Why Democrats Should Stop Dabbling With Bernie


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.]

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There are 17 comments for this post

  1. avatar patwater says:

    Good points. There’s also the lack of you know an actual plan to implement bernies rhetoric: http://www.vox.com/2016/1/17/10784528/bernie-sanders-single-payer-health-care

  2. avatar Opatrny says:

    Most-reasonable take on the campaign. Good arguments. Remember what happened to George McGovern in ’72. Bernie likely wouldn’t even win one state. I’m not sure what debate the pundits who proclaimed Bernie the winner were watching. I saw and heard a shrill, dyspeptic old man, who doesn’t have the temperament to be President.

  3. avatar Bob Mulholland says:

    It is true that of all the candidates, Hillary has been “vetted” over the decades and no other candidate has been really vetted. Both nominees will have unfavorables above 50% by the Fall. I have been saying for months that Sanders should win Iowa and New Hampshire but Hillary then wins Nevada on February 20th and S Carolina on February 27th (Republicans vote in S Carolina on February 20th).

  4. avatar JohnF says:

    Yes good points, but I have seen quite a few polls that show Bernie beating any of the present Republicans candidates (especially Cruz and Trump) in head to head contests. So I am content to see how it works out and work hard for either one in the General election. Yes those polls do give hope that Bernie can beat them, and he is an excellent debater and stands up well to criticism. Clinton is showing herself to be excellent debater also. Far better than I thought she would be. That will work out well for either one of them in the General Election.

  5. avatar GaryRJP64 says:

    And it comes down to electing the chief executive of the federal government of the United States of America, a government that is loathed by some (except their SSI and Medicare) and championed by others as an agent of change. Regardless of the outcome, the political division remains, probably sharper than ever.

  6. avatar nospamplease says:

    This article should actually be called, “Here’s why it would suck if a democrat didn’t win the White House.” There isn’t a single fact or even a point made about why Bernie isn’t a good choice, or why he’s not likely to win.

    • avatar pjhackenflack says:

      Perhaps you missed this: “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?”

  7. avatar shamborn says:

    “Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and others who predict that the Republicans would win at least 40 states against Sanders, are right.”


    Here, allow me to do what the author of this article couldn’t be bothered to do:


    • avatar pjhackenflack says:

      Sorry Sham, but a poll shows Sanders now running better than Clinton against Republicans in Iowa and New Hampshire does nothing to respond to the concern than a Sanders candidacy would — after he has been shredded by the GOP — be a disaster for Democrats.

    • avatar sqrjn says:

      Poor PJ has finally lost it. “The Supreme Court would kill every inch of progress (how do you kill an inch) the forces of modernity (I wonder what the uniforms are like) have made since the civil war.” Read literally PJ is saying that with two Supreme Court nominations the Republican would manage to reinstate slavery. Wowza! Thats some quality crazy talk.

      Also I’m not sure how the first woman president and living on your knees fits together, but there is definitely a good joke in there somewhere.

  8. avatar Scoop says:

    Good points, but this reads like it was written by someone all too eager to compromise their beliefs in exchange for power (and money), which coincidentally is how much of the electorate views Hillary and the entire Republican field with the exception of Mr. Trump.

    Perhaps Emiliano Zapata broke it down best:
    “¡Prefiero morir de pie que vivir siempre arrodillado!” (It is better to die on your feet, than to live on your knees!”

    • avatar pjhackenflack says:

      Dear Scoop — The problem is not that you and I would die on our feet, it’s that the Supreme Court, after a Sanders defeat, would kill every inch of progress the forces of modernity have made since the Civil War. Whatever it takes to keep that from happening is worth it. And having the first woman president of the US hardly constitutes living on one’s knees.

  9. avatar cbarney says:

    the argument that “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?” is a strong one that worries a lot of us who support bernie nonetheless.

    but this is a weird election and even if bernie were all of these things, which he of course isn’t, be is still no less electable than any of the clowns running as republicans. he is after all a street fighter from brooklyn. moreover, the election is ten months away. the parties have not nominated yet, and the gop will pick first. i’m comfortable supporting bernie, the first democrat to say the things many of us have been waiting to hear for years from party leaders (we thought we heard them from mr. obama, but he seems to have forgotten them), until it comes down to the democratic convention, and we’ll see then who looks most electable to the party.

    in the meantime i’m comfortable with a three sane democrats running for the nomination.

  10. avatar dkahn says:

    I got this account just to say, 1992? REally? Why don’t you go forward in time, say in 2008 and 2012, where a democrat labeled a “socialist” and “communist” by the republican and tea party, whose birth place was even questioned, won the election, and claimed Iowa and New Hampshire four times in a row (both the Primaries and General Elections). If anything, the fact that the Clinton family didn’t win Iowa nor New Hampshire before, is evidence against Hillary Clinton winning.

    Obama inspired people to go out to vote. There are more Democrats than Republicans in this country, and the only reason democrats don’t win, when they don’t win, is because for some reason, if they aren’t inspired they don’t vote. That’s why Obama won against the odds. Hillary Clinton doesn’t do it for the democrats, we saw that in the first election between Obama and Hillary. She represents old business, she’s funded by big corporations like Goldman Sachs, she’s not…likeable, she’s robotic.

    Bernie Sanders is the one in this race that will inspire the people to go out to vote. Combined with the voice of Bernie Sanders, and the fear of any of these absurd Republican candidates actually becoming president (and as you say, choosing the next line of Supreme Court Justices) I think democrats will be inspired to vote for Bernie. I suggest that they’ll be more inspired if it were Bernie, rather than Hillary.

    Bernie Sanders has already nearly matched as much as Hillary in his campaign with his small $10 donor donations as Hillary has with her super-pac, funded by big corporations and billionaires, in this past quarter. He is projected to raise more than her in the next quarter.

    I think it’s doing a disservice to the democratic party and the nation to be so negative towards Bernie Sanders.

  11. avatar dlmskelly says:

    There is NOTHING in this article that would make me change my vote. But then again, I am not a Democrat, I am an Independent. I don’t trust either party, and I certainly don’t trust Hillary Clinton who has flip-flopped her way through her entire political career. She is beholden to the Big Money that has financed her campaign, and will abandon us the minute she gets elected. Sorry… won’t do it unless she is the ONLy option.

  12. avatar gdewar says:

    Sanders makes some wonderful speeches and says things that need to be said. However, I have no faith in this guy’s ability to run anything bigger than a small city in Vermont (!) and certainly don’t think he’ll be able to hold the line against the GOP, who will say or do anything to get in power. His early whining about Hillary “being mean” and “not playing fair” makes me wonder if his campaign thinks it can whine its way in to the White House. Whereupon the GOP Congress will make swiss cheese out of his legislative agenda (if you really think the Democrats will take back Congress in 2016, you are dreaming in techinicolor!)

  13. avatar Reaaally says:

    Never underestimate the capacity of the corrupt, or the pandering idiots they employ, to try to silence any moral opposition to their accumulation of power and wealth!

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