Election of the Narcissists

Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump do indeed have something in common. It's not anger. It is narcissism.

Sanders is doing what cynical politicians have done since the birth of the craft: He makes empty promises that he knows he cannot keep. Even if he did not face a Republican-strangled Congress, he could not pass universal, single-player health care, free college tuition for all, and the stupendous tax increase it would take to pay for all his dreams. I, too, wish we could have these things. But I know better. You know better. He knows better.

Sanders traffics in empty labels, claiming to own the crown of the progressive and the right to decide who may wear it (answer: only himself). "Progressive" is a wimp word anyway, the one the left chose when the right demonized "liberal." How much breath has been wasted even in the more substantive Democratic debates on this meaningless is-to/is-not schoolyard argument?

The farther to the left Sanders pushes Hillary Clinton and the more he weakens her campaign, the more he helps open the White House door to a right-wing demagogue. Ralph Nader gave us George Bush. Bernie Sanders could help give us Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. He damages the Democratic Party. But Sanders doesn't care about the party because he's not a part of it. He is a progressive democratic socialist, or whatever label he chooses.

He is running this campaign not to win — because he can’t; not to actually change the country — because he won’t; and only temporarily to make his point. So what else can he be doing but running this campaign for the attention? The same can be said of Trump. That’s what ties them: not their angry voters, not the damage they can cause, but the narcissism that drives them both to do it.

Bernie Sanders is a smart, decent, civilized man, a man who does indeed care about the issues that he fights for. But anyone who has been in government as long as he has knows that in the end, all that matters is the impact you have. Consider the impact of his campaign.

Obviously, I am a Hillary Clinton voter. Yes, I’m disappointed by the state of the campaign. I am disappointed that young people and especially young women have not rallied around her and the historic opportunity to elect a woman as President. I am sad they do not see what it has taken for Clinton to get to this point — how she paved the way for the health care we finally have; how she endured a ceaseless barrage of attacks from — yes — a vast, right-wing conspiracy; how she schooled herself on governing; and how as a woman she has had to -- as I heard former Vermont Gov. Madeleine Kunin say on CBC News yesterday — find the fine line between being the commander-in-chief and the mother of the nation, something no male candidate is forced to do.

Hillary Clinton is the President I've been waiting for for eight years. No, she is not entitled to it because the last time turned out to be Barack Obama's turn. She is working hard to win and I hope her campaign -- once it leaves the angry, white primary states -- will find its voice. I also hope she can listen to Sanders' supporters and convince them that she has possible versions of the dreams they and their candidate have.

There is too much at stake in this election. There are just too many scenarios in which a racist demagogue or radical religionist or right-wing robot comes to office. This election matters more than any in my lifetime. That's why I am voting for Hillary Clinton. That is why I hope Bernie Sanders' supporters will understand why they should, too.

Blogger & prof at CUNY’s Newmark J-school; author of Geeks Bearing Gifts, Public Parts, What Would Google Do?, Gutenberg the Geek

Blogger & prof at CUNY’s Newmark J-school; author of Geeks Bearing Gifts, Public Parts, What Would Google Do?, Gutenberg the Geek