How Democrats can solve their Bernie Sanders problem

As Biden advances to the nomination, he advances also toward an exquisite problem: How to reconcile the irreconcilable? In 2016, Hillary Clinton failed to reach such an accommodation. Bernie Sanders was not seeking consolation prizes: a policy concession, an appointment for himself or for his people. Sanders does not bargain for what he wants, because no bargain can give him what he wants. A sympathetic article in The Daily Beast explained why Sanders has such a negligible record of accomplishment in his three decades in Congress. He did not aspire to “accomplish things” in the usual congressional way of accomplishing things. His vision of change rejected deal making by insiders. It rested instead on a dream of inspiring a mass movement that could change government from the outside.

The revolutionary mass movement itself is the thing that Sanders wants. Just as the prophet Habakkuk instructed the people of Israel to await the Messiah even if he should tarry, so Sanders has patiently awaited his revolution. The revolution may come. It may not come. But no conventional politician can make it come. And since they cannot, there is nothing for Sanders to talk about with such politicians.

So if a Biden cannot negotiate with Sanders, how does a Biden prevent Sanders and the Sanders movement from playing a spoiler role?

Maybe begin by segmenting the Sanders problem into three constituent pieces: the candidate; his staff, surrogates, and core supporters; and less committed Sanders voters.