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"He's More Howard Dean Than Barack Obama": Why This Clinton Swat at Bernie Sanders Falls Flat
Do Dems Want to Win in '16?
If Bernie Sanders is the New Howard Dean, is Hillary Clinton the New John Kerry?
Finally, the media is no longer dismissing U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) outright as he campaigns valiantly for the Democratic nomination for president. However, instead of giving the self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist his just due, the media continues to appease the Hillary Clinton juggernaut by gleefully predicting an inevitable fizzling of Sanders' campaign. While many pundits, including myself, have warned the media that they are repeating the mistakes of 2008, namely ignoring the surging popularity of a rookie U.S. Senator named Barack Obama, Clinton supporters have responded by saying that Sanders is no Obama. Rather, they analogize, Sanders is Howard Dean.
In late 2003, Vermont governor Howard Dean was the apparent frontrunner for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination. In his rolled-up shirtsleeves and with his energetic populism, Dean surged early on as a grassroots, tech-savvy campaigner. In early 2004, he fizzled in the primaries, especially after his infamous "Dean scream." Ultimately, he fell hard and ended his campaign. U.S. Senator John Kerry ended up clinching the Democratic nomination but lost in the general election, giving Republican incumbent George W. Bush a second term in the White House.
Clintonites (Clintonians?) who advocate the rationale that Sanders is the second coming of the unsuccessful Howard Dean are crafting a rather poor argument for their candidate. A look at why the Sanders '16 = Dean '04 equation is flawed:
First, the socioeconomic and political situation in 2016 favors a populist far more than in 2004, when the U.S. economy was stronger. A little thing called the Great Recession has struck the nation and caused grievous economic wounds. In this aftermath, vocal populism is far more popular. While Howard Dean's populism may have been prone to fizzle in '04, when the economy was healthy and the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan gave voters more pressing concerns, citizens are far more concerned about the economy and increasing economic inequality today.
Secondly, a more apt analogy of the current political situation is that Hillary Clinton is the new John Kerry. Like Kerry, Clinton is a former attorney who graduated from Yale University and who enjoys the benefits of a powerful and well-connected spouse. Kerry is known for his multimillionaire wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, who is tied to the Heinz food processing conglomerate, and Clinton is, obviously, known for her husband Bill. Both Kerry and Clinton also enjoy record-setting wealth. Kerry was the United States' wealthiest Senator during his time in Congress, and would have been the third-wealthiest U.S. president if elected in 2004. Clinton has been subject to scrutiny over her high-dollar speaking fees and growing personal wealth.
Third, when it comes to the general election, Clinton will share Kerry's weaknesses. While Clinton supporters may want primary voters to see Bernie Sanders as a new Howard Dean, soon to stumble, Sanders supporters will want those same voters to see Hillary Clinton as a new John Kerry in a general election against a hard-charging Republican. In '04, John Kerry struggled in the general election against GOP allegations that he was a "flip-flopper" who would fail to stay strong in the face of challenges. Kerry was blasted as a hypocrite who was criticizing the Iraq War...but who voted to approve the invasion of Iraq in 2002, prior to running for president.
Who else voted for the Iraq War in 2002? Hillary Clinton. Who else is criticized as being a "flip-flopper" for changing her views on the Iraq War and same-sex marriage? Hillary Clinton. Who else is often derided as aloof and rather unlikable? Hillary Clinton.
It seems that, rather than Bernie Sanders being doomed as the new Howard Dean, it is Hillary Clinton who is doomed as the new John Kerry. And, by the way, whatever happened to John Kerry after he retired from the Senate? Oh, he took over the old post that had just been occupied by...Hillary Clinton!
Looking back, perhaps Howard Dean would have been a better Democratic presidential nominee in 2004 than John Kerry. Certainly, Democrats do not need a new John Kerry as their nominee in 2016.