The tides are shifting. Bernie Sanders is experiencing a meteoric rise, while Clinton popularity is falling rapidly. Nonetheless, Bernie has yet to face the complete onslaught of insidious corporate money. The power brokers are becoming desperate – this assumption can be validated with a possible Biden run. If Clinton continues to fall, a Biden presidency will be the Democratic Establishment’s last ditch effort to quash the Sanders’ surge, as he has a well-known relationship with the banking elite. Moreover, Bernie’s refusal to accept Super PAC money leaves him in a vulnerable position. But Bernie can circumvent these potential issues by consistently propagating his progressive record – a record that isn’t tainted by serious political scandals or shady relationships with Washington lobbyists. If Sanders abides by the following political strategy, the White House will have a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream parlor in the West Wing.
1) Keep the campaign clean in order to increase Sanders appeal and to protect the Democratic Brand
The campaign— if the Sanders’ surge continues—may get nasty, but the personal attacks need to come from the Clinton camp. Part of Sanders’ appeal is that he prioritizes issues over petty political quarrels and party loyalty. His Independent label alone, before the party ID change, highlights his unwillingness to appease opponents, and even allies, with unnecessary concessions (especially in regards to protecting the middle and lower classes). It is imperative that Sanders avoids negative rhetoric if he wants to obtain the political highroad. Sanders in particular, needs to be cautious as a consequence of public perception: he at times is labeled as the socialist curmudgeon who simply yells and screams to garner attention – he can’t reinforce this perception with an aggressive and insensitive attitude.
Now, if Bernie feels compelled to attack Clinton, it has to revolve around policy and be purely reactionary. Any direct mention of Clinton will only allow her to play the victim, which will strip away Bernie’s morally upstanding position. Attacks on family should be strictly off limits. The media will pounce on Bernie any chance they get, and personal attacks would only give Clinton soft, unpaid media coverage and undeserved sympathy. Lastly, the Democratic brand could be damaged if the two front runners succumb to childish tactics.
2) Stick to the issues in order to control the political narrative
Sticking to the issues is paramount, but there’s a slight nuance to this seemingly simplistic approach: Sanders needs to continue to derive his talking points from facts rather than value judgments. Let me provide an example to provide more clarity to this notion. Sanders often pinpoints wealth inequality as one of the most pressing issues facing America, but Sanders looks to facts in order to draw this argument – wealth inequality is the worst that is has been since the late 1920s, whereby the country experienced the worst economic meltdown in its history. Rather than utter a factless assumption along the lines of “America should have closed borders because ISIS fighters are mobilizing in Northern Mexico,” something that a vacuous void like Trump would mention, Sanders relies on historical comparisons, i.e., factual realities, as both eras are prime examples of extreme wealth accumulation. So, Sanders’ policy proposals, such as wealth redistribution through the implementation of a more progressive tax structure, aren’t limited to value judgments. Adhering to facts creates in impression of honesty and integrity for Sanders; a quality that the majority of his Republican colleagues have lost.
3) Maintain progressive champion label to draw legitimate distinction
The toughest thing for a primary candidate to do is draw a legitimate distinction with an opponent who resides in his own party. This is largely a consequence of party politics, which prioritizes coalition building over individual political standpoints.The last few months, despite Sanders’ stellar campaign, has forced Clinton to the left – political positioning that appears good on face value. However, the more Clinton steers to the left, the more Sanders’ visibility will shrink. One example of this this are their respective college affordability plans. While responding to an opponent’s policy proposals is an inherent aspect of campaigning, in certain instances, the move looks contrived. Remember, Sanders was the first candidate to release a college affordability plan; one that would make college free. In response, Clinton put forth the “New College Compact,” a plan that provides debt-free college if a student decides to work.
Still, Clinton’s proposal is centrist-left, but this political maneuvering affords her the appearance of being a champion of the left. Couple this with her name recognition, Sanders’ progressive stance—one that he has held for years—is clouded by Clinton’s ostensibly leftist proposal. Sanders can prevent this visibility issue if he highlights his progressive champion label through paid and soft media. Every major appearance has to be, in a sense, a slight gloating session. His political resume is what draws the necessary distinction. Without the resume specifics being mentioned, Sanders progressive label weakens. In the end, Sanders key to victory lies in his political biography.