Tuesday, July 14, 2015
The Press of Bernie Sanders
The drama seems to be focused almost entirely on the Republican cast of fifteen, now officially adding Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, just as his popularity is fading in his home state. Meanwhile far-left-of-center, Vermont Democrat-leaning-independent Senator Bernie Sanders, is generating rather significant numbers in the polls. While not passing centrist Hillary Clinton in those numbers, he is clearly speaking for that old line farther-left constituency, reminding Ms. Clinton that there is huge group of such traditional Democratic stalwarts whose presence has been dwarfed in the last few years by the far right surge of Tea Party Evangelicals.
Indeed, many has assumed that such left-leaning individuals no longer mattered, that they weren’t heavy voters, but it is that same right wing surge – now reacting to the overt racism of Donald Trump – that may have reawakened leftist cries. And an articulate spokesman: Berne Sanders. With a couple of favorable Supreme Court decisions in hand, it seems as if the assumed-once-dead liberal causes have been resurrected.
Sanders has castigated the Obama Administration for attempting to reach out to a Republican Party with, according to Sanders, no other agenda that to obstruct any program the Democratic President might wish to implement. He admonished the President simply to take the GOP at its obstructionist best and use that negativity to grow a powerful grassroots reaction to shove the “obstructionists” out of office.
His message on July 12th’s Face the Nation: “We need a mass grassroots movement that looks the Republicans in the eye and says, if you don't vote to demand that your wealthy people start paying their fair of taxes, if you don't vote for jobs and raising the wage and expanding Social Security, we know what's going on. We're involved. We're organized, you are out of here if you don't do the right thing.” Sanders is addressing the huge elephant (pun intended, of course) in the room: income inequality. As Republicans bring out their tired “responsive” mantra of protecting the “job creators,” deregulating them, purging the country of financial and environmental controls, and keeping their taxes lowered, Sanders is at the forefront of telling voters that those programs have never worked and won’t work now, that GOP policies have decimated average Americans.
The hubris of the America’s “Masters of the Universe” is the anti-Sanders constituency that is financing the GOP thrust in the 2016 elections. For example, JP Morgan CEO, Jamie Dimon, has called financial regulation “un-American,” that regulators have simply gone too far. Speaking before a Young Wall Street forum on July 10th, Dimon seems to have assumed that a Republican Congress and President will inevitably be elected and thus would fix the problem in 2016.“The regulatory, political and legal burden we’re bearing is astronomical. I wouldn’t pay as much for our company as I would for those separate companies because the punishment doesn’t fit the crime sometimes, it fits the size of the bank… But the things I just mentioned – legal, regulatory – will go away.” [Emphasis added] This one percenter’s callousness simply vitalizes Sanders, his voice… and ultimately his constituency. He also doesn’t have to send a “thank you” note to the Donald, whose surge in the GOP polls seems simply to grow Sanders’ stature within the Democratic Party.
Like Senator powerhouse, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Sanders is pulling his entire party towards this once-abandoned left. And as much as Democratic frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, has tried to side-step these controversial issues and hive towards the center, Sanders is forcing Clinton to address income inequality – and embrace that lost constituency much more on his terms.
Clinton has responded with a gentler iteration of Sanders’ platform, spoken with less vitriol but clearly accepting her desired role as leader of the Democratic Party. Picking up the endorsement of the American Federation of Teachers, Clinton’s refrain has focused on restoring the middle class – which addresses raising wages and taxing the wealthy a la Sanders – but approaching this goal from the middle and not the left. Same overall result.
As Sanders continued to rise in the pre-primary Democratic polls, Clinton looked over her shoulder and shifted left. In a speech at the New School on July 13th, Ms. Clinton took a steadier aim at the excesses of Wall Street, and separated herself further from the deregulators in the GOP while castigating presumed Republican frontrunner, Jeb Bush, on his call for Americans to work harder.
“She said that many institutions are ‘too complex and too risky’ and promised to go further than President Obama has both in regulating the industry and in prosecuting its bad players. As president, she said, she would appoint and empower regulators who understand that ‘too big to fail is still too big a problem.’ And she promised to ensure that the financial markets ‘work for everyday investors, not just high-risk traders.’
“‘Too often it has seemed that the human beings responsible get off with limited consequences or none at all, even when they’ve already pocketed the gains,’ Clinton said. ‘This is wrong. And on my watch, it will change. . . . We will prosecute individuals as well as firms when they commit fraud.’” The Washington Post, July 13th. She also questioned the longer-term values of the on-demand “gig-based” economy and centered her platform on a “growth and fairness” plank.
Did she meet Sanders halfway? Were her statements enough for that ignored constituency? When she was asked if she would restore the provisions of the Glass-Steagall Act that her husband had signed into repeal – the legal restriction that kept commercial banks and trading institutions separate – she just didn’t respond. Can she move too far left towards Sanders for the general election? Does she need to move more? Time will tell, but whatever may be said about long-shot-Sanders, he has most certainly left an indelible mark on Democratic politics.
I’m Peter Dekom, and sometimes candidate do not win but forever reshape their party’s platform in ways that have repeatedly changed America.