Is Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) moment approaching? Polls put him up in New Hampshire in the battle for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Touted rivals are stumbling. It appears there is an opening for the self-proclaimed democratic socialist to generate genuine separation from the rest of the pack in what has so far been an agonizingly banal race of the turtles.
There for the Taking
The next three to six weeks are crucial. Unlike other so-called top-tier candidates, the Vermont senator has reason to claim such lofty status. He fought a highly effective and often captivating insurgent challenge to the long-planned coronation of establishment Dem Hillary Clinton in 2016. None of the other supposedly leading figures in the current race, with the exception of the chaotic mess that is the campaign of former vice president Joe Biden, have anything remotely as substantial on their resumes. We’ve seen one phony “surge” after another.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) catapulted to heavyweight status after what was widely termed a “breakthrough” performance at the first Democrat debate in June. It proved to be the only high point of a campaign that is now in free fall. And now that she has dropped out of the race, that door opens even wider. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was labeled the woman to beat after a sudden and largely unexplained rise in the fall that was more mirage than reality. Lacking a defining moment and opening herself to easy criticism of her Medicare for All proposal, Warren predictably has returned to middling status. South Bend, IN, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has been a media darling, but his thin resume has been gradually exposed, with even the quiet and restrained Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) scoring points by articulating the simple point that there is nothing in Buttigieg’s record that qualifies him for the White House. And, of course, Biden’s car-wreck campaign continues unabated.
His heart issues are, of course, the wild card and remain a serious concern, but if Sanders wants to make a leap, now is the time. To do so, the longtime progressive rabble-rouser must change the tenor and substance of debate that has dominated the contest so far. Sanders seems ineffective when he obediently regurgitates progressive talking points on racism, sexism, and other -isms that have tediously marred the first five nationally televised Dem debates.
But the minnows able to sway the conversation too much in this direction have melted away. Panderers Beto O’Rourke and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) are long gone. The hapless Julian Castro has faded into near obscurity.
Sanders has a golden opportunity to move the verbal sparring onto his favorite ground – discussions of a “rigged economy” and the politics of class struggle as opposed to racial injustice. A Nov. 30 tweet indicates the firebrand senator is eager to do just that:
“For too long, huge corporate monopolies have rigged our economy. Their goal: maximize profits at the expense of small businesses and working Americans. Under a Sanders administration, we’ll take on their greed and allow small businesses to thrive.”
This is the language that works best for him by far. If Sanders can manage to turn progressive stridency toward fighting for the working class instead of, say, helping escort illegal aliens over the border, a la Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) earlier this year, he has a chance to push ahead of his underwhelming rivals.
Able to Understand Trump Appeal?
Given the radical state of grassroots Dems today, it’s probably too much to expect Sanders to circle back to his bold statement in 2015 decrying massive open-borders immigration as a cheap-labor “Koch Brothers proposal.” But if he can stress a policy-driven affinity for the American worker over allegiance to globalist trade deals that have destroyed the manufacturing base in this nation over the past 30 years, he can perhaps escape the suffocating blue bubble into which the other social justice-obsessed Dem candidates are residing.
The big question is whether leftist Dems can acknowledge that President Trump tapped into authentic working- and middle-class grievances with his outsider campaign in 2016. A recent quote from Hollywood blowhard and Bernie supporter Michael Moore shows just how much of a struggle this will prove to be.
“The people that came out for Trump — I’m not talking about the racist, white supremacist part, I’m talking about those people who are sick and tired of the system. Trump told them it was rigged. It was rigged. And he was right when he said that,” Moore stated on Nov. 27 in an interview on MSNBC. While admitting that the issues that got Trump elected are valid, Moore tellingly could not resist painting the president and many of his supporters as evil racists.
Sanders has parroted some of this divisive language over the course of 2019, to his detriment. Bernie has a chance to get a firm grip on this dull race by offering a plausible argument why American workers who feel left behind in today’s economic climate can trust a Democrat to fight on their behalf. Can he focus on this and speak to the real America? More importantly, will the radicals and inveterate Trump-haters in the Democratic Party let him?
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