With Bernie Sanders’ on-air, in-front-of-people, no take-backsies endorsement of long-presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, we can all rest assured in knowing that the long national nightmare that has been this campaign season is about to come to an end, just in time for all of us to be dead because we all hate each other.
By far the most fun part of this little segue is seeing the respective parties’ scramble to achieve, or at least appear to achieve, party unity. Some years, it’s pretty smooth. In 2008, Hillary Clinton — after, probably, doing a few bourbon shots and tearing apart a hotel room while blasting Slayer’s “Reign in Blood” — endorsed Barack Obama fairly readily, leading to a historic victory. The next cycle, Mitt Romney failed to galvanize anyone except Democrats, and then he made Victoria Jackson cry.
Now that (the bulk of) this nonsense is finally over, let’s see how the proverbial butt-hurt is mending.
We have cause for optimism — cautious optimism, but I’ll take it. Tensions were high between the Clinton and Sanders camps, even, maybe especially, after it became clear that Clinton was going to be the nominee. Sanders supporters stuck to the narrative of a rigged process, harped on the super-delegate point and repeatedly referenced polls that showed Sanders performing better against Donald Trump in a general election (those same polls showed Hillary also beating Trump). Clinton supporters accused Sanders and his contingent of wasting precious time, resources, money and breath that could be better spent on making sure our next president isn’t a Nerf-colored bigot.
I was miffed for a while at Sanders for staying in, though I could understand his motivations both then and now. He understood that this was some of the best national visibility he was going to get, and was using it to promote his causes. And you know what? It worked.
Through what I assume was a healthy mixture of reasoned debate and constant nagging, Sanders was able to work several of his major, left-leaning talking points into the official Democratic Party platform this year, including a tax on carbon emissions, $15 an hour national minimum wage and free public education. Just on the heels of those announcements, Senator Elizabeth Warren, anti-Trump attack dog and VP dark horse, worked into the platform another plank that would prevent Wall Street insiders from being appointed to top political positions in Washington.
A few Sanders diehards booed at the rally and brought NeverHillary signs, but these people have a very poor grasp on how the world works, so whatever. At this point, 85 percent of Sanders supporters say they’ll vote for Hillary Clinton; in 2008, only 69 percent of of Clinton supporters said they’d vote for Obama. I think we’re alright.
If I write any more about Donald Trump, my computer is probably going to start bleeding. But this… this is just too much fun.
Since Trump was elected, Paul Ryan — definitely a smug asshole, but, man, do I kind of feel bad for him — has been doing everything in his power to try and encourage party unity, even if it is for someone who endorses murderous dictators and looks like a third-grader painted over a moldy squash. He’s been imploring his fellow Republicans to stand behind Trump, if only to defeat Clinton, and trying to get Trump to pivot just a skosh toward the middle. It’s not working.
The GOP as a whole is starting to realize that the same elements that led Trump to an improbable and unprecedented win in the Republican primaries are not going to do the same for him in the general election. His base of right-wing lunatics and inverse hipsters were passionate enough to carry him through wins against slightly less-garish but still-terrible versions of himself in the primaries, but all he’s done is make the Democrats realize that the world will burn if he gets elected. He’s helping to unite them, essentially.
Prominent Republican lawmakers are staying away from this year’s convention in droves; some are there because they have to be (National Committee members, embedded reporters and bloggers, other political business), but most would prefer not to share a stage, building, city or the same oxygen with Trump. Most understand that to be associated with him at this point is full-on career suicide. The only prominent party member who is openly considering accepting a VP invitation is Newt Gingrich, who, like Trump, has nothing to lose if this whole thing goes even farther south than it already has.
Which is to say: hell.