George Aiken’s Advice For Bernie

BURLINGTON, VT – Bernie Sanders is back here in his adopted hometown trying to decide what to do next.

He should think about some famous advice from this state's legendary progressive Republican senator, George Aiken. 

Aiken would offer his state's junior senator, Sanders, some advice that he gave to Lyndon Johnson in 1966 about another lost cause.  Declare victory and go home.  It's over.

It would be a face-saving way to end the fight.  Bernie can declare he has achieved his goals of moving Hillary and the Democrats more to the left and showing great support for his progressive agenda. 

And he can begin de-escalating the internecine warfare that he's been generating and begin to unify the party for the November election if he is to be taken at his word that the highest priority is defeating Donald Trump. 

Bernie will have to work hard to bring his followers to the polls to vote for Hillary.  Right now, his own rhetoric aside, many question whether he will try very hard.

If Aiken were still in the U.S. Senate, he would be among the first and most vocal Republicans to denounce the divisive and hate-mongering politics of Donald Trump as he was one of the first senators to denounce an earlier version of the current GOP frontrunner, Senator Joseph McCarthy, for his "selfish political exploitation of fear, bigotry, ignorance and intolerance."

Bernie has two choices.  Rally his followers to make sure they don't stay home or go elsewhere on election day but turn out to elect Hillary and defeat Trump.  Or seek revenge for his failure by electing Trump.

Bernie's new challenge is to transform the young, progressive followers he inspired into an effective movement that can change the face of American politics and policy.

If he mobilizes them to work for a Democratic victory in November that includes regaining control of the Senate, Sanders will be in a position to pursue his progressive causes by chairing the Budget Committee or the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

An immediate goal is seeing his views reflected in the Democratic platform at the Philadelphia convention next month.  Progressive Jews who backed Bernie can be expected to support Hillary, whose positions on domestic and social issues are far closer to theirs than Trump. Sanders, however, is less likely to succeed in pushing for a more pro-Palestinian plank in the party platform.

Aiken made his famous "recommendation" to Lyndon Johnson about ending the Vietnam War in 1966; it took seven years until President Nixon followed his advice. ''What we got was essentially what I recommended six years ago – we said we had won, and we got out,' Aiken said in 1973.

Let's hope Bernie acts more quickly.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.