5,500 Coloradans packed in the Hamilton Gymnasium at the University of Denver Saturday June 20th to cheer on Bernie Sanders at a campaign stop. His message of solidarity with the squeezed middle class of America and his challenge to the “billionaire class” has resonated deeply here in Colorado. As a long time Bernie Sanders fan, I am electrified by how he has taken his message across the country and seeing it hit a nerve somewhere deep within the US. Bernie has climbed in the polls rapidly and is closing in on Hillary Clinton in the polls in some states like New Hampshire, where he is polling at 31% to Hillary Clinton’s 41%. He has shown himself to be a force to be reckoned with, and he has stayed on message. He has given hope to people deeply disillusioned with politics in America and to those who are discouraged by the domination of political dynasty families such as the Clintons and Bushes.
Do I think he can win the Democratic Nomination? Well, no, I don’t. I don’t think that’s in the realm of the possible even though I am an ardent admirer of the longest serving Independent in Congress. The Democratic nominee must be able to fundraise and get the bulk of the support of the Democratic party. I’d be shocked if this self-styled “socialist” would be able to do that in 2015 and 2016. A poll released today said that less than half of Americans would vote for a presidential candidate who is a socialist.
I think this is why Bernie Sanders status as a presidential candidate is self-limiting. He can influence the debates and the discourse and push Hillary Clinton to the left, but I don’t think he has much of a chance at the Democratic nomination for president, sadly. I think much of America is too uncomfortable with the socialist designation, and fundraising on the scale needed to be a real contender will be out of reach for Sanders. Hillary Clinton on the other hand, is a super-star at fundraising and she is the establishment favorite. While she may be taking a page out of the Elizabeth Warren/Bernie Sanders playbook in her rhetoric lately, she still is a friend of Wall Street and she has their backing, financial and otherwise. She is a juggernaut of epic proportions and she has a lifetime worth of political capital and name recognition. Sanders may have his finger on the pulse of American populist rhetoric, Hillary has the fundraising and the plausibility of winning to boost her through the campaign season and the primaries. Like FiveThirtyEight blog says, don’t be surprised if Hillary Clinton loses a few contests to Bernie Sanders, but do be surprised if she loses the Democratic nomination.
It’s perhaps a sad commentary on our political process that Bernie Sanders can draw such passionate crowds and really harness the energy in the middle class of the country, but he cannot win. That is a discussion we should have in this country. As an independent, I support Bernie Sanders very much. His message could not be more aligned with my beliefs. But is he a WINNER? We should not put all our eggs in one basket with Bernie, if we want a liberal to win in 2016. That’s why I think independents and progressives, Democrats and independents alike, should also throw their support behind Hillary Clinton. I say support Bernie Sanders. Go to his rallies and campaign stops. And then vote for Hillary in the caucuses and primaries, and then vote for her again in November 2016. Bernie can influence Hillary and already has pushed her to the left. His influence will be broader than just a Democratic nomination and his influence can be felt more in this way than any other way.