Nel's New Day

April 8, 2016

Whither Bernie Sanders?

Bernie Sanders, poised for his big win in Wisconsin, suffered the day before from a New York Times piece based on interviews with over a dozen advisors, Sanders, and his wife Jane. It’s content would have typically been published after a loss instead of during Sanders’ potential to climb after he won four caucus states–and five more delegates–two days earlier.  Interviewees lamented waiting too long for advertising, too much time in New Hampshire and too little in Iowa, big rallies instead of small groups, not reaching out to the black community, and waiting to hit Hillary Clinton on her speeches to Goldman Sachs.

A damning transcript from a NY Daily News interview came out the same day, showing his awkwardness in answering both foreign and domestic policy questions. Although reforming Wall Street is his campaign’s centerpiece, he admitted that he didn’t know how to break up the big banks and wasn’t exactly sure how the Dodd-Frank regulatory bill works.

Asked for the names of three American corporate giants destroying the national fabric, Sanders listed only one before he launched into his standard generalities. His answer to a recalcitrant Congress was a “political revolution.” In discussing his support for pulling back settlements on the West Bank, Sanders said if he had “some paper in front of me, I would give you a better answer.” Asked if Israel had committed essentially war crimes in their attacks on Palestine, he flatly said “no” before saying that 10,000 innocent people killed in Gaza—he wasn’t sure about the number—“was more indiscriminate than it should have been.” (There were 2,300 killed and 10,000 wounded.)

Mark Halperin, conservative and Bloomberg television host, tweeted, “If Hillary [Clinton] gave answers like this to [an editorial] board, she would be crucified.”

The day after his Wisconsin win, Sanders called Clinton “unqualified” to be president because he understood that she had called him unqualified. She hadn’t. Clinton’s words on Morning Joe:

“I’d think he hadn’t done his homework and he has been talking for more than a year about … things that he obviously hadn’t really studied or understood and that does raise a lot of questions and really what it does is for voters to ask themselves, can he deliver what he is talking about, can he really help people.”

Another of Sanders’ problems come from his supporters. In addition to claiming that they won’t vote for any Democratic president except “Bernie,” they also ignore elections that could help Sanders to effect his “political revolution.” An example is Rebecca Bradley’s Wisconsin election for a ten-year term as a conservative state Supreme Court justice despite her radical positions that “queers” (her word for LGBT people) are “evil” and deserve to die of AIDS.  Conservative donors gave Bradley a 5 to 1 edge in spending over her opponent.  Because of the 15 percent of  Sanders’ “single-issue” supporters who failed to vote on the justice position in Wisconsin, conservatives completely control the formerly progressive state. If these voters had listened to Sanders, they would have realized the importance of voting for Bradley’s  opponent, JoAnne Kloppenburg.

When Sanders’ supporters—as many as one-third of them—refuse to vote for any other Democratic presidential candidate, they support the regressive far-right presidential candidate. Their position of “my way or the highway” sounds exactly like the GOP reason behind the congressional gridlock. To accomplish their goal, “Bernie Bros,” white male Sanders supporters, troll Internet comment sections with sexist comments about Clinton, some of them extremely gross.

The Sanders’ supporters excuse for the overwhelming trolling is that “there’s just more of us on the internet in general so it probably just seems like we’re disproportionately trollish.” No matter how hard some pundits try to claim that the Bernie Bros’ misbehavior is generated by the media, emails and tweets to female journalists supporting Clinton consistently use swear words and insults specifically directed at women. They insist that blacks be told about the error of voting for Clintons and do it in angry, bigoted terms.

Many of Sanders’ supporters are young, a time of taking risks and self-assured arrogance as synapses struggle to connect. He promises people better Social Security, living wage, and free college tuition. A newspaper discussion in our small local newspaper about the increase in community college tuition brought the response that it didn’t matter because tuition would be free when Sanders becomes president. Non-thinkers take Sanders at his word that he’ll wave a magic wand and give people everything they want while bypassing Congress.

Sanders, however, uses the concept of compromise to explain votes that are less desirable to far-left voters. He said:

“As we all know, there are bills in Congress that have bad stuff, there are bills in Congress that have good stuff. Good stuff and bad stuff in the same bill.”

Not all young people, however, are as naïve as those who accept Sanders as the wizard easily able to overcome any dissent. Explaining why she’s voting for Hillary Clinton, Rebecca Unger, 22, writes:

“[Sanders’] is an idealistic, naïve agenda that could never be put into practice in America. In this country, to legislate even one tenth of such an ambitious plan would take degrees of cooperation, sacrifice, even manipulation and such an immense amount of ‘give-and-take’ tactics that an idea that once stood untarnished, glistening at the campaign podium, would come out looking like a child’s napkin after a meal of spaghetti Bolognese.”

Unger thinks that “Hillary Clinton’s qualifications here far exceed those of Bernie Sanders.”:

“Yes, Clinton has made ‘slip ups’ and she will inevitably be criticized for them, but experience is built by learning from one’s mistakes, and her acumen in this area is something American people should take into serious consideration. We need a Commander-in-Chief who understands the importance of what commanding the most powerful armed forces in the world means and knows how to exercise such an enormous responsibility.”

For much of his campaign, Sanders consistently said, “My one issue is trying to rebuild a disappearing middle class. That’s my one issue.” Yet the person in the White House is responsible for many other issues—including a  foreign policy far more complicated than Sanders’ statement, “I voted against the war in Iraq.”  He thinks that all blacks live in ghettos and that he can single-handedly provide free college tuition and raise the minimum wage to $15. After Donald Trump said that women needed to be punished for getting abortions, Sanders said that his comments were just a distraction from the “serious issues” facing the nation, as if women’s reproductive rights aren’t one of these “serious issues.”

No one disagrees that Sanders has great ideas—but he has no method for carrying them out. Concerning the election, the right-wing press is hoping that he’ll be the candidate so that they can label him a communist who has never held a real job outside politics. Kevin Drum shows how right-wing advertising can drive away independent voters because of problems in Sanders’ economic suggestions. Rand Paul has other criticisms about Sanders. The right-wing won’t care that these claims might be false: they’ll just spread the information to defeat them. The huge difference between Sanders and Clinton is that there doesn’t seem to have anything more to dig up about her. There’s a lot concerning Sanders.

Hopefully Sanders has realized the huge gaffe he made in calling Clinton “unqualified.” For the first time this week, he said he would support her if she were the presidential candidate. Prior to this time, he claimed that it was too early to consider the possibility. Last month, he said he couldn’t support her until she agreed to his policy demands.

Yet he still says that he’ll attack her if she continues her attacks and fails to understand that the media used the word “unqualified,” and not Clinton. In an interview with the Washington Post, he expressed regret about what has been said. Although he wouldn’t attack Clinton on what he might see as her faults, he listed them. He also blamed the change in Clinton’s “tone” on her “nervousness.” There was no feeling of “regret” in his defensiveness.

Sanders hopes to win the candidacy by taking super delegates already pledged to Clinton, but Nate Silver’s blog, well known for its accurate prognostications, expressed serious doubts about Sanders’ ability to pick up delegates in the remaining 17 states where people have not yet voted. Thus far, Sanders has 42 percent of the popular vote in places that have held caucuses and primaries; to win he would need 60 percent of the remaining voters.

The next Democratic debate is April 14, before the April 19 primary in New York. The question for that event is whether Sanders can control his temper. My message to Bernie Bros? Grow up!

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