It’s practically a cliche to say it, but Jimmy Carter the ex-president is vastly superior to Jimmy Carter the President. In much the same sense, to me anyway, Bernie Sanders is a vastly superior ex-presidential candidate. He’s learned much, discarded much that was bad and kept much that was good.
His speeches and interviews in favor of sane legislation and common sense approaches to government have an inevitable logic that reminds me of Noam Chomsky. These days I say that I seldom disagree with Bernie Sanders just to be careful, but the truth is I cannot recall a recent time when I’ve disagreed with him at all. Like Jimmy Carter, Bernie’s become virtually perfect, and I’m glad for that. It was exhausting and counterproductive to be mad at him all the time.
In keeping with his recent perfect record with me, he told us in 2020 that he would not run in 2024, and by golly he has kept that promise. Shortly after President Biden announced his candidacy Senator Sanders said he will not run.
But it gets better. The latest thing that he’s said that I agree with is that we need to throw our entire effort behind getting President Biden re-elected. “The last thing this country needs,” Senator Sanders said recently, “is a Donald Trump or some other right-wing demagogue who is going to try to undermine American democracy or take away a woman’s right to choose, or not address the crisis of gun violence, or racism, sexism or homophobia.”
Bernie said he believes preventing former President Trump’s re-election (or the election of anyone like him) should be paramount in 2024. I agree. I will add that it would be my position even if President Biden were an ineffectual, do-nothing President. But he isn’t. He’s been hugely successful, the most successful President in my lifetime.
But I cannot recall a time in my life when the efficacy of one candidate is wholly eclipsed by the horribleness of another. The closest that comes to mind is the Carter-Reagan contest or the Gore-Bush contest. But as bad as the Republican alternatives turned out to be in those examples, they were not psychopaths who hated America and would happily destroy democracy for their own selfish gains.
I don’t know who the 2024 Republican candidate is going to be but I do know this: he or she will be horrid. There can be no kind of Republican candidate BUT a horrible one, because the next Republican will be picked by MAGA, and MAGA only ever picks fascists. I don’t know if it will be Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis or some as yet unknown dark horse from left field, nor do I care much. But I do know that he or she must not, can not, become president of the United States.
So thank you, Bernie, for helping to unite the field. Our President must remain our only candidate for 2024, but above all, we must not allow Trump or another like him to ever set foot in the Oval Office ever again. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.