'Feel The Bern': Is This Sanders Surge Really Happening?

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Jun 26, 2015 3:35 PM
'Feel The Bern': Is This Sanders Surge Really Happening?

Almost everyone reported on Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) tossing his hat into the 2016 ring given that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) decided to steer a course clear of the White House, but many wrote him off. He’s unable to clinch the nomination; Clinton has the money, the organization, the endorsements, and the momentum that is unstoppable. Yet, there seems to be a Bernie surge happening–and it’s in a way that has the Clinton camp a bit anxious.

We’re not saying that Sanders will win the nomination, but he may be able to mount an effective challenge, even though–at least by self-identification–there aren’t enough hard-core liberal voters in the base to push Bernie over the top. Nevertheless, that could all certainly change in upcoming elections since Democrats are becoming more liberal.

It’s to the point where Democratic strategist Maria Cardona said we shouldn’t be shocked that Sanders does well (or even wins) in New Hampshire or Iowa. He’s from a neighboring state that caters the same progressive appetites as New York, but also isn’t afraid to veer to the left. As a result, Sanders may be one of the candidates that garners some of the most intense enthusiasm this cycle. His mantra: “I’m a socialist, I’m proud about being one, and I don’t care about what people think about my politics; this is what I believe will fix America.” Yeah, there’s authenticity for you–and the American people generally like that in a candidate.

Bernie had thousands join him in Denver last week. In Iowa, a “boisterous” crowd of nearly 1,000 people “applauded and shouted after Sanders brought up his main campaign themes. Many in the audience attempted to shake Sanders' hand after the almost hour-and-a-half appearance,” according to the Des Moines Register:

Here are some of Sanders' remarks that garnered the most applause:

1. On income inequality and gender inequality in pay: "Today, in my mind, the most significant issue from a moral perspective, from a political perspective and from an economic perspective is the grotesque level of inequality... A living wage should not only be fair, it should be equitable. That is why we must establish pay equity for women workers."

2. On paid vacation leave, sick time and maternity leave: "In recent years, there have been millions of women giving birth and unable to spend time with their newborn babies because they did not have the income, and they had to go back to work. Family values is not telling a woman that she can't spend time with a baby because she does not have enough money."

3. On the very wealthy: "There is something profoundly wrong when the top one-tenth of 1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent."

4. On trade policies: "It's not a sexy issue, but it is enormous. ...Our trade policies over the last 40 years ... have been a disaster. Since 2001, we have lost some 60,000 factories in this country and millions of decent-paying jobs. Trade isn't the only reason for those losses, but it is the major reason." He also said: "The House has put a kibosh on the Trans Pacific (Partnership). TPP is a continuation of these disastrous trade policies. Today, the good side won."

5. "If elected president, I will not (allow) any justice in the Supreme Court who is not prepared to be loud and clear in telling the American people ... to vote to overturn ... Citizens United," the 2010 ruling that gave corporations and unions free rein to spend unlimited amounts to call for a candidate's election or defeat.

Oh yeah–that’s liberal red meat dripping with blood right there.

Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post noted that Sanders being in the race would keep the suspicions about the Clinton Foundation alive, which is one of the concerns (besides "dead broke") that will have legs with voters in 2016:

In an interview with ABC's Jon Karl before the announcement, Sanders was more definitive: "Do I have concerns about the Clinton Foundation and that money?" he said. "I do.”

When he talks about the Clinton Foundation, Sanders does so in the context of GOP megadonors like Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers — painting them all with a we-can't-let-billionaires-buy-the-process brush. The more of that he does, the worse for Clinton.

And no matter what Clinton does in terms of campaign finance reform — and she's signaled she is planning to make it a centerpiece of the campaign — she can't (a) rewrite the history of the donations the Clinton Foundation accepted or (b) discredit Sanders's long record as someone who has walked the walk on getting money out of politics.

So, will Sanders be the 2016 Democratic nominee? No. He may have a chance, albeit a very, very slim one, but what he could possibly do is leave Clinton bloodied and beaten a la Mitt Romney in 2012 before she clinches the party’s nomination. She could possibly be forced to the left on some issues, an aspect where she might find herself in an uncomfortable position; Romney acted the same way and came off as awkward as well. The irony is that Romney is a more of an establishment Republican at heart, whereas Clinton is a hard-core liberal, but plays the role of centrist Democrat. That was at least Republican strategist Mike Murphy’s assessment of her when she ran for Senate in New York in 2000. In other words, this push to the left should be easy and natural for her, but it’ll probably come off as forced like her Southern or “New Yawrk” accents. It could also upset the older wings of the Democratic coalition–the more moderate members of her husband’s era–leaving them feeling alienated by this leap to the left. It’s no secret that Democrats need to win back white, working class voters, most of whom are flocking to the GOP. A move to “out Bernie” Bernie Sanders might be a critical mistake.

As Ben Domenech wrote the Clinton campaign has their finger on the button to “nuke” Sanders “from orbit,” but wonders why people from the left aren’t jumping in to take on the eminently beatable Hillary:

So the question is: why aren’t any of these people running, if only to fill the progressive personality vacuum? There’s no real negative to getting in, making some noise, representing the progressive wing of the party throughout the fall and then taking your lumps come February. Is it that they all really are ready for Hillary, ready to believe in the Clinton machine? Or is it that you just needed to see Bernie Sanders get to 30 percent to wonder if this god still bleeds?

As Steve Inskeep of National Public Radio said on ABC’s This Week on Sunday, Pat Buchanan never had a chance to defeat George H.W. Bush in the primaries. But he was able to paint Bush 41 as weak–and that dilemma could be facing Hillary as people on her side begin to feel the Bern.