The Presidential primaries are effectively over. Both parties have chosen their candidates (and it is worth reminding everyone that primaries are party affairs, not exercises intended for the general/unaffiliated public).
I am reluctant to re-enter the toxic primary debate between the “Bernie bots” and the Hillary supporters, and I will preface this post with a disclaimer that will no doubt be ignored: this is not an “endorsement” of either of them. I tend to agree with most–not all– of Sanders’ positions, and I have never been a particularly enthusiastic supporter of Hillary–not because I consider her corrupt or dishonest (I don’t), but because, despite her resume and formidable policy chops, she is a defensive and not particularly inspiring candidate.
I will support Hillary. Had Bernie emerged as the Democratic candidate, I would have supported him. But that is a far cry from believing that he would be the stronger candidate against The Donald.
A recent article from Slate spells out what most politically active people know: polls at this juncture in the campaign are absolutely meaningless. The reason Hillary’s negatives are high is that everything that the Republicans could possibly throw at her has been thrown (repeatedly) for the past 25 years. There won’t be any surprises.
Bernie, on the other hand, would go into this election facing the national GOP smear machine for the first time–and given that Trump is head of their ticket, that machine would undoubtedly go into overdrive. The Slate article spells out just some of the more obvious attacks (and no, they need not be fair or accurate–just as many of the efforts to bring Hillary down have not been fair or accurate). Just a few examples from the article:
[Sanders] has never been asked to account for his relationship with the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party, for which he served as a presidential elector in 1980. At the time, the party’s platform called for abolishing the U.S. military budget and proclaimed “solidarity” with revolutionary Iran. (This was in the middle of the Iranian hostage crisis.) There’s been little cable news chatter about Sanders’ 1985 trip to Nicaragua, where he reportedly joined a Sandinista rally with a crowd chanting, “Here, there, everywhere/ The Yankee will die.” It would be nice if this were due to a national consensus on the criminal nature of America’s support for the Contras. More likely, the media’s attention has simply been elsewhere….
Imagine an ad drawing from the old Sanders essay “The Revolution Is Life Versus Death.” First it might quote the candidate mocking taboos on child nudity: “Now, if children go around naked, they are liable to see each others [sic] sexual organs, and maybe even touch them. Terrible thing!” Then it would quote him celebrating girls who defy their mothers and have sex with their boyfriends: “The revolution comes … when a girl pushes aside all that her mother has ‘taught’ her and accepts her boyfriends [sic] love.” Finally, it would remind viewers that Sanders was one of 14 congressmen to vote against the law establishing the Amber Alert system and one of 15 to vote against an amendment criminalizing computer-generated child pornography. The fact that these votes were cast for entirely principled civil libertarian reasons is, in the context of a general-election attack, beside the point…..
As the nominee, Sanders would have to address his former opposition to public schools and praise for parents who believe that it is “better for their children not to go to school at all than for them to attend a normal type of establishment.” He’d have to explain whether he still feels that sexual repression causes cancer, whether he still opposes the concept of private charity, and whether he still supports the public takeover of the television industry.
Anyone who believes that the GOP would not use–and abuse–these currently little-known positions from Sanders’ past, or that such attacks wouldn’t be highly effective, is being willfully naive.
Bernie Sanders has done the Democratic party an enormous service during this primary campaign. He has raised issues that needed to be raised, and he has moved Hillary Clinton from her more cautious and much more incremental positions. His arguments will strongly influence the party platform. He has brought enthusiastic young people into the political process, and I for one believe he will put the issues above his ego and work hard to keep them involved.
As an old political warhorse, I can tell you that winning an election is not the same thing as winning the argument. The “Bernie bots” can console themselves that he has already won that.
Finally, for those still insisting that Bernie can still win the nomination, or in the alternative, that he was somehow cheated out of winning, please read this.