of more than a dozen candidates, anyone can win (so look out for the billionaires).
Favor attacks on policy over assaults on character. It’s fair to call out a candidate’s record as a prosecutor, for instance, but avoid the trap of playing up disinformation like, say, if a candidate was honest about when she listened to Snoop and Tupac.
Candidates should take it upon themselves to continually remind their supporters, and everyone, that anyone the Democrats nominate is going to be a giant compared to the current president or his doting vice president.
►No candidate, not even yours, is perfect. One of the most effective attacks on Clinton in 2016 was that, as First Lady, she championed the 1994 crime bill that helped skyrocket incarceration. But the bizarre thing was that Sanders voted for the bill as a House member and Clinton couldn’t vote on it at all.
Remember that redistricting is the ball game
No politician is without sin. Try to take a candidate’s evolution as a good thing and not a sign of being contrived and opportunistic, even if the candidate is a woman.
►Health care can be your litmus test. It’s a good thing the health care debate on the left is largely over whether we should just expand Medicare or make sure everyone has it.
Meanwhile, Republican policies have already left 7 million more Americans uninsured, Gallup has found, and the administration is backing a lawsuit that could “terminate” Obamacare and could easily win, especially if Trump gets another Supreme Court pick.
Make maximalist demands. Make sure your candidate backs the plan you want and then get that candidate nominated. If that doesn’t work, you can do something far more important, and that is to …
►Remember that 2020 is a redistricting election. You will be voting during a Census year that will bring new electoral maps in 2022. If you don’t get the nominee you love, don’t despair. Vote for the Democratic nominee — the only person who can beat Trump — and then go down ballot. Help kick Republicans out of as many state legislative seats as possible so another decade won’t be gerrymandered away.
We know this for sure: Donald Trump will refuse to admit defeat. That’s why it’s our job to crush him beyond a reasonable doubt — and not crush each other.
Jason Sattler, a writer based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors and host of “The GOTMFV Show” podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @LOLGOP