Bernie Sanders Takes the Gloves Off…And Prepares to Win!

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U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has been Mr. Nice Guy in his bid for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.  He has had to contend with being sidelined and disrespected by the mainstream media, criticized by pundits of all stripes, and condescended to by frontrunner Hillary Clinton.  His competitor for the nomination has subtly mocked his ability to “get things done” and his speech-making.  She has overtly criticized his past votes on gun control.

Recently, she insinuated that Sanders was sexist.  This abuse of the gender card may have been the last straw for the self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist.  He is now on the offensive, and I cheer him for it.  At the Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Iowa, Sanders finally spoke out against Clinton’s flip-flops and her questionable character.  Though his attack may have surprised many observers, it is a political necessity now that vice president Joe Biden will not be entering the Democratic race.

Nice guys finish last, and Sanders must show that he has the fire in the belly to handle 3:00 AM crises as Commander-in-Chief.

Going on the offensive against Clinton may not just be a result of his anger about being falsely accused of sexism:  It represents shrewd political strategy.  In 2007, the Jefferson-Jackson dinner was seen as the beginning of Barack Obama’s surge in popularity against frontrunner Clinton.  If there is a time to take the gloves off, it is in late October, when the January primaries can first be seen on the horizon.  The timing may simply be optimal for a change in Sanders’ previous “nice guy” strategy.  For months, he has shown that he can play nice…but many undecided voters want to know that he can stand tough.

Secondly, going on the offensive is vital in that it shows that Bernie Sanders and his supporters truly disagree with Clinton.  One of the harmful ideas perpetuated by the mainstream media is that Sanders’ supporters will quickly fall in behind Clinton when she wins the Democratic nomination.  The stereotype is that populists and progressives will blindly support any Democratic nominee in order to keep a Republican out of the Oval Office.  By contrast, it is said that Clinton’s supporters, who are often more conservative than Sanders’ supporters, will not fall in behind Bernie Sanders if he is the Democratic nominee.

Democratic Party leaders evidently think that a Sanders nomination would result in ceding many conservative Democrats over to the GOP.

Bernie Sanders must show that Hillary Clinton is not a suitable substitute and that his supporters have deep disagreements with her character and policy positions.  This strengthens Sanders’ cause and shows that he and his supporters want what is right.  They will not compromise.

Third, going on the offensive may inspire many undecided voters to support Sanders.  There is lots of public animosity toward Hillary Clinton, and many unattached liberals, moderates, independents, and even conservatives may be convinced to finally support Bernie Sanders after seeing that he is not afraid to call her out.  These voters likely believe that the only way for Sanders to win is by being tough on Clinton…and he has finally given them what they want.

By showing some steel and righteousness, Sanders stands to net considerable new support.  He has proven that he is willing to fight, to confront what he sees as opportunistic corruption, and to stand up for his ideals.  Hillary Clinton is not a suitable substitute for Bernie Sanders, and every voter must know it.  If you value the idea of universal health care, tuition-free public higher education, and a job-creating infrastructure rebuilding, you will only get that with Bernie Sanders.

Hillary Clinton will try to “get things done” by abandoning these ideas and making Vichy agreements with the GOP.





Calvin Wolf

By day, Calvin Wolf is a high school social studies teacher. By night, he is a freelance writer and novelist, penning political thrillers and commentary on politics, education, economics, foreign policy, and culture. In the past, he's worked as a professional cartoonist and as a backpacking guide. He once stood between a mother bear and her cub and emerged unscathed!

3 thoughts on “Bernie Sanders Takes the Gloves Off…And Prepares to Win!

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    October 31, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    It’s no accident that the two main presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have both recently used the word ‘Progressive’ as a label. Sanders does use ‘socialist,’ independent,’ ‘FDR socialist’ but also on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert called himself a Progressive. Hillary used the word in the debate, basically etching it into her campaign. She focus groups things and the word must have had resonance.

    In Sanders I see that he can represent not only change on progressive issues in the nation, but also he could lead a reform of the Democratic Party. His campaign has instituted a reform on itself, no PAC or corporate money. Despite the fact that this reform is a ‘unilateral disarmament’ in the war to collect campaign money, at this point it seems to not have hurt.

    As he told pharmaceutical CEO Martin Shkeli (the guy who raised an AIDS drug price from $13.50 a pill to $750 recently), “We don’t want your stinkin’ money!” and promptly handed his donation to an AIDS charity. Sanders is leading by example and if he wins the nomination and then the presidency, his campaign could be a catalyst for discussion within the party to follow his lead.

    With the Supreme Court ruling of Citizens United that opened up the floodgates for unlimited money into campaigns, the rush to take it all commenced. But just because the ‘new rules’ allow it, it doesn’t mean you have to play that version of the game. The Democratic Party could institute its’ own regulations to apply to them only, if they wanted.
    For example, liquor is a legal product in the US, but that doesn’t mean I can’t ban it or limit it in my own house or the restaurant I might own.

    By writing their own rules, they can reform themselves. They can take the high road and thus be able to honestly point the finger at the Republicans. “See, look at those greedy, bought and paid for politicians” or something along that theme. The Democrats can get out of the mud and point at those still in it.

    Jumping back in history a bit, we can return to Bill Clinton. It was he that most noticeably welcomed corporate money into campaign contributions among Democrats. It was born out of frustration and the perceived power of money at the time. The nation was shifting to the right from the beginnings during the Reagan Administration and they were winning elections as time passed.

    They were taking in the larger donations of corporations and this was credited for their success in gaining political seats. Maybe it was a misreading back then. Maybe it simply was a shift to the right that our nation goes through from time to time and money wasn’t the prime reason for Republican success. We have long experienced pendulum swings of left to right and then back again in our politics.

    By 2008, the bidding war that became established was in full swing and Barak Obama took in a record haul for contributions and he took it from sectors of the economy that earlier periods in history the left it was muted, such as Wall Street. It had become the standard that any source of money was fair game in the war.

    Bernie Sanders was long an independent in Congress that only joined the Democrats this year because in our history independents and third-party candidates can’t win the presidency. People talk of reforming that, but it won’t happen this election cycle. Only a dreamer would bother to think they can win outside the two-party system of today. Sanders might have dreams, but he is a realist.

    For Sanders that makes him an outsider within a party system, someone that has not followed all the party rules. He certainly knew all the rules, observing as he worked in Congress, and that gives him a slightly different perspective about the Democrats and the system. He has a bit of ‘outside the box thinking’ as he now campaigns inside the box.

    Sanders in all his elections, has never used a negative commercial against an opponent. It’s just not part of his ethics. It’s not very common in politics and some would say a losing strategy and is naïve. But for Sanders back in Vermont, it worked. He struggled in his early career, not winning elections, but it wasn’t because he went negative. Early failure is how we learn and as a politician it was how Sanders learned to explain his ideas and for him to grow as a person.

    Once he won his first office, Mayor of Burlington, he learned the real job, not just being a successful campaigner. He has not lost since, many elections. Sure that can be blamed on incumbency, but remember this is a guy who calls himself a socialist, all the while probably enduring attacks ads from opponents.

    I think he has demonstrated an honesty and integrity to his own personal rules as to elections.

    Rule 1) Don’t run negative attack ads. 2) Don’t take corporate or PAC money.

    Wouldn’t those rules help us pick better candidates? If we had a president with those rules that went to the party that helped him get elected and asked them to convert to the same rules, would that be dialogue we’d like to hear?

    If Sanders were to be that president, he wouldn’t have the power to force those rules on the Democrats. It would be up to him to make his case to the party to think of ways to become more honest itself. Sanders could make the case to reform the party before taking it to the nation as legislation.

    We all know it be true, we are our own worst enemy. Political parties are like any organization, they can become corrupted, but they can also recognize it and fix it from within. A Sanders-like president could ask the party to begin to say, “We don’t need their stinkin’ money!” They could say, “We don’t like those stinkin’ attack ads!”

    A change in ethics won’t happen overnight. Party members would scream “It would give an advantage to the Republicans!” Yet, changes could be instituted that have a step-by-step aspect in order to get used to the changes. Sometimes we just have to take a chance, a risk.

    Imagine a platform mandate instituted for the 2018 or 2020 election cycle that members have to follow. They could have a national party ad campaign that outlined how they were rejecting the corrupted part of our election system by ceasing it themselves. It would be a positive ad campaign message to the nation that they are using higher standards of ethics.

    What changes could the party make? Bernie Sanders wants no outside PACS helping him. He doesn’t want a PAC to run attack ads for his cause. A party could make that a rule and work to stop it. How this would work, I would defer to the party to start a discussion. It’s their party and they know how it works now, so they need to think of how to institute the idea. Sanders is doing it now so it must be possible.

    If the Republicans are going to shrink or move left as the years go by, then will the big money really help them to win seats? As I see the GOP presidential contenders today and what is becoming the norm is for a candidate to round up big donors to act as their sponsors. It has become akin to NASCAR racing, the candidates might as well wear suits with corporate logos with the biggest donor getting the biggest decal on the suit.

    The big donors are betting on their car to win. In the end though, only one car gets to run in the general election. The owners of the car of that candidate are the controlling interest. Others will jump in and buy in too. So, in all that decal purchasing, a lot of money was basically thrown away in broken down cars. That leads to the question, is all that big money really accomplishing anything during the early racing (the primary)?

    Money for campaigning is mainly about TV commercials, those negative attack ads. Around election time they come to dominate our airwaves. In fact, we just assume they are attack ads and most of us don’t even pay attention to them. Are they really worth the money?

    Could the Democrats reform their own ads? Could they run banners on each, “CLEAN AD. ENJOY” and just run positive ads for their candidates and not mention the opponent? If the entire party did this, the banner would mean something. It would become something to trust.
    People will say this is unilateral disarmament and that the attack ads will hurt Democrats, but we don’t know that. It hasn’t been tried on a large scale. Bernie Sanders has done it in his career though and others have too. It might be possible that Americans would like this and want some sort of legislation to make this the law of the land. If the Democrats could reform themselves first and prove its better, then Americans might be quite acceptable to full implementation.

    Are these big changes, just the two above? Yes and no, as there are many election reforms that have been talked about. The Democratic Party could look at those ideas (I won’t now). Other ideas could follow in an adjusting ‘ethical cleansing’ of the two-party election system, at least one half of it.

    But I can’t help but think that Bernie Sanders could be the guy to make us think of reforming a political party from the inside out and doing it one party at a time. As we think of states as our ‘laboratories of democracy’ we can think that maybe, just maybe, the Democrats could also be a laboratory of democracy for an organization we call a political party. If somehow Bernie Sanders can go all the way, he would have led by example and could tell the Democratic Party, “See, I didn’t take their stinkin’ money!”

    Jon Barber

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