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Why Bernie Sanders is Actually the Democrats' Best General Election Candidate
Against Jeb Bush, the Dems Should Run Bernie Sanders
Sanders Will Win on the Issues, but Clinton Will Get Bogged Down in Rhetoric
I'm enjoying the surge of Bernie-mentum. I'm feeling the Bern. I've donated ten dollars and purchased a Bernie Sanders T-shirt. For the first time ever, I am excited by a political candidate. His messages are big, bold, and unorthodox. I imagine this is what many voters felt in 1932 when Democratic presidential candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt promised America a "New Deal." As a middle-class American, I am thrilled at the idea of universal health care, free higher education [for qualified students], and a lower tax burden. I know that, by cutting a mere fraction of our outrageous defense spending, we could fund these "socialist" programs and I could finally afford to fix my car, see my checking account grow rather than shrink, and actually take my family on a vacation.
The majority of Americans would see their health care, education, and tax bills decrease and be able to spend the money...I don't know...stimulating the economy? This should be the ultimate Republican pro-business dream. Small businesses would flourish as consumers had more disposable income. The millionaire defense contractors and health insurance executives will be okay - I'm sure many will move to the public education, subsidized child care, and public health sectors and continue to collect comfortable salaries.
The biggest obstacle to this possibility? The argument that Bernie Sanders cannot win the general election. Despite Sanders' surge in popularity, the mainstream media continues to tout Hillary Clinton's frontrunner strength. Generally, the media portrayal of Sanders is that he is a nice guy who, unfortunately, is too far out of the mainstream to win. While liberals may cheer for Sanders today, they will ultimately vote for Clinton in the primaries because they want to win the White House.
Sadly, this logic is a giant problem for Sanders. Many Democrats might prefer Sanders but buckle under peer pressure and jump on the Clinton bandwagon next spring, viewing Clinton as the only Democrat who can defeat the Republican nominee in the general election. This logic is heavily flawed. In fact, Bernie Sanders is in a better position to win the general election. There are three key reasons why Bernie bests Hillary in terms of general election viability:
First, Sanders is winning on the issues. All data points to looming problems due to America's increasing income inequality. Social Security is in trouble. Our income and wealth are more unbalanced than any time since right before the Great Depression, with income inequality also having hit record highs in 1928. As the nation has clawed its way out of the Great Recession, almost all of the gains have gone to the top one percent of earners. Jobs are back, but they are not necessarily good jobs: America is seeing a surge in part-time employment that offers no salary, health insurance, retirement benefits, or even overtime pay.
These are the most pressing issues in the 2016 election cycle. The prevailing economic situation in the United States is unacceptable, and voters will demand change. Bernie Sanders offers comprehensive liberal change, but Hillary Clinton has remained stubbornly silent. This silence will hurt Clinton in a general election, where the Republican nominee can portray her as hesitant or, worse, a flip-flopper. Clinton's steady-on-the-tiller moderacy will make her easy prey for Republicans who do call for economic changes. In the absence of a liberal plan, moderates and independents may vote in favor of a conservative plan.
Bernie Sanders has demonstrated leadership by making decisions. Hillary Clinton has remained vague, and the GOP will definitely call her on it.
The plans made by Bernie Sanders will force the Republicans to fight on the issues, not rhetoric. Hillary Clinton, who has remained light on the issues, seems to be more interested in running on identity politics, such as women's issues, which actually gives the GOP more opportunities for general election grappling. Republicans will lose on the issues, but have a fighting chance when it comes to identity politics. Hillary Clinton's focus on identity politics would give the GOP an opening to portray the Democrats as running an "us versus them" election. Bernie Sanders is a uniter, focused on broad economic opportunity for all, but Hillary Clinton may be seen as more of a divider.
Secondly, Sanders' relative lack of political scandal in his lengthy resume again forces the GOP to compete on the issues. Clinton, who has courted controversy since 1992, will be bogged down by Whitewater, Benghazi, speaking fee money, and all the drama of Bill Clinton in a general election. Even if Hillary Clinton does unveil good policy proposals, these proposals will likely be buried under the tabloid journalism of past scandals. Sanders, who has avoided such scandals, will force the media and the Republicans to remain focused on the issues. In this arena, he will handily triumph.
Third, Hillary Clinton has a major weakness in regard to allegations of nepotism. In a general election where the Republicans will likely tap Jeb Bush as their nominee, a key Democratic quip would be that the Bush family is attempting to create a modern-day monarchy. Sanders would be able to make good political ground off a prospective Bush monarchy...but Clinton would be vulnerable to the exact same arguments. How can Clinton claim a populist agenda, fighting for the common man, when she represents the return of one family to the Oval Office? In this regard, Clinton's wealth does not help the situation either.
If Clinton is the Democratic nominee, the party will struggle to portray Jeb Bush and the Republicans as representatives of the rich and oblivious to the plights of the working- and middle-class.
Summarily, Bernie Sanders, who is a champion of the issues, can easily win the general election by combating the Republicans where they are weak. Hillary Clinton, who is more ambiguous on policy but outspoken on identity, will struggle against a strong Republican rhetoric machine. Sanders will take the GOP to school, but Clinton will be dragged down into a gutter slugfest. While Clinton will inevitably bring more money to this slugfest, there is a good chance that she will lose the fight. As we have learned from the recent Confederate flag debate, conservatives are good at fights of rhetoric.
Sanders, who will get to fight in an arena where he reigns righteous, will score an easier victory.