I’ve heard this argument more than a few times, and every time it irks me in the same way: ‘Bernie Sanders is too liberal to get anything done as president’. The argument makes sense. Barack Obama has tried to straddle the line between Democrats and Republicans time and time again only to have the GOP trip him up at every turn. Now Bernie, a true liberal, comes onto the scene, vouching for everything that the GOP despises, and he expects to get anything done with their commanding majority in Congress? He’s even considered too liberal by many Democratic standards as he calls for an end to the integral relationship between political candidates and super PACs, among other issues. Does he have a chance, and would a Bernie Sanders presidency bear any fruit?
If the polls count for anything, it has become apparent over the last few weeks that these primary elections will be no cakewalk for Mrs. Clinton. In New Hampshire, Bernie is solidifying his lead over her, and the two are neck and neck in the Iowa Caucuses after months of Clinton’s double-digit lead. A CNN poll came out recently with Sanders leading Clinton by a whopping 27 points in New Hampshire. In an effort to hold ground there, the Clinton campaign has dispatched a group of powerful Democrats to the state including the candidate’s daughter, Chelsea Clinton. Although much more financially strapped than Hillary’s campaign, which at one point had one or more paid staffers in every state, Sanders’s funds have been wisely allocated to the primary states where the game really matters right now.
Needless to say, there have been plenty of obstacles for Sanders along the way. Maybe most significant is that his campaign is funded entirely through small donations, something that was thought to be impossible in U.S. politics where super PACs are the norm. In the last 3 months of 2015, his campaign raised over $33 million in small donations averaging about $27 each, bringing his 2015 total to $73 million raised in a record-breaking 2.5 million donations. Hillary for America raised 12.9 million dollars between January 2013 and her announcement to run in April 2015, in which time she received sizable donations from people like Warren Buffett ($25,000) and Pivot founder Patricia Hoppey ($60,000). Since April, Hillary for America and its plethora of affiliated super PACs have raised $112 million. I never could find hard numbers on the number of small donations towards Clinton’s efforts, but if it’s so hard to find, it must not be a number worth bragging about. Her campaign has cash coming out of the wazoo and she’s still losing ground. Money is power, but a powerful message is as well.
Spreading that message to the broader populace has been a feat with corporate media like CNN (owned by Time Warner) and NBC (owned by Comcast) trying to marginalize or ignore his candidacy altogether. Both parent companies are major donors to Hillary’s campaign. The more exposure that Mr. Sanders gets, the more people like his message, so it was no help that three of the six DNC debates occurred on weekends at times of low-viewership. The most recent one aired at the same time as the NFL playoffs began, and a new episode of “Downton Abbey” premiered. Before that, the 5th debate was on a Saturday less than a week before Christmas. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, co-chair of Hillary’s failed 2008 presidential campaign and current chair of the DNC who oversees debate scheduling says “It’s just the way it is. All I can do is focus on getting our party ready to support our eventual nominee and that is what I’m doing,”. To put things into perspective, in 2008, the last time the Democratic nomination was a real toss-up, 26 debates were held.
A strong, enthusiastic, volunteer team is not something that Bernie has been lacking, however. Back in July, when few were thinking about the elections, Sanders organized a massive grassroots effort with 3,500 simultaneous parties attended by over 100,000 from the East Coast to the Deep South, with a live stream to the main event where he spoke in DC. The work his volunteer army has done around the country, and specifically in the early primary states, is setting him up for a close race with Mrs. Clinton despite her many advantages.
Iowa and New Hampshire are his gateways to the nomination, and the exposure he will gain from possibly winning both states is immense. Even CNN, which brushes aside his candidacy as if it were a joke, would be forced to acknowledge his accomplishments. Again, Americans like what Bernie has to say when they hear what he stands for, and people won’t forget who he is if he starts nabbing early primary states from the ‘inevitable nominee’. They want to fix income and wealth inequality. They want to fight climate change so that there is a world for future generations to inhabit. They want college to be an institution not only accessible to those of great financial means, but also to those of intellectual capability. They want a healthcare system that puts people before profit. They want to bring an end to racial violence perpetrated by men and women in blue sworn to ‘serve and protect’. They want to bring an eventual end to our war in the Middle East which has been waged longer than I have been alive. The American people want a president that represents them, and will fight hard for them.
For decades, the Democratic Party has been dogged by a lack of assertiveness and tendency of being pushed around by their GOP counterparts. Look at the one and only Donald Trump: the king of assertion. He has little or no evidence to back up most of what he says but holds himself in a way that emanates strength and makes people believe he knows what he’s doing (actually, this sounds like a lot of Republicans). Trump supporters like him because he’s a ‘strong leader’. Bernie only claims allegiance to the American people and has taken a stand on issues nobody else in the race would ever dare to because his donors are the American people. Is that not a demonstration of strength? As president he would, no doubt, come up against a lot of opposition in Congress, maybe more than Obama. But if the political revolution doesn’t start at the top where will it? There is much less of a following of state and federal congressional elections in general, so how would their effort get anywhere near the traction of Bernie’s high-profile campaign.? A Sanders presidency would give the basis and tools for change in America so that other politicians could follow in his footsteps. The revolution cannot be over with Mr. Sanders elected president. A revolution starts with a vision and changes the world with persistence. This is only the beginning.