In the assorted political threads, there’s been a minority but persistent view expressed that Bernie Sanders, or the Sanders campaign, or Sanders supporters are in some way responsible for Clinton’s loss.
So, this is the thread to bring those arguments into focus; have at it.
But I may as well begin by getting my own position on the table. I’ll do it by framing and responding to what I see as some of the standard critiques.
Hillary lost because Bernie made her look bad during the primary
Hillary managed to look bad all on her own.
If anything, Bernie should be criticised for going too easy on Clinton. He was always aware that he had very little chance of overcoming Clinton’s institutional advantage; although he came to believe during the campaign that he had a slim chance, he was never confident that he would succeed.
As a result, from the very beginning of the campaign, he was hyper-aware that Clinton was the likely candidate and that doing too much damage to her in the primary could result in a GOP victory. So, he brought a feather duster to a knife fight.
He refrained from criticising Clinton on several obvious weaknesses, and even in his strongest critiques (Goldman Sachs, Iraq, etc) he restrained himself to implying questionable judgement rather than employing a full-throated attack. In response, Clinton went straight for red-baiting, insinuations of sexism and racism, beat-ups over nonsense (the “establishment” kerfuffle) and flirting with anti-semitism.
A less restrained opponent of Clinton would have been hammering away at a long record of blatant corruption, disastrous misjudgment, cultural insularity, moral cowardice and political betrayal, in terms as harsh and direct as that.
Hillary lost because Bernie voters stayed home
Firstly: no they didn’t. The majority of Bernie supporters turned out loyally for Clinton, even though they were justifiably revolted by the prospect.
Of those who didn’t…the whole point of Bernie’s campaign was that he could attract voters who would not vote for Clinton. You can’t blame him for being right about that.
It needs to be understood that those Bernie supporters who didn’t vote for Clinton are not disloyal, lazy or deluded Democrats. They’re not Democrats at all; they don’t identify with parties.
They’re disillusioned Americans, who mostly do not vote because they accurately perceive that both major parties are hopelessly corrupt and do not represent their interests. In Bernie they saw a chance that this could change; in the Democratic primary, they saw the lengths to which the plutocratic establishment would go in order to prevent that from happening.
The DNC didn’t rig the primary, that’s just politics as usual
This argument is occasionally presented as the idea that you can’t describe the primary as rigged unless HRC personally falsified every vote.
To employ an analogy: if you wish to corrupt the result of a football game by bribing the referee, do you want him to just inexplicably declare your team the winner regardless of the score? Or would you prefer him to use a more subtle approach, ensuring that all of the close and debatable calls during the game went in your team’s favour? Not so much that it’s totally obvious, but enough so that even an exceptional opponent would struggle against the biased context.
Bernie was playing a game in which he started twenty points behind, in which the referee’s calls were one-sided to the point of nearly inciting a riot in the stands, but the home audience didn’t know because the TV commentators were bribed as well.
Clinton spent the entire Obama administration locking down every institutional advantage possible. Is this corrupt? No. But it does distort the extent to which the result of a primary represents the unbiased will of the electorate.
The DNC, in collusion with the Clinton campaign, spent the entire primary campaign actively working to hand the win to Clinton. Is this corrupt? Yes. It explicitly violates written DNC rules, established DNC norms, and basic standards of honesty.