Sen. Bernie Sanders is walking two tightropes at once. His left foot trembles on the first wire, the national election. Yes, Bernie ended his campaign on April 8, but he is technically still in the race. His name will be on the remaining primary ballots, and he hopes to gain delegates to strengthen his influence at the Democratic National Convention.
"While this campaign is coming to an end, our movement is not," Sanders said last week.
Today we saw his other foot balanced on another wire: the DNC's. Sanders endorsed Joe Biden on a Periscope livestream, asking Americans to support Biden "to make certain that we defeat...the most dangerous president in the modern history of this country."
Bernie's facial expressions throughout the elaborate stunt were comical. When forced to listen to Biden borrow large tracts of socialist real estate, Sanders pursed his lips, furrowed his brow, and generally looked like he was trying to pass a kidney stone.
Biden doubled down, implying that Sanders would have a role in his administration. "I'm gonna need ya," Biden implored, "not just to win the campaign, but to govern."
Biden had the gall to make a surprised face when Sanders endorsed him. For his part, Sanders kept a straight face when Biden stated their shared "profound conviction" that America "wasn't built by Wall Street, wasn't built by CEOs and hedge fund managers". We know, Joe! Those are just the folks who provide no-show jobs for your son Hunter.
Sanders had to break his eye contact with the camera when Biden referred to "our labor movement," however.
The reality of this awkward situation is that Sanders doesn't support Biden over any number of other former candidates. No, the two men don't suddenly see eye to eye. The party needs to circle the wagons to avoid a growing "Never Biden" movement, a coalition of angry Sanders supporters, those who believe Biden raped former campaign staffer Tara Reade, and undecided voters from all parties who believe Biden is corrupt based on his dealings with foreign countries as vice president, among other scandals.
The endorsement itself was not so much a ringing rally cry for Biden as much as it was rebuke of President Trump. If the content of Sanders' speech was distilled down to five words, it would read, "Biden, because Orange Man Bad."
Several exchanges were simply tasteless. The two men sniggered over Sanders' claim that they have read the U.S. Constitution "unlike the current president" before launching into a conversation on student debt, which afforded Biden the opportunity to bring up his "deceased son" Beau, and to claim that he is still paying off Beau's student loans.
Time will tell if today's charade was an effective ploy to gather the fractured shards of the Democrat Party and begin to glue them together.
Sanders supporters have seen this movie before. All the florid bluster from the campaign trail dies down, and alleged "alpha male" Sanders becomes an agreeable old man, a real mensch. How will his core supporters react, the ones who promised "Milwaukee will burn" if Sanders doesn't get the nomination? They will likely be the ones to stay home or vote for Trump. Writing in Bernie? It's hard to be that quixotic after the display we witnessed today.
The loosely affiliated and single-issue voters who supported Sanders are more likely to accept this maneuvering and fall into line. Just how many members of team Bernie fall into either camp will come into clearer focus over the next few months.
"You and I have been friends," Biden stated. "We've disagreed, but we've been friends...I appreciate your friendship, and I promise you I will not to let you down." Later, Biden repeated a Sanders campaign motto: "Not me, us. Not me, us. That's you phrase, pal." It was one of three times he called Sanders "pal" in the conclusion of the broadcast.
As they wrapped up, Bernie joked that they should play chess instead of ending the livestream. "I'd like to play chess!" said Biden. "We'll bore everybody for a few hours," Sanders joked, perhaps self-consciously.
No, Bernie, it wasn't boring. Watching you capitulate and do the party's bidding, that's wasn't boring. It was a cringe-fest.
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