Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Why Bernie is Bad for America

A lot of my friends are supporting Bernie Sanders, pointing to his important positions against income inequality, Wall Street, and the influence of big money in elections.  About these issues Bernie is right, and he has provided an important service by elevating them into the campaign discussion.

I hear those same friends tell me that Bernie is polling better against Trump, and they are currently most polls against Trump, Bernie gets about 53% of the vote, while Hillary gets about 50% (in both cases, Trump gets about 39%).  But here is the problem: nobody has attacked Bernie Sanders.  The Republicans are avoiding attacking Sanders because they'd rather face him in the election, and Hillary has tread softly so as not to alienate his supporters.

Whereas Clinton has faced a lifetime of criticism about everything from Whitewater to her hips, Bernie has not.  While Hillary has been repeatedly grilled about her roles in Benghazi and email messages, Bernie has gone unscathed.

If Bernie were to win the nomination, which is now highly unlikely, that would all change, and the Republicans would revel at the opportunity to expose Sanders's weaknesses, which include:

  • He is a socialist.  Does anyone really think that a majority of capitalist Americans will vote for a socialist?
  • He has been in Congress (House and Senate) since 1991 and has never introduced a major piece of legislation.
  • He has only been a Democrat since last year, after spending his entire professional career as an Independent.  The Republicans would have a field day pointing out that the Democratic nominee is not really a Democrat. 
  • His policies (free tuition, tuition reimbursements, free healthcare, raising the minimum wage, expanding Social Security and Medicare) would cost an estimated $18 trillion (according to liberal economists), while his plans to cut tax loopholes and increase taxes on the wealthy would earn only about $6.5 trillion...when there is already a $19 trillion deficit.  The Republicans would certainly do the math.
  • He would be completely unable to work with the legislature.  Forgetting about the Republican majority for a second, not one Democratic senator has supported his candidacy for president.
  • His plans to break up the Wall Street banks and restructure our capitalist underpinnings sound great, but has anyone considered what they would do to the stock market after a Sanders election?  You can bet the Republicans would trot out experts to predict another crash.
  • He wants to eliminate the Import/Export Bank, which is the only thing keeping afloat companies like Boeing which have to compete against foreign entities that are heavily subsidized by their governments.  This move alone could lead to a loss of hundred of thousands of jobs.
  • He voted against the Brady Bill and several other gun control measures.
  • He has been criticized by Democratic opponents (while he was an Independent) for nasty campaign tactics.  To this day, former Vermont Governor Madeleine Kunin bemoans the things that Bernie said about her, some of which could be viewed as anti-feminist.
  • Sanders has won a lot of Democratic contests in red states that are highly unlikely to vote blue in the general election.  With the exceptions of Michigan and Wisconsin, the states that matter to Democrats in the general election have been largely won by Clinton.
  • Bernie has won a lot of caucuses.  However, voting in a caucus is much different than voting in a primary.  Caucuses tend to be dominated by young people and zealots, whereas primaries are much more like the general election in terms of who votes and how they vote.  As has been demonstrated, Hillary has a better shot of winning that type of vote. 
  • He would be sworn in at the age of 75.  When 73-year-old John McCain ran for president, everyone said he was too old.  How is this any different?
So, why is Bernie bad for America?  
  1. His nomination would likely lead to a Trump presidency, for all the reasons I wrote above.
  2. By staying in the race and continuing to attack Hillary, he only increases the chances of a Trump presidency.
  3. A Trump presidency is bad for America.
If you're a Democrat or Independent in one of the states that has yet to vote, please vote for Hillary Clinton.  Like her or not, she is a solid candidate, with a proven, tested record, and the best chance at preventing Donald Trump from becoming president.

It's Time for Unity

Now that the New York primary has concluded, and Hillary Clinton won by 15%, it's time for the Sanders campaign to re-assess and for Democratic voters to unite.  Bernie did everyone a favor by forcing the discussion to be around  income inequality and the power of big money in our lives and our elections.  Those messages have been received loud and clear.

It has been obvious, to anyone who pays attention, that whoever is elected will not be able to pass and pay for all the ideas that Bernie supported--free tuition, free universal health care, raising the minimum wage to $15, expanding Social Security and Medicare, etc.  However, he did us a favor by raising them, and hopefully, those issues will remain in the forefront of our political discourse.

It is also now obvious that Hillary will be the Democratic nominee for president.  She's only about 300 delegates away from the nomination with a lot of big states still to vote, and she's ahead of where Obama was at this point in 2008.  She has faults, but not nearly so many as Donald Trump--her likely Republican opponent.

But what I'm most worried about is that Bernie will continue to pursue the nomination and attack Hillary, thereby lessening her chances in November.  Let's face it, it's hard to give up the adulation of large crowds and the belief that you're the best candidate.  It's also hard for a lifelong Independent, as Bernie has been before deciding to run for president as a Democrat, to fully endorse the nominee of the Democratic Party, after referring to both parties throughout his career as "Tweedledee and Tweedledum."

I fear that if he doesn't get behind Hillary soon, he will have the same alienating effect as did Ralph Nader in 2000, leading to the election of George W. Bush.  If Sanders causes damage resulting in President Trump, it will be disastrous.

My point is that it's now time for unity, at least among the Democrats, so that Bernie's supporters can start to (perhaps begrudgingly) coalesce around Hillary.  So, my message to Bernie is the title of a film by Spike Lee (a Sanders supporter)...Do the Right Thing.