How Bernie Can Win
Don’t get excited (or despondent if you’re a Hillary supporter). Bernie isn’t going to win the nomination. There is zero chance. And his team knows it. Pushing for an indictment from the FBI is not a campaign strategy. But he can win on his ideas.
No doubt they are in a sticky part of the campaign. They’ve taken in gobs of money, spent more money than anyone and inspired legions of followers. They likely need to keep taking donations in order to avoid the campaign debt that would reduce his bargaining power with the Clinton campaign but since they also know that he won’t win, we are experiencing this strange, lurching quality in his campaign where they veer from signals that they are getting out (laying off staff, focusing on platform) to ridiculous “there’s still a path” rhetoric. They pretty much have everyone confused and it’s, so far, not a pretty end for a man that did something pretty incredible.
When Sanders was at his best, he was illustrating that the Democratic Party has perhaps forgotten a significant segment of its base — the working class. As I wrote before (https://medium.com/@mamajeanab/why-bernie-is-losing-701a96bfe493#.4pqh3si8x), I believe the most vulnerable were never convinced that Sanders could preserve what was most important to them. However, there is a significant portion of working class that feel as if their needs have been skipped over in favor of other issues.
In some ways, this is due to urgency. With attempts to shut down Planned Parenthood and newly restrictive abortion laws in many states, a woman’s right to choose is absolutely under assault so it’s no surprise that Democrats are stepping up to fight back. In other ways, it is about opportunity. As minds shift on LGBT issues, there are pathways to fortifying rights that have long been neglected. In still other ways, it is about passion and anger. Black Lives Matter forced attention to systemic racism in our police and judicial structures while Sandy Hook and other mass shootings, forced attention on gun violence.
There is a reason why these issues have come to the forefront. They are important. And they have caught the attention of the public. And that has prompted our Democratic leaders to address them, incorporate them into their campaigns, come up with solutions.
So what happened to the working class? In some respects, I think they were taken for granted. Unions (in a gross oversimplification) would never support the Republicans as the very nature of Republican business philosophy tends to be anti-union. In other ways, I think it’s simply hard to come up with solutions. It’s not a headline-grabbing problem that has easy or obvious fixes. Manufacturing is not going to come back in major ways. I think Free Trade agreements have become a bit of a bogeyman but has the Democratic Party done enough to protect the people adversely affected by the evolution of the economy?
It’s a losing argument to suggest that we can somehow bring back manufacturing by restructuring trade deals. We are in a global economy and it doesn’t necessarily serve our interests to go backward. However, the Democratic Party could work to increase opportunities for education — whether in trade fields or university. Obama dropped the ball a bit in pushing for greater infrastructure proposals. Although he had a lot on his plate and was dealing with the most obstructionist Congress in history, could there have been a greater attempt to take advantage of low interest rates and reach for New Deal-like achievements with infrastructure? Would that have helped?
There is no panacea for working class issues but talking about income inequality and a moral economy are good places to start. Here’s where Sanders went awry though. He needed anger and passion to gain support so everyone became the enemy — the Republicans certainly, and Wall Street, and billionaires but also Democrats and SuperPacs and the establishment. To him, all were complicit in screwing over the heart of the heartland. But it’s disingenuous to lump everyone into the same category and ultimately makes it that much more difficult to achieve some really important change.
To fail to acknowledge how Democrats have attempted to rectify some of these issues is to dismiss his own potential allies. And to think that you don’t need allies is just plain delusional. Sanders switched to the Democratic Party to take advantage of the press, money and power that he would need to get his message heard. To then rail against the Democratic Party because they use press and money and power to promote important causes is hypocritical at best. These are high stakes issues and there’s a lot of money on the other side promoting their point of view. Does he really think that there is an endless stream of $27 donations from the economically disadvantaged to challenge the millions coming from the Koch brothers?
Yes. We need campaign finance reform. Yes. We need to work on income inequality. Yes. We need to figure out ways to promote a more moral economy. No. We can not do it with our hands tied behind our backs. Right now, in this political environment, I’d rather the Democrats pat themselves on the backs for winning back Congress and keeping the White House than pat themselves on the back for losing nobly without SuperPac money.
But Sanders, and his supporters, can win by keeping this a part of the conversation. Hillary Clinton has already addressed a number of proposals to fight for these issues but there is no doubt that Sanders has shown there is a passion to make it more of a priority — which means more political capital to spend on making headway. Sanders speech on a 50-state strategy is also helpful, although it’s a little difficult to hear a lecture on how the Democrats have abandoned the needs of the South from a guy who has been completely dismissive of the votes his opponent received there.
He can win by showing his supporters how to work within the system. Or, if they’re still super cynical, how to work the system. The Democratic Party has changed throughout the years as it morphs to incorporate different priorities. And as social issues become less of a weapon that Republicans can wield, there will be even more opportunities to draw the working class and the middle class by championing economic policies that keep opportunities fair.
Sanders can win by demonstrating the power of patient determination. The creation of a group to win more progressive seats in Congress is a potential positive but I wish the original focus was on seats that were currently in Republican hands. Replacing one Democratic congressman with one who is slightly more left is not going to get things done and could actually hamper liberal causes across the board. For instance, there’s an attempt to replace Al Franken. Not because of his views, but because he dared to support Hillary Clinton — who helped him reach Congress in the first place. Targeting an ally is the proverbial cutting off your nose to spite your face. (See Tea Party — hugely successful by some measures but hugely ineffectual by other standards)
Sanders joined the Democratic Party because it was a faster way to achieve his goals. He didn’t win the big prize but he came closer than he would have as an Independent or with the Green Party. In the process, he attracted many new voters. Now that he is not going to win the nomination, it’s on him to turn their anger — the anger he stoked — into positive action. Otherwise, that anger is likely to be become the cynicism and frustration that keeps voters home. That will definitely keep the Democratic Party from morphing into what it is meant to be next. And if he marginalizes his own movement, then he will have truly lost.