In the race to the Democratic presidential nomination, entrenched Washington insider Hillary Clinton is facing a progressive foe who has surged from political sidenote to true challenger. The challenger is a liberal U.S. Senator who lacks a golden Rolodex but inspires the common people. This man comes from a small state and got his start, humbly, in local governance. When he began running for president, many people snickered at the idea.
The man? Barack Obama. The year is 2007. Hailing originally from Hawaii, this rookie U.S. Senator (D-IL) had the audacity to challenge Clinton’s impeccably well-connected and incredibly well-funded political machine. He talked of hope and change and drew huge crowds. Slowly, he gained ground in the polls and eventually surpassed Senator Clinton (D-NY) during the Democratic primaries. He became the Democratic presidential nominee and won two terms as president.
This time around, a similar story applies to Bernie Sanders. Hailing from Vermont, this independent U.S. Senator has the audacity to take on an even more entrenched Clinton political machine, one that has locked up virtually all Democratic establishment support ahead of time. He talks of hope and change and draws record-setting crowds. Slowly, he is gaining ground in the polls. He will eventually surpass the former Secretary of State during the Democratic primaries. He will become the Democratic presidential nominee and win the general election. He may or may not choose to run for re-election in 2020.
An obstacle in his path, however, is the punditry constantly insisting that he is “no Barack Obama.” Though Sanders has gained tremendous ground on frontrunner Clinton, supporters of the embattled former Secretary of State insist that Sanders doesn’t have what it takes to pull off Obama’s famous 2008 upset. This patronizing treatment of the experienced U.S. Senator is intended to portray him as a flash-in-the-pan triviality, insinuating that his support is temporary and is due more to curiosity and anti-establishment anger than genuine devotion. People may attend his rallies, pundits say, but that’s no substitute for Clinton’s Congressional endorsements and deep war chest.
But Bernie Sanders has just proven that he is indeed on par with Barack Obama. According to The New York Times, Sanders has just exceeded Barack Obama’s 2008 fundraising pace. This news should convince many hesitant voters that Sanders has what it takes and has legions of dedicated supporters. His huge, record-setting crowds are not just for show: They represent genuine financial backing. Bernie Sanders is the real deal. He’s not just here for show – he’s here to win. In 2008, Barack Obama had to overcome the same doubts and struggles.
The revelation that Sanders can match, and even surpass, Obama’s 2008 fundraising pace is a tremendous boon for his campaign. Thus far, the vast majority of reasoning behind why Clinton should be the Democratic presidential nominee is rooted solely in the sheer size of her campaign and political machine. Despite being an avid news reader, I rarely hear any mention that her policy proposals are superior to those of Bernie Sanders. I rarely hear any mention that her voting record and prior stances on key issues are more popular with voters. I rarely hear any mention that she inspires voters or represents the everyday American.
Frankly, all I hear is that she should win because people know her name, she is a woman, and that she has the support of minority communities. Of these reasons, the third is closely related to the first. And the second and third reasons are eroding. Women are starting to abandon Clinton and minorities are coming to know Bernie Sanders better. All of America is getting to know Bernie Sanders, and the polls reveal that they like what they’re learning.
When the public comes to realize that Sanders has the financial backing to make the primaries a genuine contest, they will defect from Clinton in far greater numbers. Many liberals undoubtedly still cling to the former Secretary of State because they believe that, despite their affinity for Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator lacks “critical mass.” People want to be on the winning team, even if they identify more closely with the underdog.
The fundraising revelation reveals that Sanders has achieved critical mass. He is not “no Barack Obama.” He can win this thing. The punditry can deny this fact no longer. Once the media accepts that Sanders is a genuine contender with critical mass, their portrayal of him and his accomplishments will lure in many undecided liberals, moderates, and independents. I have a good feeling about this.