Man, I don’t understand the strategy behind this at all. The easiest thing to do in politics is be gracious to a vanquished foe, which is why there have been so many Democrats in the past two years who’ve discovered Strange New Respect for the likes of Mitt Romney while trying to score a point on Trump. Not a single Berniebro anywhere would have faulted him for uttering a few meaningless words about being interested in Hillary’s input, yadda yadda. It’s pure self-interest.
Instead he kissed her off. What inspired Meghan McCain’s question to him, I assume, is this NYT story from a few days ago noting that only three 2020 Democratic contenders had yet to chat with her about the coming election. One was Beto O’Rourke, whom I’m sure will be in touch once he declares. The second was Kirsten Gillibrand, who’s momentarily an enemy of ClintonWorld for having criticized Bill for his #MeToo sins but who’s hoping to arrange a meeting to kiss the ring. The third is Bernie, who could scarcely be clearer here in signaling his disdain for Hillary. All he had to say is that he’d be interested in hearing her opinion on non-policy matters like what it’s like to debate Trump, what sort of fundraising advice she has, and so on. No need for sincerity. Just don’t insult her and her fans on national television as a 10-way primary fight is beginning to heat up. He wouldn’t or couldn’t do it.
And she does still have some fans. Her favorable rating has tanked nationally since the election but she stood at 77 percent among Democrats as of September. Some of those people are bound to be diehard supporters, some likely sympathize with her for losing despite winning the popular vote, others may feel she’s the “rightful” president due to Russia’s interference in the campaign. It could be that Bernie thinks his relationship to Hillary is analogous to Trump’s relationship to Romney, the reigning GOP nominee in 2016, with Trump having paid no penalty for engaging in open warfare with Mitt during the primary. But that’s not quite true. Many people liked Romney but I don’t know that he had any true fans, which Hillary does; and Romney’s attempt to become the first Mormon president was an order of magnitude less compelling culturally than Hillary’s attempt to become the first woman president. No one much cared that Trump insulted Romney but some people, starting with the Clintons and their many powerful friends, will care about this disrespect from Bernie.
Maybe it won’t cost him anything. Anyone willing to hold a grudge over this was going to find a way to oppose him anyway, he might reason. Could be, but national candidates rarely decline easy opportunities to heal a rift with a segment of the electorate before a campaign. What we’re seeing here, I assume, is Bernie’s insistence on being Bernie and letting the chips fall where they may. He’s a socialist and won’t pretend otherwise, he dislikes Hillary Clinton and won’t pretend otherwise. If that bothers you, don’t vote for him. Hillary supporters are going to watch this and think, “Okay then.”