Bernie Sanders isn’t just preaching to the choir as he pursues the Democratic presidential nomination. Rather, the experienced U.S. Senator (I-VT) is willing to appeal to anyone and everyone. Sanders will be joining fellow presidential candidates on October 12 to take part in the “No Labels Problem Solver Convention,” a bipartisan organization led by former Utah governor Jon Hunstman and former U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT). Fellow Democratic candidates Martin O’Malley and Jim Webb will attend, but frontrunner Hillary Clinton is not expected to make an appearance. Six Republicans, including frontrunner Donald Trump, will also participate.
In addition to not joining the bipartisan forum, Hillary Clinton is doubling down on her reputation as an insular Washingtonian, not-so-subtly dissing Bernie Sanders in regard to Congressional endorsements. Instead of this maneuver representing Clinton’s power, it reveals a stark weakness. As her position in the polls continues to erode, Clinton and her supporters have countered…by referencing her position in the polls. Alarmingly, the Clinton camp continues to adhere solely to the bandwagon effect.
Part of this bandwagon effect is the idea that Clinton, a mainstream political moderate, will attract a tremendous mass of voters in the general election. The insinuation is that Bernie Sanders, as a “radical leftist,” will scare away most voters and will result in an easy Republican victory. If this is the case, then why has Sanders continued to rise in the polls?
If this is the case, then why has Sanders, rather than Clinton, been the Democratic presidential candidate to reach out and seek bipartisan support? Sanders’ longstanding resume as a political independent and his willingness to reach across the political aisle, including his participation in the “No Labels” convention, is what will win over moderates and independents. Voters want solutions, not rhetoric, and are impressed with Sanders’ bravery and his willingness to remain an independent candidate.
By touting her endorsements from Congressional Democrats, Clinton may inadvertently be harming her campaign by making her look less open to bipartisan compromise. She is also risking public ire by more firmly linking herself to an infamously “do-nothing” institution. Ironically, though Sanders is a sitting member of Congress, Clinton is the one who appears to be an inside member of the insular and controversial club. Sanders, the lone independent, appears to be the noble and heroic outsider by contrast. Sanders is trying to fix things, while Clinton is basking in old traditions.
Sanders’ position as a political outsider, and one who is not afraid of bucking the system and seeking bipartisan engagement, is a something the Democrats need in the general election. Voters want bravery and innovation, not caution and tradition. He will attract voters who want workable solutions, not blind devotion to precedent. By trying to be the purest Democrat of them all, Hillary Clinton is actually limiting her audience, not expanding it.
Bernie Sanders is seeking to represent everyone, and is not afraid to cross political lines to do so. The Democratic National Committee should see the writing on the wall and begin championing this dynamic and exciting candidate. Bernie2016!