The Bernie Sanders I Thought I Knew Is Gone
Sasha Stone

Beware of the True Believer

One of the best books I read as a part of my undergraduate education in Political Science was The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, written by Eric Hoffer in 1951 but still current and relevant to what is happening today. The book basically deals with the psychological causes of fanaticism.

Always beware of true believers, who end up setting aside critical judgement and common sense in favor of a fanatical belief in something or someone outside of themselves. This past year we have seen this with the Trump movement as well as with Bernie’s followers. In this year of wide-spread inconformity and rejection of the “system” these two men have come forth to alleviate the suffering of their followers by offering them a narrative, a sort of fable, that they can buy into.

It doesn’t matter that what they are selling is not coherent or logical, or even possible. It doesn’t matter if Trump contradicts himself constantly or lies with such ease. His followers don’t even have to forgive him. They simply attach no importance to these things. In Bernie’s case he appeals to a largely distinct group of followers, though there may be some overlap, who believe in a more progressive vision of the world that Bernie is offering us.

Unfortunately, Bernie has passed over to the other side, believing in his own hype and his own narrative fairy tales about what he could accomplish if elected President. Bernie is no longer grounded in the realities of our political system and what is more, he explicitly rejects them.

Like Sasha, I no longer recognize this Bernie and I am beginning to fear that he is capable of doing serious damage this year to the Democratic Party, to which he has absolutely no allegiance and to which he has NEVER been affiliated. Remember he has always been elected to the Senate as an Independent, though he has caucused with the Democrats and usually voted with them on issues critical to the party.

If Bernie does not accept his defeat, back off AND appeal to his followers to get behind Hillary, he could give Trump some breathing room and he could endanger Hillary’s path to victory in November. Think of Ralph Nader, a man equally convinced in 2000 of his own purity, who cost Al Gore the election in the state of Florida and with that the Presidency. Nader gave us eight years of George W. Bush. I pray that Bernie comes to his senses before he gives us President Donald Trump.

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