I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed right now, but I’m a realist so I’m not exactly shocked. The problem for Bernie Sanders as it relates to his chances of beating Hillary Clinton has always been that he isn’t just an underdog, he’s a huge underdog. The only way he was ever going to have a chance to supplant Clinton was if she self-imploded or he went negative. While it’s nice to talk about a positive campaign based “on the issues,” no substantial underdog is going to overtake an overwhelming favorite without eventually going after them.
That seems to be what Sanders is starting to do… though he’s very cleverly trying to act like he’s not.
Just a couple of weeks ago he started by going after Clinton’s past defense of DOMA. I thought that move was a little tasteless; there are a lot of Democrats/liberals/progressives who support same-sex marriage today who didn’t 15 or 20 years ago. Hell, I’m one of them. Not only that, but as Clinton pointed out, DOMA was partially driven by her husband trying to fend off even more anti-gay legislation at the time. Furthermore, the vast majority of Americans did not support legalizing same-sex marriage during the 90’s.
Let’s also not forget that Bill Clinton was probably the most “pro-gay” president we had ever seen up until that point. He enacted Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell which opened a door for gay Americans to serve in the military. While DADT seems discriminatory by today’s standards, it was a huge step (and highly controversial) for the time. To go after Hillary Clinton on DOMA just seemed like a cheap shot, though he was clearly trying to paint her as someone who isn’t a “true progressive” – you know, like he is.
Look, we all get that Sanders has been a life-long “true” progressive. No rational person I know will ever say that Clinton is more liberal than he is, but this nonsense that she’s no better than a Republican has got to stop. In the early 90’s, as First Lady, she was fighting for universal health care when Sanders was serving his first term as a member of the House of Representatives. Even as a senator she was ranked as the 11th most liberal member of the Senate.
(For the record, Joe Biden was ranked 33rd… and Obama 23rd. Just to throw that out there.)
As most know, coming off the first Democratic debate, easily the most memorable moment of that night came when Sanders sternly professed that he (like most Americans) was sick and tired of hearing about her “damn emails.” The audience erupted into applause, the two candidates shared an embrace and it was a great moment in politics.
My, how times have changed.
During an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Sanders seemed to strike a different tone.
“You get 12 seconds to say these things,” Sanders said. “There’s an investigation going on right now. I did not say, ‘End the investigation.’ That’s silly. Let the investigation proceed unimpeded.”
He also went on to state that the American people have the right to know whether or not she sent classified information on her private server.
In just a matter of a few
polling results weeks Bernie Sanders has gone from “we’re sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails” to basically using a talking point straight out of the Fox News playbook by suggesting that the investigation is valid because Clinton might have something to hide.
Now I knew going into this that I was going to get hammered by Sanders supporters. Any time I write anything remotely pro-Clinton I get called a paid campaign shill (still waiting on my check, by the way), a hack and told I’m not a real progressive for supporting her. While I admire the passion of Sanders supporters, I wish some of them were less emotional and irrational.
It’s like I’ve said plenty of times before, I like Bernie Sanders and would support him wholeheartedly if he did end up defeating Clinton in the primary. I just feel his chances of winning in the general election are extremely slim – based on actual statistics and numbers – and I think he’s someone who’s best suited for the Senate. I don’t believe that’s bashing him, I consider it being realistic. His supporters can ignore facts all they want – or become conspiracy theorists – but that’s not going to change reality.
Not only that, but he’s already admitted that his payroll tax plan would “hit everyone.” Being a self-described socialist is a big enough hurdle for him to overcome without handing Republicans the factual talking point of Sanders literally saying that his payroll tax plan would raise taxes on everyone.
And while some people will call me a Clinton shill, or a Bernie hater – I’m neither. What I am is someone who, above all else, wants to make damn sure a Republican doesn’t win the White House next year. If by some chance Sanders wins the nomination, I’ll be one of the people cheering him on the loudest. I’ll proudly fight for his campaign practically every day.
The truth is, I like both Clinton and Sanders, even though some liberals believe that’s impossible for someone to do.
It’s clear that Bernie Sanders has realized that he’s going to have to go negative, at least somewhat, if he wants any shot at overtaking Clinton. Sure, it was easy to avoid doing so when her campaign hit a few rough patches and his was surging, but that’s no longer the case. She’s hitting her stride and his “surge” ended about two months ago. And like a true politician, he knows that the only way he’s going to stand any shot at winning is by trying to bring down the frontrunner.
While I’m sure he’ll use the argument that mentioning her past (or even the damn emails) is relevant, that’s not really keeping to his promise of wanting an “issue-based” campaign. An issue-based campaign is one that centers around what a candidate is running on now, not what they’ve done in their past. And certainly not by feeding into the nonsense the right-wing media has been pushing against Clinton.
If Sanders wants to talk about his record as a progressive, that’s great; when he tries to compare his record with Clinton’s, clearly suggesting she’s not “up to his standards” as a true progressive, that’s a negative attack. Spin it as “issue-oriented” all you want, but that’s a personal attack.
But at the end of the day, we must come together to support whoever the candidate is. The main goal of every single person on the left has to be to keep Republicans from winning the White House in 2016. Not only is the White House up for grabs, but Democrats have a real shot at reclaiming a majority in the Senate. And with the power of the Supreme Court for the next 20-30 years, the future of the Affordable Care Act, the progress on gay rights and all the other strides we’ve made in this country hanging in the balance, we cannot afford to let petty apathy or any other childish bullshit allow the GOP to come in and set this country back decades.
The only way Republicans accomplish that is if liberals let them.