Barring an act of god or the FBI, Bernie Sanders is not going to win the Democratic nomination. He does, however, now have a window to make some demands in exchange for his support. What should he get?
Much will be made of Bernie’s vow to take his campaign all the way to the convention. It’s a quixotic plan that’s extremely unlikely to succeed, but it is not driven by an unreasonable force: it amounts to a symbolic protest against the superdelegate system—which, like the Electoral College and the U.S. Senate and gerrymandering and other elements of our alleged democracy that are constructed explicitly to be anti-democratic, are utterly deserving of protest. The more important question, for both Bernie and the Democratic establishment, is: What does Bernie Sanders demand, and what does he get?
He will, in the end, support Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. And Clinton and her party will, in the end, agree to make some concessions to him in exchange for his support. Today’s long and gossipy Politico piece (disclaimer: probably the sort of news story most densely packed with ulterior-motives-by-sources) on the state of Bernie’s campaign says that Bernie himself is “filled with resentment” against some members of the Democratic establishment who publicly opposed him, and that he’s determined to get people like Barney Frank and Debbie Wasserman Schultz pushed out of their positions in the party.
If true, that would be a waste of political capital (though, especially in the case of Wasserman Schultz, well deserved). Likewise, the idea of pushing to get Bernie a spot in Clinton’s cabinet or elsewhere in her administration would be a waste, as he would be little more than a tool for carrying out her policies. What Bernie can and should ask for now are substantive changes—to the extent the Democrats can offer them—that will have some sort of long term progressive effect. Like what?
Structural: Changing the way the nominees are chosen, particularly by changing the voting orders of states so large and diverse states vote earlier; killing superdelegates; some sort of commitment to campaign finance reform.
Policy: commitments to pursue a financial transaction tax; a raise in the capital gains tax; an increase in overall progressive tax rates; sentencing reform and prison reform; a family leave time law; and whatever else he can pry out of his platform and get Hillary to commit to.
He can’t get everything he wants. But now, at this moment, he is in a position to get something. He should get something that will make an actual difference in the issues of oligarchy and inequality around which he built his campaign.
Let Allah sort out the sellouts, Bernie. Get the money for the poors.