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Why Democrats Should Stop Dabbling With Bernie

Monday, January 18th, 2016

bernieThe Democrats who are pushing Bernie Sanders are dangerously naïve. Because Sanders has a shot at beating Hillary Clinton in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, and because some polls show him running better against the GOP candidates than she does, they imagine he could actually win the White House.

He can’t. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and others who predict that the Republicans would win at least 40 states against Sanders, are right.

Let’s remember that Bill Clinton didn’t win in Iowa or New Hampshire in 1992.* And that the Republicans haven’t laid a glove on Sanders (because they want him to win) while eviscerating Hillary Clinton in the most strident terms for months. In other words, while the negative case against Hillary has been on full display, no one has actually gone negative on Bernie.

While polling shows Clinton with a big lead over Sanders nationally, it’s still way past time for the so-called progressive Democrats to wake up. What’s most at stake is not health care, foreign policy, the economy, environmental regulation and civil rights – although all of them are certainly at stake. The big issue that should be driving Democrats to rally around Clinton is the United States Supreme Court.

She Lays Out the Case. As Clinton herself argued in an op-ed piece in the Boston Globe the other day:

hillaryIn the past two decades alone, [the Supreme Court] effectively declared George W. Bush president, significantly weakened the Voting Rights Act, and opened the door to a flood of unaccountable money in our politics. It also made same-sex marriage legal nationwide, preserved the Affordable Care Act not once but twice, and ensured equal access to education for women…

On Election Day, three of the current justices will be over 80 years old, which is past the court’s average retirement age. The next president could easily appoint more than one justice. That makes this a make-or-break moment — for the court and our country.

As president (and a lawyer and former law professor), I’ll appoint justices who will protect the constitutional principles of liberty and equality for all, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or political viewpoint; make sure the scales of justice aren’t tipped away from individuals toward corporations and special interests; and protect citizens’ right to vote, rather than billionaires’ right to buy elections.

Republicans running for president have a different view. They see this election as an opportunity to pack the courts with jurists who will turn back the clock. Marco Rubio says he wants “more Scalias” on the Court — justices who would rule against marriage equality and roll back a woman’s right to choose. Ted Cruz says his judges will be “rock-ribbed conservatives.” Chris Christie says that if the court were filled with his type of judge, they would have ruled against the Affordable Care Act and marriage equality.

supremecourtVital Issues on the Line. On abortion rights, organized labor, voting rights, environmental policy, affirmative action, civil rights, health care, political reform and so much more, a Supreme Court with perhaps three more right-wing jurists could – and likely would – utterly destroy the hopes and dreams of moderate, centrist, liberal and progressive Americans, of women, minorities, gays and lesbians, the working class, poor and dispossessed.

Hillary Clinton could actually win the presidency against any of the Republicans now in the race. Every possible negative against her has already been aired and the GOP keeps dreaming up new – often fatuous – charges, like that she “enabled” Bill Clinton’s penchant for hitting on women other than his wife.

While women, blacks, Latinos, working people and other vital voting blocs will rally to Clinton, what happens to Bernie when the GOP argues that he’s a left-wing, big-spending, appeasing, socialist out to destroy the free-market system, appropriate your property, crush your business and steal your wallet? He will tank.

With Donald Trump or Ted Cruz as their standard bearer versus Hillary Clinton, the Democrats have a good shot at winning back the Senate and cutting into the Republican House majority, in addition to holding onto the White House for another eight years. No matter what polls say now, the negative campaign against the Republican nominee has not yet been launched. Moreover, winning the presidency is a state-by-state process in which women, blacks, Latinos and other key constituencies will matter enormously in big states with lots of electoral votes.

larrydavidasbernieThe stakes are too high to be dabbling with a cranky old white guy with a Brooklyn  accent, wild hands and socialist baggage.

Any rational person who is determined to keep out of the White House whatever whack job the Republicans nominate, and who tuned into last night’s debate and saw Bernie ranting as he channeled Larry David channeling Bernie, understands the plain fact that Hillary is by far the strongest pick the Dems can make and the only Democrat running who is qualified to be president.

Should you need further convincing, check out this excellent piece by Matthew Yglesias, who goes beyond Bernie’s’ pandering-to-progressives sound bites to look closely at the details of his health care and other policy proposals. Cliff’s Notes version: there aren’t many.

* Here’s the historical footnote: In ’92, Tom Harkin won Iowa and Paul Tsongas won New Hampshire. Jerry Brown then won Maine and Bob Kerrey won South Dakota. On March 3, Bill Clinton won Georgia, but lost Colorado to Brown lost Idaho and Minnesota to Harkin and he lost Maryland, Utah and Washington to Tsongas. Hillary people (and national news media), get a grip.]