“We know that brother Trump is a narcissistic neofascist!” Cornel West told a crowd of Bernie Sanders supporters here in Washington on Thursday, hanging onto the last syllable for crowd-riling effect. “And don’t let corporate media convince you that simply because you’re not crazy about the milquetoast neoliberal sister Hillary that something’s wrong with you!”
The public intellectual and prized Sanders supporter was helping to introduce the senator at his first D.C. rally since his fatally poor showing in Tuesday’s primaries. A couple thousand or so turned out in a parking lot of RFK Stadium—another institution that few would have bet would still be standing in June 2016—to Feel the Bern one last time before the Democratic Party’s final nominating contest of the cycle.
It sounded like West, who serves on the party’s platform committee along with his fellow introducer, Native American activist Deborah Parker, was giving Sanders supporters reason to resist falling in line behind the presumptive nominee, Hillary Clinton. Parker herself noted how “difficult” the past few days had been for her, explaining how she’s “had to go into my hotel room and just hold on, just really hold on.”
“I do believe in prayer, so I had to pray that that good spirit inside of me comes out because I was angry,” she added
But resistance wasn’t West’s aim. While he wouldn’t be so milquetoast neoliberal as to demand Sanders supporters rush to Clinton’s side in the fall, he did, in his own way, make clear the choice that lay before everyone. “But we know the difference between a neoliberal and a neofascist,” he continued, “so you make your own decision! And I’m simply here to say that I love brother Bernie Sanders, whatever he decides, but I’m a free man, and you’re a free man and woman: Make your decision based on your love for poor and working people!”
If an academic firebrand like West can morally justify making a lesser-of-two-evils vote between a “neoliberal and a neofascist”—which, barring some heighten-the-contradictions logical switcheroo, would be a vote for the milquetoast neoliberal—then just about anyone probably can.
As Hillary tries to rally Sanders supporters behind her campaign for the general election, there will always be the stray shirt-burner. But what’s going to ultimately unite the party is what was always going to unite the party: Donald Trump. It’s not just a fear of Trump, either. It can also be a sense of glee—a glee that’s fully bloomed this week—over the prospect of thrashing him for the next few months.
Democrats went through a few rough weeks after Trump locked up the Republican nomination at a time when the Clinton and Sanders camps seemed further apart than ever. The winds have switched this week, as Clinton lined up the delegates needed to ensure her nomination and Trump flailed in a pool of racism that few could defend. The state of the race as determined by ephemeral news cycles will bob up and down from time to time, but this week’s events seemed to reaffirm its basic landscape: Trump is the underdog, and Democrats are going to have the time of their lives knocking the crap out of him.
The giddiness to get on with the obliteration process has been palpable over the past 24 hours.
President Obama endorsed Clinton in a cheery video released Thursday afternoon. The New York Times reported earlier in the week that Obama is “eager to hit the stump” for Clinton, as he will do on Wednesday, and “is particularly enthusiastic, aides said, about taking on [Trump].” It’s been awhile since a sitting president was popular enough to actively campaign for his replacement. It’s been awhile since a sitting president both felt and could openly express such withering disrespect for a man who might replace him.
Vice President Joe Biden also expressed his support for Clinton at the convention of the American Constitution Society on Thursday, and also called the presumptive Republican nominee a deplorable racist. “I find Donald Trump’s conduct in this regard reprehensible,” he said of Trump’s attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel, “evidenced by the bipartisan condemnation of the action for what it is: a dangerous attack on a vital pillar of democracy, the independent judiciary, by threats of intimidation and undercutting the legitimacy of a judge by suggesting that because of his heritage he is incapable of being fair.””
“In addition to this,” he continued, “it is racist.”
And then there’s Sen. Elizabeth Warren. She’s been abusing Trump on the regular for a while and continued that Thursday at the same event where Biden spoke, saying, “Donald Trump is a loud, nasty, thin-skinned fraud who has never risked anything for anyone and serves nobody but himself.” After delivering the speech, she rushed over to the Washington studio of MSNBC to endorse Clinton in a live interview. The difference between Warren’s past pugnacious attacks and these is that now she will be speaking directly on behalf of Clinton. This is good for Clinton.
The best way to stop Donald Trump is to hit him and hit him and hit him to the point that it seems like cruel overkill, and then hit him some more, and then, when he starts crying, to begin really hitting him. Every Democrat is going to want to participate in this, despite what misgivings some may have about the milquetoast neoliberal.
Sanders is obviously going through some stuff right now. He knows it’s over. His Thursday rally speech went nowhere near attacking Clinton, as these sorts of events did when he still felt it was a competition. Even the most hardened Clinton loyalist would’ve felt compelled to empathize in the setting. There he was before what may have been his last rally, rattling through the planks of his policy agenda and feeding off the energy of his crowd. This has been his daily life for the past year. How is any human being able to withdraw from this without feeling extraordinary pain?
Maybe he doesn’t have to. He can still speak at rallies and still talk about the issues of importance to him, just not on behalf of his own candidacy. And he can still go after Donald Trump, too, something even a serious-minded revolutionary can’t resist.
“If you didn’t know, Donald Trump, among his many other extraordinary attributes, is an incredibly brilliant scientist,” Sanders said to laughs and jeers at his rally. “He doesn’t like to brag because he’s a modest guy. And he has studied climate change for decades. And after exhaustive study, he has come to the conclusion that climate change is a hoax.”
Standing immediately in front of Sanders, behind a security gate, was a woman holding a sign throughout his speech reading, “DON’T QUIT BERNIE.” She was laughing, too. Thrashing Trump is easy, fun, and—now that there are real stakes—thrilling, and morally necessary. Stopping Trump gives purpose to life, and life to a divided party.