If you just went on images from rallies, you would think that Bernie Sanders would be running away with the race for the 2016 Democratic nomination. If you went on the basis of marches, murals, bobblehead dolls, homemade posters and T shirt designs, you would think that he’s in the lead.
Given that he started polling at 3% a little over a year ago and now is neck and neck with Hillary Clinton nationally, his rise has been phenomenal. The fact that President Obama mentioned him by name at his final White House Correspondents’ Dinner (an annual comedy show) tells you that he has gained notice in all of the nation’s inner circles.
So why has Secretary Clinton still earned so many votes? After all, she’s not as progressive as Bernie Sanders is. She doesn’t want to tax financial speculation to pay for tuition at public colleges and universities. She doesn’t want to make ending war a priority; in fact, it’s likely that she will be more aggressive in foreign policy that President Obama was, and she might even be more aggressive than a President Trump would be. She doesn’t want people to make a minimum wage of $15 per hour. She says sometimes that $12 would be neat, but she doesn’t say it very often. She doesn’t want to break up the big banks, and she doesn’t want to reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act that would regulate Wall Street. It’s pretty clear that Wall Street influence on her campaign is keeping her from being all that enthusiastic about any sort of financial regulation, in fact.
So let’s look at some of the possible reasons. It’s fairly clear that a lot of people, particularly older people, are ready for there to be a woman in the Oval Office, and they think that Hillary is qualified to be that woman. She has been a senator, and she has served a term as Secretary of State.
She also has a strong following in the African-American community, particularly in the South. This seems to date back to the days of Bill Clinton, when he was a master of assembling a party machinery, oozing empathy all the way and promising that he could beat the Republicans. It also has to do with the fact that Bernie Sanders still didn’t have a lot of name recognition in the South by the time those primaries came through.
Some people say that there has been a widespread campaign of fraud. While there are Department of Justice fingers prying the Arizona results, and there is a whole legion of lawsuits probing the New York primary, it’s difficult to say, at least for now, that these discrepancies aren’t anything more (or less) than a rash of incompetence in the election administrators of county party structures, which are accustomed to much smaller turnouts than what we have seen this year.
But here’s another reason. I think there are a lot pf people who don’t like the GOP but don’t want to do what Bernie Sanders wants to do either. Bernie Sanders is about giving all people — particularly those at the bottom of the social ladder — a stab at equality. Free college — if they qualify for admission. A $15 minimum wage. A real fight against climate change. Health care coverage for everyone, at a cost less than what people who have insurance are paying now.
Why don’t so many of these self-identified Democrats (who, allegedly, are the liberal party in the United States) want these things? Here is what I imagine is going through many of their minds.
Well, if the kids get to go to college for free, they won’t have to work as hard as I did. Besides, if you can’t afford college, and you can’t afford the loans, is that really my problem?
Well, if we give people a $15 minimum wage, my prices might go up. Besides, I don’t work for minimum wage. Teenagers work for minimum wage, and then those who are going to do well go to college and avoid the minimum wage later.
Well, if we really fight climate change, I won’t be able to get gas for less than $2 a gallon. I think that electric cars are really cool. Can’t I just get one of those? I don’t live in a neighborhood that has a fracking tower, and I don’t live anywhere near Flint. So that doesn’t really have anything to do with me.
Well, if we bring about real social change, that could help people who, in the dark recesses of my mind, people who didn’t work as hard as I did might get what I have.
The great thing about the Clinton campaign in 1992, and the Clinton campaign in 2008, and the Clinton campaign in 2016, is that it gives people who like to think of themselves as liberals coverage.
Just like voting for Donald Trump gives conservatives coverage.
Donald Trump represents the id of a part of the American populace; he represents what happens when the anger of a people turns against those who are on its edges. Hillary Clinton gives those who cling to some of those same prejudices — but realize that the GOP has stopped even pretending to serve the people — cover. So they choose an option that sounds reasonable, gives lip service to progress, and then services the same corporate interests in a quieter way. That is why Hillary Clinton is the Donald Trump of the Left: she is the outlet for their unstated willingness to leave the poor, the disenfranchised, the polluted, the broken, where they are, while the rest of us get back to watching television.
So if you think that Hillary Clinton is a better option than Donald Trump (or Ted Cruz), you’re right. But if you think that she’s a better option for all of the American people than Bernie Sanders, then you really need to rethink your perspective on the very least of our nation. Trump, Cruz and Clinton are all willing to let them suffer for four or eight more years. We finally have a candidate who is ready to represent everyone.
Trump or Cruz would march us into fascism, whether motivated by xenophobia or misguided theology. Clinton would leave us exactly where we are, because her corporate paymasters like the status quo, and the balance sheet of the Clintons shows you that they like it as well. Only Bernie Sanders would take us up toward greatness as a nation, as a people, as a society.
But greatness is costly and uncomfortable. The next generation is ready to embrace it. Why aren’t the rest of us?