Friday, January 22, 2016

Can Bernie Sanders Win in November?

The GOP presidential contest seems to go from one new low to another, making it clear that any Democrat is preferable to any of the GOP clown car occupants. For Democrats, therefore, the issue becomes one of which of the two leading Democrats can win not just the primary contest but the general election contest in November 2016.  As previously noted, I am on the fence and I am most concerned about insuring a GOP defeat since the prospect of any of the GOP slate in the White House is downright frightening.  A piece in the Daily Kos argues that Bernie Sanders is the better choice against Hillary Clinton.  I'd love to hear readers' thoughts on this.  Here are article highlights:

I’m beginning to believe Bernie Sanders can win the Democratic nomination and then the presidency.

Since Bernie announced his candidacy, I’ve been torn. On the one hand, I’ve long admired Sanders.  It’s hard not to respect someone who was born the same year that I was and has paid his dues as a liberal activist and politician.  On the other hand, I feel it’s time for a woman to be President and I like Hillary.  And, given the slate of truly dreadful candidates, any Democrat is preferable to whomever the GOP eventually nominates.

For the past eight months I’ve told anyone who asked me, “I believe Hillary will win the Democratic nomination.  But, Bernie’s candidacy serves a useful purpose: it will push Hillary to the left.”  Meanwhile, the contest exposed Clinton’s weaknesses and demonstrated Sanders can harness the energy of the “activist” part of the Democratic base.

Nonetheless, my decision whom to support for the Democratic nomination does not come down to policies or gender or age (although in an ideal campaign I would prefer to support a younger progressive woman); it’s refusing to be satisfied with the Democratic Party “business as usual” process.

There’s two wings of the Democracy Party: an activist wing filled with “do gooders” who, each day, slog through the peace and justice trenches taking on issue after issue.  And an establishment wing composed of  “people of privilege,” the Democratic portion of “the one percent.”

In 2016, Bernie represents the activists and Hillary the establishment.  On May 6th, when I saw Hillary in San Francisco, she talked about the role of money in American politics, “fixing our dysfunctional political system and getting unaccountable money out of it even if that takes a constitutional amendment.”  However, since then Hillary has run as an establishment Democrat.  Bernie Sanders has made money in politics his central issue.

When each candidate was asked what she or he would do to bring the country together, Bernie replied, “The real issue is that Congress is owned by big money and refuses to do what the American people want them to do.”

When asked about his Wall Street policy, Bernie Sanders responded:
The first difference [between him and Clinton] is I don’t take money from big banks. I don’t get personal speaking fees from Goldman Sachs… But here is the issue, Secretary [Clinton] touched on it, can you really reform Wall Street when they are spending millions and millions of dollars on campaign contributions and when they are providing speaker fees to individuals? [$600,00 to Clinton in one year.]
In 2016, Hillary Clinton is running the same campaign as Barack Obama in 2008.  Obama was an establishment Democrat, a person of privilege, running on progressive policies but not addressing the issue of money in politics.

Clinton has three weaknesses:  First, she does not have a central campaign theme, a core message.  (On Sunday night she offered, “I want to be a president who takes care of the big problems and the problems that are affecting the people of our country everyday.”)

Second, she’s identified as a Washington insider.  Likely Republican nominee, Donald Trump, has surged to the lead of the Republican pack by running as an outsider.  He’s effectively channeled voters’ anger at Washington by positioning himself as a maverick who doesn’t need to accept contributions from big money.  If Clinton were the Democratic nominee, Trump could attack her as part of the Washington establishment and as someone beholden to big money.

Finally, a lot of voters don’t like Hillary Clinton.  

Don’t misunderstand me.  If Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee then I will support her.  But now that I think Bernie Sanders has a chance to win the nomination, I’m going to push him (even if he is an old white guy) because he’s got a winning message,  strong progressive values; and is most likely to ignite the Democratic activist base.

The key question is whether or not Bernie Sanders can win independents and moderate voters.  The activist base of the Democrat Party is not enough to guaranty victory in November. 

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