Memo to Bernie Sanders: Turn on, tune in, drop out

Memo to Bernie Sanders: Turn on, tune in, drop out
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As primaries proceed — or are pushed back — Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump signs order removing environmental reviews for major projects | New Trump air rule will limit future pollution regulations, critics say | DNC climate group calls for larger federal investment on climate than Biden plan Google: Chinese and Iranian hackers targeting Biden, Trump campaigns Sanders: Police departments that violate civil rights should lose federal funding MORE (I-Vt.) is no doubt weighing his options. It may well be time for the senator, whose formative political experience came in the 1960s, to follow the advice of Timothy Leary: turn on, tune in, drop out.

Turn on: Leary suggested that Americans activate their neural equipment — and become sensitive to the many and varied levels of consciousness and the triggers that engage them.

Doing so should stimulate Sanders to focus on the message Democratic voters have been sending. It now seems clear that:

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  1. a majority of these voters (52 percent of whom describe themselves as either moderate, conservative, or very conservative) do not endorse a “revolution” in American politics — and many of them prefer the candidate best positioned to defeat President Donald Trump to one who is most closely aligned with their views on policies;
  2. younger voters are not turning out to vote in the numbers Sanders expected and needed, nor has he been able to garner support from African Americans, who make up a sizable fraction of Democratic voters;
  3. while Sanders picked up no endorsements after his big win in the Nevada primary, a wave of endorsements of Biden — including almost all of the candidates who have dropped out of contention for the nomination and dozens of governors, U.S. senators, and members of the House of Representatives, — has followed in the wake of his victories in South Carolina and Super Tuesday;
  4. the coronavirus has made it impossible for Sanders to hold campaign rallies, an essential ingredient for maintaining enthusiasm about “Bernie Bros” and identifying additional supporters.

Tune in: Leary recommended that Americans externalize, materialize, and express their new internal perspective.

Doing so should stimulate Sanders to reexamine the relationship between his personal ambition, his policy agenda, his assessment of the likelihood he can overtake Biden, the harm attached to a contested convention and his commitment to do everything in his power to help defeat President TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal plan to contain Washington protests employs 7,600 personnel: report GOP Rep calls on primary opponent to condemn campaign surrogate's racist video Tennessee court rules all registered voters can obtain mail-in ballots due to COVID-19 MORE in the general election in the fall. Following this reassessment, he should give voice, i.e. externalize his internal perspective.

Drop out: As Americans turned on and tuned in, Leary urged them to commit to choice and change.

Doing so should give Sanders a sense of urgency about dropping out of the race (today or tomorrow would not be too soon), giving a full throated endorsement of Biden, pledging to campaign for and with him throughout the summer and fall and — most important — working ceaselessly to enlist his supporters to turn out in November.

Sanders might realize as well that his leverage with Biden (who recently endorsed Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenGeorge Floyd protests show corporations must support racial and economic equality It's time to shut down industrial animal farming The Hill's Morning Report - Protesters' defiance met with calls to listen MORE’s proposals about eliminating student debt) will never be greater than it is right now — and, of course, that by dropping out before has to, he can free Biden up to begin the general campaign right now, at a time in which trust in Trump is falling and the issues of health care — and to a somewhat lesser extent, income inequality — are front and center. Sanders could legitimately claim credit as well for saving voters in the remaining primary states from having to choose between casting a ballot and exposing themselves to the Coronavirus at a crowded polling place.

If Sanders acts now (whether or not he attributes his decision to Mr. Leary, moves to a commune, or tries LSD), Americans may well “feel the Bern,” admire him not only for his consistency over the course of his long career, but for putting his country ahead of himself — an approach to politics that is not much in evidence these days.

Glenn C. Altschuler is the Thomas and Dorothy Litwin Professor of American Studies at Cornell University. He is the co-author (with Stuart Blumin) of Rude Republic: Americans and Their Politics in the Nineteenth Century.