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What About Bernie Sanders?
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Many Democrats and others truly fed up with the state of the nation’s economic and social core are unwilling to support Bernie Sanders because they’re afraid he can’t win. But they’re trapped by circular thinking: he can’t win because too many people fear that he can’t win.
It’s time to rethink the Sanders candidacy.
The rift between the Sanders and Hillary Clinton camps is becoming ugly. Some Clinton people dismiss Sanders’ passionate supporters as being part of an irrational “cult.” Meanwhile, those backing the Vermont senator appear all too quick to label Clinton’s followers as part of a “crusade” that places the women’s movement ahead of the nation’s needs.
More level-headed Democrats look beyond the drama yet find themselves conflicted. Frequent refrains go like this:
- Sanders is a dreamer, albeit a passionate one. His proposals are worthy but impractical within the bounds of national politics. He is a bit too old and a lot too Jewish to be elected president. If he somehow gets the nomination he’ll suffer a McGovern-like defeat next November, and even if he loses to Clinton he will leave her seriously damaged for the general election.
- Clinton is the opposite of charismatic. She seems willing to shift positions for political expediency, and she and her husband have too much baggage. While Sanders has gone easy on her in debates, the Republican nominee will rip Clinton apart on matters such as Benghazi, emails and Wall Street dalliances - even if the issues have little if any merit.
Conflicted progressives should cast aside process-based metrics and answer yes or no to these questions:
Do the nation’s wealthiest individuals and corporations have too much power and pay too little in taxes? Is the method of financing political campaigns so corrupt that a powerful few now control, or at least strangle, lawmakers on everything from the cost of medicine to caring for the environment? Wouldn’t the country be better if everyone had health care and free access to a college education as is the case in many other advanced nations? Shouldn’t the U.S. join the rest of the civilized world in banning capital punishment once and for all?
Voters with three or four yes answers should give serious consideration to supporting Bernie Sanders.
The truth is a president’s power is severely limited by Congress. Running for president is not about making promises so much as establishing goals. The nation’s grandest achievements in modern times - from reaching the moon to electing a black president - have come because dreamers dared to go beyond what seemed at the time to be practical limitations.
At what point do we step up for what we believe rather than constrain ourselves by the cold calculus of political expediency? Voters, like politicians, are too easily fixated on winning each round just so they can advance to the next round.
Oddly, Sanders shares a slice of common ground with Donald Trump. Each has rejected standard campaign financing while sparking interest among those who believe the system doesn’t work - at least for them. But Trump, unlike Sanders, is a crude, egomaniacal business tycoon, unfit to hold the nation’s highest office.
Trump supporters should join Democrats and Independents in reassessing the Sanders campaign. If they reject it on the issues, so be it. But to abandon goals just because they seem too hard to achieve and too risky for the business of politics is a mistake.
Bernie Sanders has the courage to focus his campaign on underlying problems that affect virtually every aspect of our lives. We should at least have the courage to take him seriously.
Peter Funt is a writer and speaker. He can be reached at