Wide Open Spaces

Trees in the Open Space

In the wake of Bernie Sanders’ exit from the Democratic Primary, talk has turned to how Joe Biden begins to win over enough Sanders voters to avoid Hillary’s outcome in 2016, where enough of his voters voted for Trump to hand him the election (there’s also the number of Sanders voters that voted third party or stayed home to consider, as well). There are plenty of Bernie supporters that continue to be disillusioned with anyone but their man as the candidate and may not be persuaded to vote for the "establishment" candidate no matter what. Maybe some will hold their noses and vote for Biden because they don’t want another four years. In any event, Biden is going to need to adopt enough of Bernie’s platform ideas to make himself paltable to enough of Bernie’s base while also not alienating the vastly more moderate Democratic Party base that brought him this near historic comeback from a campaign that looked dead going into the early state primaries. The clearest tack would be for Biden to straight up adopt Medicare for All, which is Bernie’s signature issue and the one his base cares the most about. However, if Biden hasn’t gotten on that train now aside from some half measures, he never will, and I think he knows he risks alienating that more moderate base of African Americans and suburban white folks that lined up behind him in droves if he were to do such a rapid 180 on this issue.

So where does that leave Biden? What policies can be pick up that meet the moment and can meet the expectations of enough Progressives to make a difference? For my money, if I’m Biden, I get on board with the entirety of the Green New Deal and roll hard with it. I think this could be the difference maker because the way this plan is structred would help answer a major challenge the country has (climate change) as well as the moment we are in, with unemployment filings reaching numbers not seen since the Great Depression as jobs disappear in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic. Top that off with the fact that fossil fuel companies are desperately trying to lobby for all the Coronavirus relief funds for themselves instead of small businesses that are the backbone of the economy. Oh, and there is the fact that air pollution has plummeted like a stone thanks to all the stay-at-home measures that have been enacted. When you add this all up, how couldn’t a program that is going to use government money to create new jobs that are designed to help promote a move to greener energy and less pollution the absolute right move here?!? Maybe they can make a carefully worded pitch to Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez to get her on board with this, since she is behind the original bill in Congress. The time is now for Biden to get up on one of those Zoom calls and say that he is 100% backing the GND, and he will work to create hundreds of thousands of good paying jobs in the green energy sectors. This feels like a no-brainer. It would help get the ecnomony moving after the pandemic. It would keep this trend going of less pollution. It keeps money out of the hands of the fossil fuel lobby. And it’s a nice sweet spot of Progressive politics that enough Progressive voters could help get behind and get Biden into office, where they could then start to move for him–or his successor–to finally get on board with a universal health plan that works for this country once and for all.

It’s fun to think about, at least.

Cult of Personality

Bernie Sanders

It has been, without a doubt, a crazy roller coaster ride of a Democratic primary this year. Joe Biden’s campaign, which looked like it was on life support less than two weeks ago, has taken off, and he’s gone from also-ran to presumptive nominee. Buoyed by African American Voters, the same suburban voters that helped the Democrats retake the house in 2018 (including my ancenstral home in the NJ 7th, which has been solidly Republican for about as long as I’ve been around in this world), this is a result that only two weeks ago seemed impossible. So, maybe we need to look at the real question here: how did Bernie Sanders go from the obvious front-runner, outlasting annointed up and comers of the party, besting the other strong Progressive that was running, and shaking off not one, but two billionaires, including the one who spent an obscene amount of money to run, to being all but practically eliminated in early March? I mean, it’s a bit of a head scratcher in some ways, but not others.

It’s time for an honest admission from me. I’m not a Bernie fan. I’m not a fan of anyone who wraps not one, but two presidential campaigns up in the mantle of political revolution. I really hate to borrow the phrase from Biden, but most people don’t want a revolution, they want results. Plus, when you step back a ways and look at his supporters, it sometimes feels like he’s at the front of a personality cult, rather than a political movement. Consider the whole Warren snake emjoi thing that happened earlier in the year. Or the whole Twitter movement that sprung up that Warren needed to drop out and endorse Sanders because of course she did!* There is a troubling undercurrent of deism that surrounds a lot of Bernie supporters. Bernie is famous for his rigid views, and a lot of his supporters seem to really fall into this all or nothing rigidity in thier support of their man.

*Aside: did Warren’s aides see the writing on the wall for Bernie’s collapse and this is why she held off on endorsing him? If so, very smart. I think it’s both that and that she is not going to drop the whole "a woman can’t run" thing. I believe that happened no matter what his supporters try to refute.

At the same time, there’s the fact that a lot of Bernie Sanders’ key policy positions remain highly popular with voters. Take his signature issue, Medicare for All, which continues to prove popular with voters. Yet, a lot of people are clearly turned off by Bernie. So, what’s the disconnect? I think it’s pretty clearly that if the message is a winner, the problem is with the messenger. Bernie might be the only one in the eyes of his supporters, but that group is proving to be smaller than it seems. Like I said, people want someone who will get things done, not necessarily blow them up. Plus, there’s the fact that Bernie doesn’t seem to really want to reach out to people outside of his core group doesn’t help all that much. At some point, we have to look at who is delivering the message and realize that maybe we need someone else to deliver it. The fact that we had the perfect person who could have been that messenger? We’ve just hit the tip of the iceberg.

(Photo Credit: Σ on WikiMedia licensed under the CC by-sa 4.0 license)