18 November 2015

Is Sanders selling out?

Another begging letter from Senator Sanders came in today, but he isn't begging for himself this time. Instead, the Vermont independent wants us to donate to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. As others have noted, the Democracy has a shot at retaking the Senate next year if only because far more Republican than Democratic seats are being contested in 2016. If the election were held today, I dare say that Democrats might get wiped out entirely because of the hysteria over the Syrian refugees -- and no one should question that there is hysteria amid the reasonable skepticism -- but conditions may be more favorable next November. Sanders tells us the same things President Obama or former Senator Clinton might tell us, starting with the commonplace that Republicans are no damn good. That just about sums up his argument, and that's kind of funny if you think about it, since the "Republicans are evil" argument is a favorite of those in the Democratic party who'd like to see Sanders abandon his campaign for the presidential nomination. It's the favorite argument for all those who've been saying for the past three or seven that we should do our duty in 11/16 and vote for Hillary Clinton. Another argument they favor is that anything that weakens Clinton, like an aggressive challenge during the primaries, will only improve the Republicans' chances. I don't mean to suggest that Sanders shouldn't say that Republicans are evil, or that they "just don't care" about what's happening to the nation and world, or that they want to "turn back the clock" to a less egalitarian time. It just occurs to me that there's something missing to Sanders's argument, the very something that justifies Sanders's own challenge to Clinton.

The message of the Sanders campaign is that it's not enough to have a Democratic candidate, and that it matters what kind of Democrat gets nominated -- that the likes of Clinton are part of the problem, and a specific problem with the Democratic party. Does he apply the same analysis to the Senate? You can't tell from this begging letter. He cites three actual or possible candidates by name, including former Sen. Feingold of Wisconsin and campaign-finance reform fame, but the letter itself is an implicit endorsement of every 2016 Democratic senatorial candidate, many of whom, obviously, are yet to be determined. How many Senate Democrats actually support Sanders for the presidential nomination? The answer, according to Wikipedia, is none, while 38 out of 44 have endorsed Clinton. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, whom Sanders endorses in the begging letter for the retiring Sen. Reid's Nevada seat, has also endorsed Clinton. Can Sanders depend on these people to support his particular agenda in the unlikely event of his election as President? Recall that his position within the party is tenuous. He seeks the presidential nomination while remaining an independent Senator who chooses (or is allowed to) caucus with the Democrats. Perhaps composing a begging letter for Democratic candidates is one of the prices he pays for that privilege. Sanders supporters should read the letter with care, since it carries no promise whatsoever that the campaigns Sanders asks them to subsidize will produce Senators in his mold. Perhaps he assumes that they'll all have to endorse them if he beats Clinton in the primaries, and probably they would endorse him. But should he get elected, all bets will be off. And for that reason, what Sanders is touting now is a bad bet. Perhaps he values his caucus privileges too much to call for candidates more likely to support him all the way, but the people who plan to vote for him in the primaries should also plan to vote for such candidates, whether he says so or not.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Republicans are just no damned good."
I agree. But then, Democrats are just no damned good either. 4 years of Clinton will be 4 more years of status quo at best. At worst, 4 more years of repugnican obstructionism. Until Americans are willing to put aside their addictions, the nation will continue to decline.