Friday, July 31, 2015

The Real Candidate Deserving Our Attention, on Jobs and Beyond: Bernie Sanders

Last week there seemed to be only one 2016 presidential hopeful, if you can call him that, in the news.  I’m refusing to get in on the frenzy, so will not even mention his name.  I only add that after everyone sobers up about him, he’ll give his party the DTs by threatening to run independently and thereby hand the election to Hillary Clinton.

Or will it be Hillary at all?

Bernie Sanders, the candidate now a distant second in media attention, may be the beneficiary instead.  Radical?  Perhaps.  But consider what is happening.

First, Clinton is spinning her wheels.  She has had very little to say, on jobs or almost anything else.  Even Democrats have been commenting on how her campaign events are devoid of information.  She has been unable to get positive press for anything specific, and when the subject turns to her it is still often about her email scandal.  Her party is already starting to think seriously about alternatives; as an example, Salon published an article earlier this month suggesting they draft Al Gore.  More and more swing voters may come to agree with my view, as well, that what the country needs least from 2017 to 2021 is another moderate Democrat.   

Second, the other declared candidates in her party have campaigns so moribund – Martin O’Malley seems to be getting no press at all, Jim Webb got all of his within 24 hours of his joining the race, and Lincoln Chaffee, with 300 to 1 odds against him, is behind three undeclared and unanticipated contenders – that prediction market PredictWise actually has Joe Biden in third place.  

Third, Sanders has been setting records in two areas.  Not only has he been getting the largest campaign-speech crowds, including 11,000 in Phoenix, but he has collected more money in under-$200 campaign contributions than anyone else.  The breadth of his popularity has been so unexpected even to his organization that, as of mid-month, they had run out of buttons and bumper stickers. 

Fourth, he has plenty to say, especially on American employment.  In a campaign where almost half of the contenders are silent on the issue, Sanders’ website has several pages.  He wants to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour over a period of years.  He is a strong advocate of unions, wanting card-check membership, in which workers can form unions if a majority claim they want them.  He voted to lengthen unemployment benefits from 39 to 59 weeks, a good idea when millions of workers have been officially jobless, which means they have been looking for work and applying for positions weekly, for over six months.  He has been combining with Obama to get more employees time-and-a-half for overtime, which I also support – while I do not agree with him on the minimum wage, there is no place for employers to abuse the definition of salaried and management positions by underpaying or not paying production workers for extra hours.  He recognizes on his site something that every candidate of either party should but few do, that “the real unemployment rate is much higher than the “official” figure typically reported in the newspapers.”   He not only supports a nationwide construction project, but “introduced legislation which would invest $1 trillion over 5 years to modernize our country’s physical infrastructure.”  That sort of effort, which Republicans should get behind as well, is probably the best single readily implementable thing anyone can do to help our permanent jobs crisis. 

Fifth, Sanders offers conservatives something as well, on gun control, where his words and record are more Republican than Democrat.  He comes from a rural area, where firearms not only serve constructive purposes but are rarely abused.  It is hard to find someone otherwise on the far left who voted to prohibit the use of funds by international organizations which register or tax guns owned by Americans, wants people to be able to check firearms on Amtrak trains, and says things such as “If somebody has a gun and somebody steals that gun and shoots somebody, do you really think it makes sense to blame the manufacturer of that weapon?,” and “If somebody assaults you with a baseball bat, you hit somebody over the head, you’re not going to sue the baseball bat manufacturer,” but Sanders is unique in other ways as well. 

Sixth, Clinton may crash and burn.  As I have written before, she is no Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher, or even Angela Merkel.  If she gets the nomination, she will face verbal and press abuse of the worst kind.  It will not all be fair, and some will be vicious, personal, and even sexual in nature.  In the process of beating her among Democrats and winning the election, Barack Obama got hit with about everything imaginable, and stood up to it superbly.  If she cannot do the same, she will not win.  Sometime between now and March’s full-swing primary season, she will find out that, contrary to what she has been told and almost certainly believes, even the Democratic nomination is not her entitlement – and that will be hard for her, as it would be for anyone who has been the prohibitive frontrunner for years, to take. 

I say Clinton doesn’t get through it.  When she loses her composure, and her support soon follows, someone will need to take over.  It just may be Bernie Sanders.  Don’t you dare rule him out.    

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