Here comes the “Bern”! I didn’t see it coming. I was severely blinded by the raging flames when I prematurely nominated Hillary as the Democrat Party nominee. This is not a retraction of my predictions but rather a reality check on how quickly the tides have turned in favor of her opponent, Bernie Sanders. Although it may not be too late for the Hillary’s campaign to repair the damage caused by the “Bern”, slow down Bernie’s rise and pick up the pace, it would be bad for her campaign to go after Bernie – i.e. to attack him on issues she has actually embraced (any issue for that matter) such as Universal Health Care, Racial Discrimination, Gender Inequality –
Contrary to Hillary – and all candidates vying for public office in general – Bernie has always been very quick to take a stand on issues, especially social issues irrespective of the political price he may have to pay. For instance, when the unarmed teenager Michael Brown was gunned down on the streets of Ferguson, MI by police officer Darren Wilson on August 9, 2014, two weeks went by without a single word from Hillary Clinton; the Republicans except Rand Paul were also as silent as a dead horse.
Public office aspirants are most inclined to see everything through the prism of political advantage. They are usually dismissive of the will of the people; Mrs. Clinton is not any different from the rest. Interestingly, it is just the opposite which has benefited Bernie’s political career; Mr. Sanders is usually inclined to make (and has made) political calculations which benefit the people the most. His approach has earned him the “derogatory” label of “socialist”; Bill O’Reilly of Fox Opinion (known and referred to by most as Fox News) plans to leave the country if Bernie were to be elected president (no big loss here). Contrary to political wisdom, Bernie’s approach has been very successful locally, in the State of Vermont. It remains to be seen whether such success can be transferred into the national stage. To judge by the initial success he has had thus far, one would be inclined to believe that indeed Bernie’s approach to politics – although dubbed socialist – has been overwhelmingly embraced by the millennials. But would that be enough to warrant him the nomination for the Democrat Party?
Most unfortunately, the outcome of the race for the primaries in the Democrat camp seems to depend for the most part on Hillary instead of Bernie. Thus far, Mr. Sanders has not done anything different, unusual or unique. In fact, his message has been the same from the very beginning; he has used the same old, “boring” message for almost four decades now. There has not been any single, new or unique message Bernie has introduced during his campaign. If you’ve been following his political career, by now you should be able to recite in your sleep the issues Bernie wants to address and how he would go about it. The past few presidential debates should give anyone a very good picture of Bernie’s 4-decade old message.
So, what has changed? Why has he risen in the polls? It’s all Mrs. Clinton’s. Granted, Bernie’s message resonates with a very large sector of the population, the millennials but it is Mrs. Clinton’s reaction to Bernie’s rise which has tilted the balance so much it look as if Bernie would win the nomination. Not so fast, I say! The outcome is yet to be decided; it will either be split between Hillary and Bernie or won by Hillary; both scenarios are totally up to the Clinton’s campaign. The third scenario, in which Bernie would win, is unfortunately a very unlikely outcome. The mis-calculation by the Clinton’s campaign which has given rise to the Bernie movement is already recognized and strategies are being crafted, as we write this article, to slow down or stop the movement. I must also add that in addition to the mis-calculation by the Clinton’s camp, there has been very serious mis-handling of Bernie’s rise in the polls. The approach by the Clintons is eerily similar to Donald Trump’s, to bash the opponent, to insult the opponent, to distort the opponent’s statement, to lie about the opponent, to oppose everything the opponent says or stands for (however similar to one’s own), to attack the opponent mercilessly until such opponent poses no threat to one’s candidacy, which brings me back to my earlier statement regarding why Mrs. Clinton is solely responsible for the outcome of the primaries for the Democrat Party. Hillary does not have much time to decide which strategy is best to use and there are only two:
I- To continue the attack
If Hillary pursues a relentless attack on Bernie, I am afraid she would jeopardize her own candidacy; she may even lose the nomination. It is not because Bernie Sanders is a better politician; actually, it is just the opposite. It’s because Bernie is not your regular politician but he is a better candidate. Contrary to most politicians, Bernie does not change his views on issues because it is politically expedient (ironically, Hillary has done it many times). Most of what Bernie has been talking about on the campaign trail he has embraced at a very young age; Bernie was still in college at the University of Chicago in the 1960’s when he joined the “Young People’s Socialist League” and became active in the Civil Rights Movement as organizer for the Congress of Racial Equality and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. His views, as related earlier, have not changed much, if at all, over time.
While his rise in the polls was slow, gradual but steady, it was Mrs. Clinton’s campaign attack (or strategy depending on your view) on Bernie which has given Mr. Sanders the biggest boost in the polls. So, would sustaining attacks (carpet bombing as fondly referred to in the politics circle) do the trick? If we know one thing or two about presidential elections politics, carpet bombing works. Not too along, just recently in the last presidential elections cycle in 2012, Newt Gingrich was leading early in the polls, leaving the Republican Party to question whether Mitt Romney would be able to make it as a nominee; in fact, Newt Gingrich himself believed he would be the nominee for the Republican Party. In an interview on the campaign trail, he suggested confidently “look at the number, there is no doubt; I am gonna be the nominee” except that he wasn’t. Shortly after that interview, the Mitt Romney’s campaign launched a series of carpet bombing ads against Newt Gingrich which culminated into Newt falling off the race radar, for good. The rest is history. Mitt Romney did eventually become the nominee, remember?
For as long as we can remember, negative ads have always worked; so, it was no surprise the Clinton’s campaign has engaged in similar “strategy” to soothe the “Bern” and slow down the rise. However, it is at her own peril should she continue that strategy with Bernie. Mr. Sanders has a very long track record of defeating his opponent which had engaged in negative campaigns. Bernie has a secret weapon; he addresses the constituents directly and dismantles any lie or truth distortion about him. And he succeeded every time.
While we acknowledge that carpet bombing, mudsling work in politics but we also acknowledge that Bernie Sanders seems immune. So, the Clinton’s camp should take note that to attack Bernie could be a political career suicide. After all, why not resort to what she is very good at?
II- To engage in debate
It is no secret Mrs. Clinton is a great debater; she is confident, articulate and most importantly she is knowledgeable in almost all aspects of politics and governing. As an adviser to her husband Bill Clinton, she learned firsthand the pitfalls in governance. As former secretary of state, she is very knowledgeable on how to tackle international conflicts. No candidate on either side (Democrat and Republican) can match Hillary’s credentials, not in local politics, not on the international stage. So, Mrs. Clinton has a lot to discuss with the constituents; Hillary is in a position to school everyone vying for the Oval Office. Instead of engaging in attack ads, Mrs. Clinton should engage Mr. Sanders in debates; coincidentally, Bernie sucks at debating. Even in the last debate held on January 17, 2016 where Mr. Sanders did better than in previous debates, Mrs. Clinton re-affirmed she is best on the debate stage; most unfortunately however, the Democrat Party Chair scheduled very few debates for the primaries which work mostly in Bernie’s favor. If only they could see the future!
Regardless, there are other venues Mrs. Clinton can use to engage Mr. Sanders in debate; for instance, instead of bashing (or carpet bombing) Bernie on issues she may disagree with, Mrs. Clinton can offer interview where she articulates her position and explains why her vision would benefit the constituents more than Bernie’s. It is inevitable Bernie would have to engage in that debate and explain his position as well. It may not be the most effective platform but it would provide the constituents two options to choose from. In addition, Mrs. Clinton should make the effort to be cordial towards her opponent who has already adopted the civilized approach to discuss issues and offer solutions.
It is no secret the Republican Party is very fearful of a Hillary nomination, and for good reason. Although Bernie Sanders could inflict as much (possibly more) damage on the Republican Party as Mrs. Clinton may be able to – considering the state of affairs in the Republican party at the moment – Bernie would most likely have a very difficult time – probably worse than Obama’s – as president. It would perhaps be near impossible for him to govern. What good is a president if no member in the Houses wants to cooperate with him? What good would Bernie be if Representatives in Washington and the Republican media gang up against him? Would he be able to function?
Having foreseen such impasse for a Bernie Sanders’ presidency, it seems somewhat unwise to carry him all the way to the White House. Although Mr. Sanders embodies the ideal candidate for the people, the way our forefathers intended a president (and all elected officials) to be, we must however not repeat the mistakes of the past; we must painfully remember the relentless opposition by the Republican Representatives to everything Obama. Could a Sanders’ administration break through the thick wall of hatred erected by the Republican Representatives?
Only time will tell; for now, let’s see how Hillary proceeds in her campaign to win the Democrat Party nomination.
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