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Why Bernie Sanders is Actually the Democrats' Best General Election Candidate

Updated on July 4, 2015

Against Jeb Bush, the Dems Should Run Bernie Sanders

If Jeb Bush is the Republican nominee in the 2016 presidential election, Bernie Sanders would actually be a much better Democratic challenger than Hillary Clinton.
If Jeb Bush is the Republican nominee in the 2016 presidential election, Bernie Sanders would actually be a much better Democratic challenger than Hillary Clinton. | Source

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.


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    • melbel profile image

      Melanie Shebel 2 years ago from Midwest USA

      I have to agree with you. :) Sanders is the dems best chance of winning the general election.

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 2 years ago from Ohio, USA

      @Ginny, Sarah certainly figuratively stabbed her Tea Party supporters in the back. She has a history of cut-and-run behavior.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 2 years ago from Central Florida

      nicomp - maybe you are a fan of Sarah Palin. Watching her endorsement of Donald Tr_mp was like seeing someone give a speech after dropping their notes and reassembling them out-of-order. I find talking to you to be quite similar, so I'm stopping now.

      If you wish to chat further, drop by my hubs. I'm not returning here.

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 2 years ago from Ohio, USA

      "You say, "I so hope Bernie gets the nomination," yet you have a hub where you accuse him of being hateful. I'm confused."

      He wages a campaign based on hate, jealousy, sloth, and ignorance. His tax plan will explode our already bloated federal spending. He promises giveaways he cannot possibly deliver. He wants to expand government while preaching that government is corrupt. His hypocrisy knows no bounds, his followers are ignorant of history, economics, and the US Constitution. Other than that, he seems like a nice guy.

      "Are you a Republican who wants your candidate to run against Bernie Sanders as you think he can be beat? "

      Absolutely. Except the the part about being a Republican.

      " If so, you are mistaken. Already, Bernie is out-polling all the Republican candidates and would win the election. He is more electable than Hi!!ary."

      'Dewey Defeats Truman.'

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 2 years ago from Central Florida

      nicomp - You say, "I so hope Bernie gets the nomination," yet you have a hub where you accuse him of being hateful. I'm confused.

      Are you a Republican who wants your candidate to run against Bernie Sanders as you think he can be beat? If so, you are mistaken. Already, Bernie is out-polling all the Republican candidates and would win the election. He is more electable than Hi!!ary.

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 2 years ago from Ohio, USA

      I so hope Bernie gets the nomination.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 2 years ago from Central Florida

      It's looking more and more as though he has control in Iowa and New Hampshire. That should impress the voters in Nevada and North Carolina and hopefully keep the momentum going.

      Hillary is looking increasingly desperate and so many voters just don't like her. The DNC needs to listen to the people instead of trying to force on us a candidate that we don't want.

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 2 years ago from Ohio, USA

      Jerry Markey :

      "There has been plenty of politicians who spent a lot of campaign money and still lost. "

      However, there has not been a politician at the Presidential level who spent little money and still won.

    • Jerry Markey profile image

      Jerry Markey 2 years ago

      Money is important is a campaign, yet it is not the only thing. There has been plenty of politicians who spent a lot of campaign money and still lost. Besides, if Sanders keeps the momentum going and wins a couple of early primaries/caucuses, the money will come.

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 2 years ago from Ohio, USA

      AskDMarie : you are woefully informed. Social Security is broke because any surplus is automatically loaned to the general fund and spent. The federal government borrows from itself. In the Social Security account is a big pile of IOUs. It's set up to work that way by law.

      There is no surplus and the deficit will dramatically increase as more baby boomers retire.

    • profile image

      AskDMarie 2 years ago

      I think the writer brings out valid points. I do need make something clear. The ONLY trouble Social Security is face is the GOP's desire to privatize it by sending out false information that it is financially in trouble. The current system is good for another 18 years and if the annual cap is lifted it will be good to go forever. We just need to protect it from those who see it as dispensable, which it is not.

      Bernie can and will win despite not using Super PACs. He is outraising even the Republicans, when we omit Super PAC money from the equation. What Bernie lacks in Super PAC money he more than gains in volunteers willing to do whatever it takes to get him elected.

      Bernie is honest, trustworthy, and one of us. He carries his own luggage for crying out loud. He is the only viable candidate that has not accepted bribe money from the oligarchs. He is NOT a puppet for the elites. We cannot say that about any of the other candidates including Hillary. Bernie Sanders is the president we need.

      Folks with the faux trade agreements, TPP and TTIP knocking at our door, we need a president without ties to Wall Street in the White House, otherwise our country will be doomed to be another banana republic. The jobs going offshore this time won't be manufacturing, it will be Americans with their cushy white collar jobs seeing their paycheck hightailing it to Vietnam or some other Asian rim country. Wake Up. Vote for Bernie. #PoliticalRevolution #Sanders2016

    • Wavie profile image

      Wavie 2 years ago

      Bernie is the only candidate who actually stands a chance at saving America from the inevitable disaster it will face if a Republican gets elected. He is a man who wants to help the people and not just himself.

    • profile image

      Iowa Caucus 2 years ago

      I love it when liberals reduce the Republican candidates to "preaching hate and prejudice." It shows a distinct lack of critical thinking and a willingness to gobble down everything spewed by The Daily Show. Heaven forbid a liberal should think for him/her/itself.

    • Sherry Thornburg profile image

      Sherry Thornburg 2 years ago from Kern County California

      The problems with Dems is the same problem with Reps, they both over think their candidates and chose someone before the American people get a chance to decide. I don't like this. Not since Bob Dole's (turn) was announced and not when Hillary was yanked back allowing Obama to have the Dem front seat.

      I wouldn't vote for Hillary no matter what the Reps give me to vote for. She is too tainted with scandal after scandal, and do you really want her husband lurking around the White House halls again??

      I will be watching the candidates and making a choice for myself regardless of who the party's chosen front runners are. And for once in years, I really hope they give me a leader to vote for rather than a party to vote against.

      rant over

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 2 years ago from Ohio, USA

      Bernie cannot possibly win a general election. Half the voters aren't that silly, yet. No one wants higher taxes, which Bernie advocates. His views on labor laws are dated: unions continue to lose power as sentient humans realize that a Big Union is simply another form of Big Business.

      Anyone with common sense understands that the specious concept of income inequality is nothing more than pandering. Bernie might win the Democratic nomination by leveraging the politics of jealousy but that's as far as he can go.

      On the other hand, Barack Hussein Obama was elected twice.

    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 2 years ago from Auburn, WA

      How could our health care, education and tax bills shrink with a socialist administration? As for health and education, those costs would still increase, we would just pay with our tax bill, instead of out of pocket. The middle class would not have a lower tax bill. With what Sanders is proposing, you could not cut any taxes. There are not enough wealthy people to tax. You would eventually run out of them.

      While I think Bernie is an honest guy and refreshingly speaks his mind about what he believes, we have to stop and remember the cost of his programs for a minute.

      Nothing is free...someone is always paying for it. Public education is not free, we pay for it through property taxes, and other levies (we can argue about ROI later). Doctors have to be paid too.

      The defense budget is already shrinking and readiness is becoming an issue. The Army just proposed cutting 40K troops within a few years. The threats are not going away.

      Universial health care will get here eventually. Public education will expand and subsidized university/college educcation will also become a reality. I don't have a problem paying for those things. We just need to stop using the word "free."

      But I will say this, it would be entertaining to have Sanders as our President. I know the debates will be fun (if Hillary is willing to do it).

    • profile image

      eyecolor 2 years ago

      Howard Dean.

      If you don't have the money on your side, you don't have the media. If you don't have the media, you are removed from legitimacy. I was around (barely walking, but around) when Nixon became president. The Bernie Sanders candidate has happened over and over and over and over again. If FDR were running today, he'd be sidelined by Christmas if not already.

      It's a catch-22 for progressive candidates in the USA. We have a true crisis of democracy. Healthy democracy is required for candidates like Bernie Sanders to win.

      Think of it like this: Bernie Sanders is a very well built, well performing car -- better than all the other shiny-on-the-outside, plastic-on-the-inside jalopies out there. The best. That's not the problem here. The road -- excuse me, the toll road -- is the problem.

    • profile image

      Inspired Citizen 2 years ago

      Bernie is going to be outspent by Hillary and her super PACs 10 or 15 to 1. That means, barring some arm twisting, he will not secure the nomination.

      At Revolt Against the Plutocracy, citizensagainstplutocracy dot org, we have a Bernie or Bust pledge people can take. This will put the Democratic primary voters in position to either unite the Party behind Bernie of see a repeat of 2000, a divided liberal/progressive left and the Republicans win the White House back.

      We aim to twist arms, an innovative strategy to compel voters to support Bernie. We are the grassroots revolution he has called for, not part of his campaign. We are the RAP revolution.

    • profile image

      Pat Engness 2 years ago

      At least with Bernie we won't be left having to pick between the lesser of the Evils AGAIN, you know, the two candidates that "they" pick for us to choose between.

    • profile image

      Christopher Burrell 2 years ago

      Bernie Sanders can definitely win and I really hope he does. We are in an increasingly dangerous world, similar to 1914, 1939, etc. To paraphrase a sci-fi show, Bernie, as by far the sanest and most pragmatic candidate, is perhaps our last best hope for peace.

    • profile image

      Kagen Aurencz Zethmayr 2 years ago

      That doesn't just apply to Jeb Bush as the projected matchup - Jeb's a relative lightweight ideologically, but against a more ruthless Republican Hillary doesn't stand a chance of winning on credibility.

    • profile image

      Judy 2 years ago

      Why can't Bernie win the nomination? Obama did. He was a grassroots runner and he said, "Yes we can," and Yes we did. Bernie has the fire and passion that Obama did. He is running circles around the Republican contenders. They just preach hate and prejudice and how they want to destroy everything this country has built over the years. Why wouldn't Bernie win the nominationn? He has my vote and many other Americans who are opening their eyes.