PHILADELPHIA — If you are going to start a revolution, you probably want to finish it. Either win or die trying. That is why revolutions are always so bloody. Whatever you do, if you start a real movement and then try to sell it away, don’t be surprised if you lose control.
The problem with Bernie Sanders is that he has been a loser his entire political life. Sure, he has won a few elections. But in terms of vision and ideas, he has always been a failure.
During his quarter-century in Congress, Mr. Sanders has been viewed as something of a gadfly with Tourette’s syndrome. Always dressed like a homeless person shambling along the hallways, Democrats felt sorry for him and let him into their meetings. He looked like he needed a cup of coffee and free danishes.
Obviously, Mr. Sanders has very little to show for his decades toiling in Washington, except for a big bill overhauling the Veterans Affairs system a few years back. What a godsend that has been! Just ask any vets you know who need regular treatment from the VA.
So when the time came that more than three people in a smelly commune took Bernie Sanders seriously, even he was perplexed. When, finally and improbably, he actually sparked a movement, he honestly didn’t know what to do.
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Mr. Sanders’ legacy of failure began back in high school when he lost his first election, finishing third in the race to become student body president. Only three candidates were running.
After college, where he learned socialism, Mr. Sanders moved to Vermont, where he would be a little bigger fish in a much smaller pond.
But, apparently, no pond was small enough for Mr. Sanders to be a fish worth following.
Soon enough, the failed New Yorker was running for public office in the rural state and racking up a record of continued failure. He ran twice for governor and twice for U.S. Senate, losing all four times.
Lightning finally struck in 1981, when he ran to be mayor of Burlington, Vermont.
You know the rest. He converted his mayoralty into a career in Washington. After serving 16 years in the U.S. House, he now occupies the U.S. Senate, continuing his legacy of hanging out with Democrats and accomplishing very little or nothing.
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And then, last year, after 25 years being part of the problem in Washington, D.C., lightning struck again. Bernie Sanders found himself in charge of a movement that would not stop building and spreading. It thrust him further and further into a powerful political position he had no business holding.
But, in the end, the system was rigged and then came defeat.
So there he stood, on the arena stage Monday night inside Wells Fargo Center, beside Lincoln Financial Field, across from Citizens Bank Park, addressing the Democratic Party and telling his followers to quit their carping and get in line behind the lying, cheating, self-dealing, big bank-loving, Goldman Sachs-speechifying establishment candidate.
I could not help but feel a little sorry for the guy. In a way, he never asked for any of this. All his life he has spewed this nonsensical claptrap, and nobody ever took him seriously. Never had any real responsibility, beyond serving as mayor of a small city.
And then all of a sudden everybody started listening to him and then his whole life changed. And then he realized that when it was all over, it would be very hard for him to return to his old life, shambling up and down the hallways of Congress looking for a free cup of coffee and some sticky little danishes.
He is like the guy they let out of prison who then realizes that he cannot handle the world outside. So he takes himself to the nicest restaurant in town, orders the biggest, most expensive meal and then refuses to pay the bill so they will come back after him and throw him back into jail. Where at least he knows he will always have a cot to sleep on and free meals three times a day.
• Charles Hurt can be reached at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter via @charleshurt.