I’m feeling The Bern.
No, I’m not on board the Bernie Sanders campaign. As an unapologetic capitalist and a fiscal conservative, I’m scared to death of a Sanders presidency.
But I do see the appeal.
Opinion writers are making comparisons between Sanders and the Trump 2016 campaign, and they have a point.
Trump ran as a Republican-lite populist who appealed to Americans who felt disenfranchised by the system. Sanders has a base of passionate voters who believe the system is corrupt and that a wholesale upheaval is needed.
In both cases, the support is rooted in the belief that the country’s leadership is letting them down. Trump stands up to, well, anyone or anything that he perceives is in his way. Sanders ticks off grievances against a “rigged” economy and a flawed healthcare system.
And Sanders loops in all the free stuff you’re going to get: healthcare, a college education, childcare, a guaranteed higher minimum wage. Let’s face it; if you’re worried about the cost of going to the hospital, filling prescriptions, paying for college, making decent money on minimum wage—and that’s a lot of people—then those promises sound pretty good.
Expensive? Massively… but presumably somebody else is going pay for it all. And in addition, Sanders is going to stick it to the evil corporations who are keeping an oppressive foot on working people.
Some of my Democratic friends are freaking out. They see a Sanders nomination not only as a probable loss in November (even though he’s leading in most head-to-head polls), but also a disaster for down ballot Democrats in federal and state elections.
Michael Tomasky, West Virginia native, author and liberal columnist, is among those on the left who are deeply concerned about “The Bern” and wondering if there are ways to cool it down.
“The line of attack that I’ve always thought might have worked would have centered around effectiveness,” Tomasky writes. “He’s been in Congress for 30 years. He’s passed seven bills. Two of those are Post Office renamings, and a third is ‘Vermont Bicentennial Day.’ Only one of the seven is substantive.”
So, what are the odds a President Sanders can get Congress to pass Medicare for All and wipe out private health insurance? About as likely as Trump getting Mexico to pay for the wall.
But those kinds of facts are easily bowled over by a movement, which Sanders has effectively crafted. Revolutions are driven by emotion, not practicalities. If our country’s Founders had been swayed by the long odds of defeating the British Army and Navy, they never would have declared independence.
Many in the media and Republican Party leaders were absolutely convinced that Donald Trump could not win in 2016, but clearly they (and yours truly) were in an echo chamber that failed to hear the voices of the 63 million people who voted for him.
The same has been true for Sanders. Until his early primary and caucus wins, media and Democratic leaders tended to treat him as an entertaining novelty who they would tolerate until the adults assumed control.
But as Tomasky wrote, “In the meantime, Sanders has taken them to the cleaners. He’s winning this thing fair and square. And he is inspiring to millions of people. That counts for something. That’s what politics is supposed to be.”
It will be fascinating to see how the “never Sanders” movement within the Democratic Party, and some in the media, plays out. They may find out that when they try to get in front of a movement, they get run over.