CAN BERNIE WIN?

February 2016

 [Update November 2019: Obviously, neither Bernie nor Hillary won the Presidency, and my prognostications about what the American voters were capable of were - like just about everybody else's - very, very wrong. Still,  I think my comments are relevant to the question of what we really need in the way of National leadership.]

We just lost the last of Oregon's non-Conservative talk radio shows, when the host decided to move on to other things. Too bad. In this modern world of definitions within definitions, I don't think he could be called a Progressive (in most things, at least), but he was definitely a Liberal Moderate. (Is that even a real term?). He was certainly the best we had.

   Besides being too bad that the show is gone, it's too bad that many of us long-time listeners will remember him most for his last couple months, in which he repeatedly told us that Senator Bernie Sanders cannot win either the Democratic primary or a national election. When some listeners challenged him on "social media" sites, and some called Secretary Hillary Clinton bad names and said they'd never vote for her, he got more strident, condemning "so many Bernie supporters" for  their "vitriol" (his words from his online farewell note). Hey, it's the SOCIAL MEDIA - the place operating specifically for people with nothing better to do than make outlandish statements that they'd probably never make (or even think) in public.

   Maybe his reaction was a little strong? For instance, what constitutes "so many" when he talked about Bernie supporters? In New Hampshire alone, Bernie garnered over 150,000 votes. That's probably a small number compared to the number who will ultimately vote for him in the primaries. How many of 150,000 supporters would be "so many?" I sincerely doubt there were enough mean or disrespectful Hillary comments on all the various social media sites combined to meet any threshold that would constitute "so many."

   And what about Hillary supporters? Aren't there at least a few "vitriolic" anti-Bernie comments floating around out there in the ether? Yeah, this whole "vitriol" concern is probably a little overstated.

*   *   *

   But let's try to forget about all that, and look at what he was trying to say about Bernie's chances. Early on, I didn't think he was particularly anti-Bernie or pro-Hillary; it was more like he was trying to "educate" us that  the people of the United States would never elect a "socialist" (as Bernie proudly calls himself). A little later, it seemed like he was saying that Bernie's ideas were too extreme to get him elected, and that it would be a lot "safer" to support the more moderate views of Hillary. After he was challenged, his "education" on why Bernie isn't a good candidate continued more stridently than before, shifting  from Bernie's "socialist" stance and his too-radical ideas to the explanation of the voting system: that even if Bernie won every primary, he probably wouldn't get the nomination because of all the "super delegates" committed to Hillary, the ones who will ultimately decide who gets the nomination, no matter what voters want.

*   *   *

   Okay, so what if he has been right on one, two, or all three of his points? All of us who have been around for a few elections know that, even if we have one of the best election systems in the world, it still has a lot of problems. For example, those of us living in Oregon are used to (but not happy with) the fact that we actually have no say in who we get to vote for in national elections. With the stupid, many-months-long caucus/primary season, many candidates run out of money or energy and drop out of contention long before most of us get a chance to get to know them or express an opinion about them. We have to vote for whoever is given to us (and hope we don't have to  hold our noses in the process).  So, if the "super delegates" sway a close contest away from the true winner, it would be a travesty, but it wouldn't be something entirely new. And, perhaps more to the point, in our highly polarized country,  it's almost a certainty that no Democrat would vote for a Republican, and no Republican would vote for a Democrat, just because  their candidate was not the one they really wanted. For the same reason, very few people on either side would stay home and not vote, because the differences are thought to be too great to give any edge to the other party. (With "independents" or "undecideds," I have to believe that more would go Democrat than Republican with this year's choices.)

   What about Bernie being a "Socialist?" Well, it should be obvious from the massive crowds at his rallies, and his stellar performance in the first two state battles, that his supporters aren't very worried about that. Yes, I can see the Republicans trying to use it as an issue against him if he did become the Democratic nominee. I'm not sure why he has chosen to emphasize a term (actually, democratic socialist) that might confuse people or be purposely misconstrued, when what he means by it comes across so clearly in his speeches and rallies. Nothing he stands for is un-American in any sense of the word (and not even un-Capitalism, in the best sense of the system). He wants a country in which  the voters have the greatest possible voice in decision making. If the term is potentially a stumbling block for him, then it should be our job (including progressive talk radio hosts) to help him explain what he means, not help his opponents inflate the negative connotations.

   Finally, what about Bernie's message being too radical for the American public? Again, look at the crowds and his approval numbers.  Do all those people really think he can get the nomination, then get elected? I have no idea, but I suspect a lot of them are like me: they love to hear someone give a message of progress that goes beyond "we can't let the Republicans take the White House," or "he/she can keep the Obama programs going." I agree that a Republican president with a Republican Congress would be disastrous to what I think of as the true "American way of life." But I want someone whose ideas reach beyond preserving the status quo. Bernie's ideas are not beyond a Progressive's thinking; they are just current Democratic ideals on steroids. Having him in the race has excited and mobilized Democratic voters in a way we haven't been challenged in a long time.

*   *   *

How many of Bernie's ideas would become reality if he is elected President? If he is dealing with a Republican-dominated Congress like today's, probably not many. How much would a President Hillary get done under the same circumstances? About the same. That being the case, I would rather vote for the one with big ideas, hope that others feel the same, and hope that there are real Democratic gains in the House and Senate. What would I do if Hillary wins the nomination? Exactly the same, the same position I think every Progressive (including our exiting talk show host) will take, whoever gets the chance for the top spot. I would be happy with either, and I think either could win against any of the Republican field.

MORE ESSAYS

Society

Religion

Wildlife and Conservation

 To the Writing It Down Homepage

New and Used Books - Religion, Politics and Social Issues

Leave a Comment

© Sanford Wilbur 2019