Remember the grand debate last week over rehashed material in speeches, and whether anyone can plagiarize themselves? After the fumble by Team Trump on Melania’s opening-night speech and one day too many before acknowledging that her speech borrowed from a Michelle Obama address, reporters seized on a couple of passages from Donald Jr’s speech to reinflate the popped plagiarism bubble. Only it turned out that the passages in question had been written by the same man who wrote the speech for Trump fils, leading to a blessedly short media debate over whether self-plagiarism is a thing.
Hint: it’s not. And that’s good for Bernie Sanders, because Philip Bump got a wicked sense of déjà vu last night during his speech at the Democratic National Convention. In this case, Sanders didn’t borrow once but twice over the past few weeks:
When the tumult had calmed down — at least somewhat — Sanders began his speech endorsing Hillary Clinton.
It was, to a large extent, the same speech he gave when he endorsed Clinton in New Hampshire two weeks ago. …
The five paragraphs preceding the conclusion were all copied nearly verbatim. Even Sanders’s story about the working mother he met in Nevada was told two weeks prior. The priorities he listed were mostly the same, and the language he used to list them was, too. Oddly, he’d done the same thing on July 12, lifting heavily from the speech he gave when he first addressed his followers after the D.C. primary.
Bump’s comparison (read it all) makes it clear that Sanders didn’t just borrow a passage or two, or even a paragraph or two, for the biggest moment in his political career. He gave essentially the same speech with just a couple of changes — mainly adding a passage on student debt and reworking his endorsement of Hillary Clinton. He also added in a declaration that he understood his supporters’ disappointment, and shared it. Otherwise, it appears Bernie’s speechwriters mailed this one in.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. After all, summer prime-time is usually stocked with reruns. Still, this will be the pinnacle of Sanders’ career — he’s too old to try this again, and populists will look for brighter stars in the Democratic firmament around whom to rally. It seems that Sanders is more than disappointed … he’s throwing in the towel and reduced to checking the last box on the journey. That more than anything models what Hillary Clinton wants from Sanders’ movement this week and in November — check the box, sit down, and mutter the same old nonsense amongst yourselves.