Saturday, April 2, 2016

Bernie's Dangerous Game


Wow, things are getting downright ugly between the Sanders and Clinton camps. The latest dustup concerns the fossil fuel industry. Bernie has been saying some rather unsavory things about Hillary, and Hillary understandably has gotten her dander up.

In case you missed it or were in a coma, here's the what happened. Sanders charged that Clinton was "heavily influenced" by contributions from the fossil fuel industry. Clinton fought back at an event and confronted an activist who questioned her on it by saying she was "sick and tired of the Sanders campaign lying" about her.  Sanders then shot back by demanding that Clinton apologize to him.

The fact is that according to the Center for Responsive Politics, both Clinton and Sanders have accepted donations from people in the fossil fuel industry. For Clinton, the amount represents .2 percent of the $159 million she has raised; for Sanders, it's .04 percent of the $140 million he has raised. That comes out to $318,000 for Clinton and $56,000 for Sanders. If Bernie thinks that 318 thousand dollars represents "heavy influence," I've got some news for him. 97.7 percent of all contributions made by the fossil fuel industry go to GOP candidates and I can assure him the percentage that they have contributed to their coffers is considerably greater than .2 percent.

Let's face it, this is not nor was it ever about Hillary and her alleged ties to fossil fuels or Wall Street or Martha Stewart (I threw that last one in there); it's about the fact that Bernie is trailing badly in pledged delegates and he needs something, anything to get him back in the game and give him a shot at winning the nomination. So he's going gutter, and quite frankly it's kind of sad, not to mention dangerous.

I say dangerous because his supporters are already ginned up as it is; the last thing they need is another log on their already raging hot fire.  This isn't '08 when social media was still in its infancy. Back then, most people weren't even on Facebook. I, myself, didn't start posting on it until the Spring of '09. And tweeting was something few if any did. Now just try to find somebody who isn't on some kind of social media. They're out there but they're a minority.

The demarcation line between both sides has been firmly established. So intense is the contempt for one another it will be a Herculean task to unite the two camps. By stoking this hatred for Hillary, Bernie s making it that much more difficult for his supporters to get behind Clinton when she wins the nomination. And, yes, she's going to be the nominee. The reason comes down to demographics.

All throughout this campaign, Sanders has not been able to break out of his comfort zone of appealing to young, white, college students and blue-collar workers. A quick overview of his victories reveals a startling pattern. Aside from his win in Michigan, he has not won a single state with a diverse electorate. Even Wisconsin, which he should win and is currently ahead by 5 points, doesn't help him change the narrative. Yes, it's another win, but it's also another state with a largely white and very progressive base. Not at all like the voters who comprise the majority of the Democratic Party.

Sanders' attacks on Clinton will do little to broaden his appeal to other potential voter blocs. Quite the opposite in fact. By ratcheting it up, all he does is solidify the support he already has while reassuring Hillary supporters that they made the right choice. Preaching to his choir won't get him any closer to the goal line. It merely delays the inevitable.

It also poisons the well. So much so that Sanders puts the entire general election at risk. Think about it. Let's say that most of Bernie's supporters swallow hard and vote for Clinton in November. That still might not be enough to put her over the top because a certain percentage of them - I'm hearing as much as a third - will sulk and pout rather than pull the lever for her. In an election that might well be decided by a couple million votes and a dozen or so electoral votes, every vote counts. Democrats can ill afford to lose any of them.

And then there's the GOP, who I'm sure are taking note of every one of Sanders' slings and arrows thrown at Clinton. You can bet the ranch those very same slings and arrows will be coming her way in the fall.  With or without quite realizing it, Bernie has become the Republicans best source of material. His recklessness is making it that much easier for them to win the presidency.

Bernie Sanders is playing with fire and if he doesn't stop it soon, the Democrats' plan to keep the White House and retake the Senate may go up in flames along with his revolution.

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