As a lifelong liberal, I have been very happy to see real progressives like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren getting to talk about some of my core ideals on presidential campaign stages. Not only are they using national platforms to expose many Americans to these concepts again and again, but they’re garnering a lot of support.
Sanders is remarkable in his ability to stay on message, turning every question into an answer that includes the basic talking points he’s been hitting for four decades. In fact, he may be the most consistent message delivery machine I’ve ever seen. His detractors say that he repeats himself endlessly, but he’s aware that new ears are hearing him and, like fans of a great classic rock band, even his supporters want to hear the hits.
The punditry, considering Bernie too extreme and yet on a path to the nomination, predicts he will be crushed a la George McGovern in 1972, and that Democrats would be better off with a moderate at the top of the ticket. If Bernie is too extreme, what is Trump? This is no time for tepid politics. After all, when was the last time Dems won with a moderate candidate who was afraid to shake things up? Let’s go ask Presidents Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and Al Gore.
The “experts” also say that Trump is champing at the bit to run against Bernie because it will be easy to attack him as a socialist. True, that’s a bogeyman word for many people over 60, but support for democratic socialism among younger generations has grown as they’ve been exposed to Bernie’s messages. While the right invokes Venezuela as an example of socialism’s failure, the left should be promoting socialism’s successes, like Denmark and other progressive European nations. Bernie’s also smart in turning the negative label around, reminding us how — under GOP administrations — much of the public’s tax money has redirected upward, into the pockets of the rich, while the working class hasn’t gotten a single break. Besides, conservatives hurled the S-word at previous Democrats who invoked sweeping changes like FDR’s New Deal and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society — yet the landmark pieces of legislation they signed, including Social Security and Medicare, have long been the backbone of America’s safety net for the middle class. The same goes for Obamacare, which the right wing is still trying to dismantle.
There’s also a fear among some Dems that mainstream voters will stay home if Sanders is the candidate, but they are forgetting the prime objective: get Donald Trump out of the White House, a move that would actually make the swamp cleaner! By the way, the same goes for Bernie Bros who won’t vote for any other Dem who gets the nomination. Speaking of the Bernie Bros, don’t conflate Sanders with his more aggro fans online. Remember that Twitter and FB are not the real world.
For those who say Bernie’s not even officially a Democrat, while he may technically be an independent, he caucuses with the blue team in the Senate and has been in line with the party’s views on most issues for decades. Can the same be said for Michael Bloomberg? Consider his recent history:
- In 2004, he supported George W. Bush over John Kerry;
- In 2008, he backed John McCain over Barack Obama;
- In 2012, he was for the Republican who ran against Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts and Maine’s Senator Susan Collins over her Democratic opponent;
- In 2016, he donated $10 million to Pat Toomey, the GOP candidate for Senate in Pennsylvania;
- In 2018, he donated to a Republican House fundraiser.
It wasn’t until last year, when he began making noise about running for president, that Michael Bloomberg registered as a Democrat.
The ex-mayor will have a ton of trouble garnering enough support from people of color because of the stop-and-frisk policy that targeted Blacks and Latinos (impacting more than five million of them!) during his dozen years in office in New York. He’s apologized for the policy, but not until he was out of Gracie Mansion, and he seems completely insincere in his claims. The same goes for the way he’s handled the sexual harassment claims by who-knows-how-many women who worked for him. His refusal Wednesday night to release them from their non-disclosure agreements, paired with his “they just didn’t like my jokes” line, turned my stomach. I can’t imagine the impact it had on female viewers.
What about Uncle Joe? Unfortunately, history will mark him as a three-time loser when it comes to presidential politics. His obit will certainly lead with his eight years as Vice President and 32 years as US Senator, but his repeated misses while trying to grab the brass ring will diminish his legacy a bit — especially since he was the presumed frontrunner from day one, and now is struggling to stay in the top three.
Amy Klobuchar got a spark of attention after her third-place finish in New Hampshire, but it won’t last, much as Kamala Harris couldn’t turn her positive press from the first debate into longterm success. Amy is good at relating to people and remembering anecdotes, and the fact that she’s won GOP voters in Minnesota to her side in the past is a positive. Would she agree to be Bernie’s running mate? I have no idea how she’ll play in the Black & Latino communities yet. Would Kamala accept if offered? Stacy Abrams? Cory Booker? We’ll see.
Why not Pete Buttigieg? He’s good, and has a brilliant woman named Lis Smith running his campaign, but I’m not convinced certain sectors of America are ready to support a gay man for president. I’m not talking about right-wing homophobes and hypocritical evangelicals, who are already in Trump’s camp. I mean Blacks and Latinos, who tend to be much more religious than their white Democrat counterparts. I have asked several black friends of different generations if they can imagine their preachers getting up in front of their flocks and trying to convince them that this particular gay guy is okay. They all said no, and without that support, it’s impossible for any Democrat to reach the White House. Those attitudes will change in coming years, but not quickly enough for Pete.
That leaves Elizabeth Warren. I really like her and at one time thought she’d be our first female President. Having a plan to solve so many of our national problems is a major plus, and she’s really good at scoring points about the economic disenfranchisement of so many Americans in recent years. Unfortunately, unlike Bernie, she has a problem staying on message, and since her core beliefs are so similar to his, she’s been preempted. But the strength Liz showed in eviscerating Mike Wednesday night may have rekindled her campaign — it certainly brought in a lot of donations. I hope she can stay in the race, because her voice is important. Could she be Bernie’s running mate? Nope. Just like he couldn’t be hers. Too much of the same thing. The ticket needs balance.
Elections often come down to how much a candidate can excite and inspire people. Bill Clinton did it. Barack Obama did it. Yes, Donald Trump did it, too. They each super-served their bases while drawing in unaffiliated voters with their messages. Do you see any of that passion for Joe Biden or Amy Klobuchar? I don’t. Bernie is the one who already has an energized core that understands the need for real change at the top. Can he unseat a Republican incumbent? He did when he ran for the House in 1990, and in 2006, flipped a Senate seat that had been occupied by Republicans for 144 years.
That doesn’t mean he’ll win the presidency, despite polls that show him defeating Trump by several points. There’s still a long way to go, and a very ugly heads-up campaign to come after the conventions that will set records for vitriol — some of which will include horrific anti-Semitic attacks from the “very fine people” among Trump’s nucleus of support. Then there’s all the help Agent Orange will get (again) from Mark Zuckerberg and Vladimir Putin.
Before that, however, Bernie still has to convince a lot of Democrats that he’s their best bet. The next three weeks — from Nevada to South Carolina to Super Tuesday — will show whether he’s capable of that.
One last point. Since JFK in 1960, neither the Democrats nor the Republicans had won the White House with a candidate from the northeast until 2016. Almost all of the winners were southerners until last time around, when a lifelong New Yorker was awarded the prize by the Electoral College. Now, in 2020, we could end up with New Yorkers at the top of both tickets.