Sanders love or: How I stopped backing Hillary and felt the Bern

by | Wednesday 24 February 2016

The time is now for Bernie Sanders, the candidate the world (and myself) wants as President, but massive obstacles remain – Harrison Jones

Up until two weeks ago, I supported Hillary Clinton in her pursuit of the White House. Not because I didn’t like Bernie Sanders’ policies or personality, but because I really didn’t want Trump or Cruz to become President. Since then, I have woken up to one the greatest political misconceptions of this race – that Sanders isn’t electable. Not only is he electable, he is more electable than Clinton and is unreservedly the President America, and the world, needs.

An interesting consequence of having a primary election before the general election, as the United States does, is that a key question for candidates in the primary is their “electability.”

In 2016, that question seems to be paramount, for the Democrats at least.

Between the two remaining candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, Clinton is perceived by many (and myself for a long time) to be the “more electable” option. On the surface, this seems to be a reasonable conclusion to make. She has spent almost her whole life as a public servant; the First Lady of both Arkansas and the United States, a Senator from New York and recently Secretary of State. Since her defeat to Barack Obama in 2008, before even announcing her candidacy, Clinton was seen to be the front runner and has held commanding leads in the polls to back this up. Her pragmatism, experience and centrist position are strongly juxtaposed with the man who has described himself as a “democratic socialist” – a phrase no one thought would ever come out of the mouth of someone realistically seeking the Presidency of the United States.

The simple truth is that Bernie Sanders is electable.

A recent Quinnipiac national Poll highlights this. When matched up head to head in a general election scenario, Clinton would beat Republican favourite Donald Trump 46 – 41. Sanders, however, holds a far more commanding lead over the outspoken businessman, beating Trump 49 – 39. When paired with GOP establishment pick Marco Rubio, Democrats will be out of the White House if Clinton wins the primary, with the female hopeful trailing Rubio 48 – 41. In contrast, Sanders would put up a far more effective fight, as they are currently tied in polling 43 – 43.

This clearly speaks to Sanders’ electability and yet swathes of the American populace still buy into Clinton’s rhetoric that she is “the one candidate who can beat a republican.”

If you’re not convinced by the polls, think about what it means to have Donald Trump currently leading the GOP field – people are polarised from the political parties. They crave an outsider who won’t just believe what they’re told to believe and say what they need to get elected. It is foolish and narrow-minded to think that this is limited solely to Republican voters. Sanders, who has been an independent in Washington for over 30 years, represents a fresh face, free from stains of political parties, and has already mobilised massive support nationally. If the American people are truly this disgruntled with the current political order, what hope does Clinton have of inspiring first-time voters, or catching those who are swinging undecided – considering she is one of the largest “Washington insiders” to run for President?

Undoubtedly, the Sanders campaign faces many issues. One of the largest, however, is that the same national poll highlighting his electability, found that 55 percent of the population see Clinton as having a good chance at defeating a Republican opponent, compared to 47 percent who said the same of Sanders. Clearly people still hold the perception that the democratic socialist from Vermont could never be voted into the White House.

His rising polling in upcoming states and my own realisation about his chances at the general election demonstrate that this mindset is changing, slowly.

With the South Carolina primary coming up this weekend and Super Tuesday the week after, it is absolutely crucial that the message about his electability is accurately communicated to the electorate.

More broadly, the Vermont senator needs to address his lack of connection with minority voters. A poll of non-white voters in South Carolina and Nevada before last weekend’s primary found that 67 percent of non-white people supported Hillary Clinton, compared to a meagre 28 percent who would endorse Sanders to be their nominee.

Whilst Sanders held his own in Iowa and New Hampshire, this was because of two points. A) demographics were largely white and B) he had dedicated so much time to their states. Supporters of the Clinton campaign have consistently touted her “firewall” – those states who vote on March 1st and 5th where there is a larger proportion of non-white voters and where, coincidentally, she leads in the polls. If Sanders truly wants to stick it out until June, he will have to conjure more support from minority groups. He has created some positive change by garnering the support of prominent former NAACP head Ben Jealous – hopefully it’s not too little, too late.

Additionally, whilst Sanders and Clinton are tied with 51 pledged delegates each after the Nevada primary, Clinton is still seen to be holding the lead as she has the support of almost all the super delegates.

Super delegates refer to the 715 individual influential figures in the party who can vote with their own conscience and are not controlled by the voting patterns of the people. This essentially puts 30 percent of the selection power in the hands of the party. At this stage, Clinton holds the support of 502 of these delegates, compared to Sanders’ 70. In order to combat this establishment support for Clinton, Sanders needs to demonstrate that he has the will of the people behind him.

However, the stakes are simply too high for Bernie Sanders to not, as his back is against the wall.

For America, he can radically transform their healthcare system, colleges and the deplorable lack of accountability on Wall Street. Raising the minimum wage has the potential to pull millions out of poverty. Getting money out of politics will put the people back into democracy and create a fairer system going forward.

For the world, Bernie can send the message that half of the world’s wealth should not be in the hands of just 1 percent of the population. Action in America, and on Wall Street, will have vast flow on effects for the rest of the world economies and the global issue of the warped distribution of wealth. If we are serious about pulling billions of people out of poverty and reducing the manipulative control of the elite, serious action needs to start somewhere – and Sanders can be that beginning.

Of course, if he ever makes it to the White House, he will face serious challenges in getting any of this done. The slogan #FeelTheBern is a particularly poignant reminder of how we may have already “felt the bern” after the message of “Hope and change” of Obama disintegrated into political deadlock and little meaningful action.

A Republican-controlled House and Senate is a realistic possibility and with it, comes the threat of more yet more Obaman stalemate. However, the idea that Clinton will be treated better by the GOP establishment doesn’t correlate with the reality. Evidenced by the vicious attack ads against her, not to mention the years of torment over Benghazi and her infamous email accounts.

Its time for the American people to wake up to the fact that Bernie Sanders can be elected President, and take a gamble that could pay off massively and change the face of America and the world forever. Are they open for such a change? Will the home of the brave be open to a land of the free?