Everyone knows that Hilary Clinton will be the next Democratic nominee, don’t they? Barrack Obama was just an exception, right? No one could possibly repeat his success in 2008, could they?
Welcome to the fray Bernie Sanders. Even people who follow American politics would be forgiven if they hadn’t heard of the 74 year-old Vermont Senator, he is rarely spoken about. The beltway press have already declared their nominee and are just waiting to coronate Hilary, leaving all of the supposed interest in the field of 16 remaining Republicans, and in particular the spectacle of Donald Trump.
However, Sanders, the self-diagnosed Democratic Socialist, has surged ahead of Hilary Clinton in early voting states and is ahead of Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign in terms of both fundraising and polling at this point. An upset victory over Clinton once again seems likely. An NBC poll from September shows Bernie Sanders polling 9 points ahead of Clinton in Iowa, victory in this caucus in 2008 announced President Obama’s arrival as a threat to Clinton. Even more surprisingly Mr. Sanders polls one point ahead of Clinton in the usually moderate New Hampshire, the caucus that Obama failed to win in 2008. All this, plus the astounding $26 million that he has raised since July from 1.3 million individual donors shows that Bernie has the staying power for a long, drawn out campaign.
His surging popularity, of course, begs the question who is Bernie Sanders and where has his popularity come from? Very similar to the Obama campaign, Bernie is providing the progressive alternative to the establishment candidate Hilary Clinton. He models his policies on the socially progressive Scandinavian countries such as Sweden and Norway. He would also continue the legacy of the Obama administration in his fight for free education, single-payer healthcare, a rise to a $15 minimum wage, a more progressive tax system, environmental responsibility, and restrictions on Wall Street bankers. Mr. Sanders, though, gives his strongest rhetoric on the subject of the influence of money in politics. With talk of “political revolution” against the “billionaire class”, he embodies the socialist ideal of a fair and equal democracy. His strong stance here, on an issue which most candidates have skirted around, is a clear victory for Mr. Sanders as over 97% of Americans from across the political spectrum believe that Campaign Finance requires some kind of reform while 0% of Americans said that they thought it required no change whatsoever (New York Times).
The Independent Senator and democratic nominee has gained great support for his strong principles regarding his refusal to engage in personal politics. He states, and it is true, that he has never run a negative political advertisement in his life and he will not engage Mrs. Clinton on her perceived personality problems with the American press but only on the issues and proposed policy solutions. It would seem obvious as a political rival to exploit the 61% of voters who believe that she is “not honest and trustworthy”, however, he has not mentioned it (Wall Street Journal). Meanwhile, super-pac supporting Hilary has hit out at Mr. Sanders in an email linking him to Hugo Chavez.
There do seem to be problems for the Brooklynite, Bernie Sanders, as he refuses to bear his teeth in the notoriously cutthroat world of American politics. The email attack on his character will simply be the start. There is also the issue of the number of debates, the forum which brought Barrack Obama, the first term and unknown Senator, onto the national stage and turned him into the darling of the progressive movement and allowed him to defeat Hilary Clinton. While there have already been two days of Republican debates and many more are scheduled to whittle down the enormous field, the Democratic National committee has scheduled only six debates between now and the Presidential election. This is seen by many as a cynical ploy to protect Hilary, the obvious choice of candidate, from another populist, leftist upset, this one more provocative and more absolute than the last.
For this writer though, Hilary Clinton seems a spent force. A lame duck. I am not saying that it will not be close. The weight of money behind Hilary and the attraction of the First Woman President as well as her obvious competence will be an attractive and safe prospect to many. However, Bernie’s momentum is incredibly fast, he has a voting record that progressives love and he is a strong debater.
I guess what I am trying to say is, I am feeling the Bern, are you?
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