Saturday, April 9, 2016

My hero Bernie Sanders may have boxed himself in. :-\

**Still my guy

Like so many people, I've been inspired and thrilled to see Senator Bernie Sanders really challenging Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party establishment in this election cycle. This has got to be my favorite image of the campaign so far:

That said, despite winning six of the last seven states, and a likely blowout in Wyoming today, Bernie is still pretty far behind in the delegate race, and much of the recent on-line "horse race" discussion in progressive circles seems to be as to whether Bernie has no chance at all, or merely only an outside chance of surpassing Team Hillary. To that end, I'd encourage everyone to toss in a little something so an outsider and underdog who wants to change the world, has a chance to. (I believe we still could pull this off. Not him, us).

So Bernie supporters are currently stuck trying to build on the Still Has a Chance, side of the argument, as opposed to the No Chance side. Meanwhile, it's clear in the last couple of weeks that the campaign has taken a predictably nastier turn, as Sanders probably gaffed in calling Hillary "unqualified," although, of course, all candidates virtually always do that to their opponents, and both candidates have had some testy moments in the media lately. In the context of a national campaign, I would think of these as "forced errors," practically inevitable at some point. Any presidential candidate, who makes it this far, is going to have to walk something back, or gaffe, or fire some screw-up staffer, at some point. This is a real primary, after all, and not a coronation, and the only foregone conclusion is that the spotlight is going shine brightly and incessantly, and the typical ugliness and stürm und drang of a national campaign are going to emerge. The non-stop back and forth over whether Bernie lied, in saying that Hillary was taking money from fossil fuel lobbyists, the fairly ridiculously "into the weeds" tit for tat raging on DailyKos over Who invited Whom with regards to Sanders' trip to the Vatican next week; all of this is "the usual," in my opinion. This is the rough and tumble. As they say, politics ain't beanbag.

Here's the problem with which Team Bernie, and by extension his supporters like me, will ultimately have to come to grips: Bernie has predicated his campaign on being "different," "transformational," and above the pettiness of our tabloid-driven, 24-hour news cycle and personal attack style of politics. The rub is that our political system is still widely based on 24-hour news cycles, and tabloid hysteria. Personal attacks are salt on the dinner, in this climate. Bernie's strength as a Different Kind of Politician, now, becomes a problem. I believe Bernie is FINALLY Playing the Game, but inevitably, he now has to come down off his proverbial high horse, and immediately, he becomes "just like the rest." Team Hillary, can, has, and will continue to gleefully point out that Bernie's now attacking her, when he said he wouldn't . . . and if you think they or the media will be even one iota concerned, that she and her surrogates have been doing the exact same goddamned thing for several months now, I've got a bridge to sell you.

Unfortunately, I'm not enough of a political genius to see a way out of this. I think Bernie's boxed in, on the particular line of attack. He HAS to "punch back," yet it makes him vulnerable when he does. The narrative of the transformational dreamer is somehow going to have to ALSO be the narrative of the tough fighter. That is not an easy transition, and the typical stürm und drang of a national campaign is very likely to be the type of terms that are more favorable to Hillary. Of course Hillary's been "playing the game," the whole time, but she can take Sanders to task, very easily, for doing the same.

On the upside, there are MANY media narratives that come into play in this type of long national campaign. Other narratives may emerge, which could upend this dynamic, or even just change the subject. As long as he keeps winning, his candidacy his still alive. And the movement he's tapped into will keep organizing in other ways, regardless.

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