Author’s Note: This column was written before Super Tuesday. If you are reading it on March 4 or later, you know far more than I do.
By Frank Blechman
One of the disadvantages I have as a political observer is that I have written for too many candidates and elected officeholders. Inevitably, when I watch a speech, interview, or debate, I can’t help thinking … missed an opportunity there…
- … didn’t answer the question, and didn’t duck it well
- … could have said that better
- … wonder who they think the audience is for that remark
This kind of critical/cynical voice even enters my head watching commentary. I have to work hard to tell that cynical critical voice to shut up.
As we are on the eve of Super Tuesday, the media, many commentators, and most candidates seem to be obsessing about Bernie Sanders. They cry:
- He can’t win.
- Even if he does win, he can’t carry the ticket. Democrats will fail to get a majority of the Senate and may even lose control of the House with him at the top.
- America isn’t ready for ‘socialism’.
- He scares people.
- He’s too angry.
- He’s too old.
I believe in democracy. If he gets the most votes, he should get the most delegates. If he gets enough delegates, he should be the nominee. And if he wins the Executive Office, we all will have to work to make his term a success.
I’m not a big fan of Bernie. I won’t be voting for him tomorrow. I don’t think he would be a very effective president.
But, I believe in democracy. If he gets the most votes, he should get the most delegates. If he gets enough delegates, he should be the nominee. And if he wins the Executive Office, we all will have to work to make his term a success.
The point here is that critics who moan about Bernie are revealing their own insecurities. They are making clear that they don’t know how to win. Their complaint that he is getting too many votes shows their disdain for voters and democracy itself.
If the critics want to be taken seriously and have a positive effect on the whole process, they have to acknowledge that people are voting for him. They have to recognize that his consistent record over five decades gives people confidence that he means what he says. They have to concede that he has methodically built a stronger network of grassroots supporters (and donors) across the country than any of the other contenders.
If critics want to maintain their claim that “the majority of Americans don’t want Bernie” (the vote tomorrow should clarify this considerably), they have to deal with a few specifics. Is the current tax system fair? Is it adequate? Do we think our health, housing, and public safety policies are working great? Do we think vast income inequality is inevitable? Are we doing everything we should be doing to address climate change? To quote a former president for whom an airport is named here in the DC area, “Are we better off today than we were four years ago?” If the answers to these questions are “no”, then we have to explain why Bernie’s answers, and his willingness to confront these problems, are wrong. Better, they may actually want to explain how their approaches to those issues are better.
I do not worry about “unifying the Democratic party behind the eventual nominee.” This year, the Democrats have an extremely strong unifying factor going for them (called Donald John Trump).
As of today, Bernie’s path to the nomination is neither clear nor assured. Having won South Carolina, Joe Biden is now back in the conversation as a contender.
Further, I am confident that Bernie will continue to say things that alienate some voters. (His kind words on 60 Minutes last week about Fidel Castro may already have cost Democrats in Florida.). Nonetheless, I do not worry about “unifying the Democratic party behind the eventual nominee.” This year, the Democrats have an extremely strong unifying factor going for them (called Donald John Trump).
My guess is that Sanders will emerge from Super Tuesday as a top contender, if not the front-runner. I believe that he is experienced enough, and consistent enough, to stay on his message for the next four months. Regardless of my cynical view that Bernie often hurts his own cause, if he continues to win votes, I think those votes will represent a judgment by the American people that he is not too old, scary, or angry, and his ideas are not too radical.
The pundits and the voice in the back of my head will just have to recalibrate our opinion meters.