I really like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). He’s one of the few genuine politicians we have in this country and he’s someone I believe “gets it” when it comes to policies that can help the average American. But he’s also at an advantage to say and do a lot of the things other progressives/liberals can’t because he represents the very liberal (and very tiny) state of Vermont.
His polar opposite might be Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Cruz can be as asinine, ridiculous and fanatical as he wants because that’s what conservatives in Texas want.
But there is one thing both Sanders and Cruz do have in common – it’s extremely unlikely that either one of them are ever going to become president. As much as I really like Bernie Sanders, I also care a heck of a lot about Republicans not winning the White House in 2016.
What’s worrying me now is I’m seeing signs that Sanders’ entrance into the presidential race is already making it more likely that Republicans could do just that.
Right now, the GOP is continuing to try to convince millions of Americans that Hillary Clinton is some shady, underhanded crook who shouldn’t be trusted. Meanwhile, many on the far-left are trying to paint her as a neocon who’s actually more “Republican” than somebody like Jeb Bush because she’s not a far-left progressive like Sanders.
In a lot of ways, far-left liberals are actually helping out the Republican party by bashing Clinton. I’ve already received several messages from people saying they believe that if Hillary Clinton had to nominate Supreme Court Justices, her choices might be more conservative than many of her potential Republican opponents. That statement in and of itself proves just how delusional many people have become about her.
And in 2016 we can’t run on unrealistic idealism; far too much is at stake.
I don’t deny Sanders is a revolutionary figure. I honestly believe in the not too distant future many of the policies he stands for now will be more mainstream in our government. But most of the country isn’t ready for that drastic of a change, because change often happens very slowly. Right now, Bernie Sanders, if he were the Democratic nominee for president, would probably get beaten fairly in the general election.
I’ll use same-sex marriage as an example of what I mean when I say change happens slowly. It’s 2015 and only now are we finally on the brink of gay marriage becoming legal in all 50 states. Both President Obama and Hillary Clinton have come out in support of same-sex marriage, when even just a few years ago they both opposed it. But could they have done that 20 years ago? For the most part, no. For example, if Bill Clinton runs on legalizing same-sex marriage in 1992, George H.W. Bush wins re-election – because the country wasn’t yet ready for marriage equality. Not only that, but pushing the issue before people were ready might have potentially led to a Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage, as many Republicans have pushed for now, which would have made legalizing it now much more difficult (if not impossible).
My point being, you have to know when and where to pick your battles because sometimes you can do more harm than good.
Is that fair? No – it’s just reality.
My colleague disagrees with me on this. In a recent article, he wrote:
Hillary Clinton does not do well when matched against Rand Paul, but Bernie Sanders has the ability to win over many libertarians who don’t trust Rand Paul and would agree with Senator Sanders on issues like ending the War on Drugs, reducing military spending and ending domestic surveillance programs. (Source)
First, the libertarian vote is minuscule in the grand scheme of things. If libertarians were a powerful enough entity in politics, we’d see more libertarians elected to public office. Second, the vast majority of libertarians are not going to support someone who describes themselves as a socialist, pushes for socialized health care and opposes many of those “free market ideas” libertarians hold so dear. So even if he were to lure some of the libertarian vote, he’s basically grabbing a tiny percentage of an already small pool of voters. Besides, Paul is in no way going to win the GOP nomination, so wondering how a Sanders vs. Paul 2016 campaign would turn out might make for a fun debate, but it’s not going to happen.
Also from my colleague’s article:
Bernie Sanders has been a progressive for his entire career and has shown that you don’t need massive amounts of money to win an election if you have a message that voters identify with. Hillary Clinton has a much shorter political career and is more of a center-right Democrat who voted to authorize the Iraq War, whereas Bernie Sanders voted against it. Ideally, a candidate should not only have a message that connects with the majority of voters, but they should be able to excite and energize the base as well – and nothing excites me less than being told that a candidate is inevitable and that I need to sit down, shut up, and support her. (Source)
Again, while I do like Sanders, to believe he can become president is falling in love with idealism instead of the reality of politics. Sanders wouldn’t win in a national election in 2016 because he’s a self-described socialist in a country where just that word alone still terrifies many people.
While I respect the opinions of those like my colleague who believe Sanders would be a viable candidate (and there are quite a few who do), I can tell you with almost absolute certainty that there’s no way he would win the general election.
Though what I ultimately fear Sanders is going to do is get liberals worked up just enough to where when he eventually loses the Democratic primary election to Hillary, it’s going to cause many to become apathetic and refuse to show up in 2016 to vote for the “not liberal enough/basically a Republican” Hillary Clinton.
After all, liberal apathy is what happened to President Obama. Prior to moving into the White House, liberals were “energized” and excited about Barack Obama. Then reality set in and they began realizing that he couldn’t wave a magic wand and make all their dreams come true overnight. By 2010, his approval rating had fallen a decent amount, liberals weren’t “motivated” to vote because apathy had set in and Republicans took control of the House of Representatives, ensuring that almost nothing “liberal” would ever get passed.
And that apathy, if strong enough in even just a couple of swing states next year, can be more than enough to ensure that a Republican wins the White House in 2016.
That cannot happen, because like I said earlier, far too much is at stake.