Monday, July 6, 2015
Could Bernie Sanders Cost Democrats the White House in 2016?
It's official. Bernie Sanders is a phenomena. He drew over 10,000 people at a rally in Madison, Wisconsin, the largest crowd of any presidential candidate this year. I'll tell you one thing: they weren't there to watch a hockey game, that's for damn sure.
If I were Hillary Clinton, I'd be shitting my pants right now. The prohibitive Democratic frontrunner now has two major problems on her hands and neither of them are Republican. One, she has a huge enthusiasm gap with her base; and two, Bernie Sanders doesn't. For those who thought the independent senator from Vermont was just a flash in the pan, I've got news for you. He's putting on a clinic and if Hillary knows what's good for her, she'd better take notes.
All this begs two very important questions. The first is obvious: can Sanders win the nomination? Secondly, if he does win the nomination, can he win the general election? But I think there might be an even more important question. Regardless of whether or not he wins the nomination, could Bernie Sanders cost Democrats the White House in 2016?
That is the sixty-four thousand dollar question. For all his enthusiasm and genuineness, Sanders is the Democrats worst nightmare. His platform is built around two central themes. One, that the middle-class is getting squeezed by a system that is rigged to benefit the top 2 percent; and two, that the powers that be in Washington have stood by and let it happen.
The first theme presents no problem and will be a populist message for the Democrats to drive home next November. The second, however, is a problem for them. You see, the powers that be just happen to consist not only of Republicans in Congress, but the present occupant of the White House, who, in case you've forgotten, happens to be a Democrat. Without quite realizing it, Sanders has ripped opened a scab that has grown so infected over the last seven years that the electorate just might end up doing something really crazy, like voting Republican.
Don't laugh, it could happen. Think about it. How did you feel about the latest job numbers from June? Pretty good, wouldn't you say? Unemployment is down to its lowest point in over seven years and the economy is growing at just over 2.5 percent. Not awesome, but a long way from what they're going through in Europe. At least that's what the White House is touting.
Unfortunately, that's not what Bernie Sanders is preaching. To Sanders, this is all just smoke and mirrors. The recovery is weak, with just about all the gains going to the wealthy. Wall Street got bailed out along with the banks, while the average Joe on Main Street got screwed. And then there's the matter of wages, which have been stagnant for far too long.
If you didn't know any better, you'd swear Sanders was running as a Republican. And if I'm the GOP, I'd pray that old Bernie keeps drawing those huge crowds. If he keeps this up, they won't even have to come up with their own platform message on the economy; they'll just rewind the tapes from Bernie's rallies.
I can see the commercial now. "Bernie Sanders says the middle class is getting the short end of the stick and that the game is rigged. What we need is real leadership in Washington. We agree. This November, let's elect a candidate who can turn our country around and bring about a real recovery for everyone."
It won't matter that the GOP's plan is bullshit or that their policies helped bring about the very economic downturn that nearly resulted in a second Great Depression. We've seen all too often that the voters have a very short memory. If someone besides Bush should happen to capture the Republican nomination - say, Rand Paul, for instance - he could be the fresh face people turn to. Imagine an election between Sanders and Paul. That would be a tossup.
Funny thing about tossups. They don't always bode well for the incumbent party. Whatever else you may think of him, Barack Obama made two tactical errors early on in his presidency. The first was underestimating his opponents; the second was his way-too cozy relationship with Wall Street. The Left has never forgiven him for the latter. Throw in the trade deal and you've got one helluva thorn sticking out of their side.
Well Bernie Sanders is picking away at that thorn and, in the process, leaving a really bad taste in an awful lot of people's mouths. He isn't just a legitimate candidate; he's a legitimate threat - to his own party.
The Democrats latest phenom is making a really convincing case for change in 2016. And if he's not careful, the GOP could end up being the beneficiary of that change.