Bernie Sanders is being urged not to run by an editorial in Vermont’s capital’s paper of record. For the incredibly popular Senator from my home state who really has never faced a serious challenge for his seat since he joined the Senate, this might seem to be a strange call from the Barre Montpelier Times Argus. If anything, you would think that they would be supporting our “hometown hero” as he considers pursuing the highest office in the land and the world for a second time.
The editorial is pretty brutal. Here are some of the highlights.
“In this space, we have repeatedly hit the senator on where his loyalties lay: Vermont or a bigger calling?”
“While he makes regular visits ‘home,’ you are more likely to catch Sanders on Colbert, CNN or MSNBC than you are to see him talking to reporters here in Vermont. Evidently, microphones here don’t extend far enough.”
“For us, this comes down to principle over ego. It is one thing to start a revolution, but at a certain point you need to know when to step out of the way and let others carry the water for you.”
“As a candidate, Sanders is exhausting.”
“Asked by Anderson Cooper if he knew about the staff complaints [regarding alleged sexual harassment in his 2016 presidential campaign], he said, ‘I was a little bit busy running around the country trying to make the case.’ That response alone is inexcusable and insulting.”
“And while none of the staff accusations have been levied against Sanders himself, his personality is abrasive. He is known to be difficult to work with. The 77-year-old can be bombastic and prickly. He can be dismissive and rude in his arrogance. You are either with Bernie Sanders or you are not.”
I think you kind of get the picture. The editorial board at the Times Argus has come to the conclusion that Sanders is not the right guy to carry the torch for the progressive movement going forward. In fact, in 2016, the paper even endorsed Hillary Clinton in the primary as opposed to Bernie Sanders, so this is not some newfound dislike of his platform or his ability to lead. They have consistently come to the conclusion that he started the revolution but needs to step aside for a more serious and legitimate candidate. In 2019, the editorial board wrote:
“We fear a Sanders run risks dividing the well-fractured Democratic Party, and could lead to another split in the 2020 presidential vote. There is too much at stake to take that gamble.”
In 2016, the editorial board remarked:
“The politics of this election are scary. We face the prospect that the Republicans will nominate one of the most dangerous and irresponsible demagogic figures ever to run for president. Donald Trump is an outrageous insult to American democracy. The Democrats must be prepared to turn back that threat with the best possible candidate.”
This is the dilemma that the left is going to face going forward into the 2020 campaign season. What type of Democratic Party do they want to have?
They can go for the idealist model. Based on the midterm victories of candidates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, far left-wing enthusiasm is riding high right now. Who cares about practical realities? We want the people that we know and love in office regardless of their political acumen or grasp of any type of sensible policies. In this light, the potential of the 77-year-old Senator who is a self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist very well might be attractive. Fantasies are popular.
The Democratic Party can also go for the win at any cost model. This is the same spirit that led to a Hillary Clinton victory and is implicit in the Times Argus’ endorsement above from 2016. This portion of the party believes Bernie Sanders can’t beat Donald Trump nationwide. Therefore, they need to unite behind someone who has more potential appeal. The paper has not endorsed anyone as of yet this year since the field has not been determined, but it is obvious that is why they got behind Clinton. Donald Trump must be defeated, so idealism goes out the window, inspirational movements are demolished, and we have to do whatever it takes to win even if that means sacrificing our hopes and dreams.
It remains to be seen what course the Democratic Party will pursue going into 2020. The whole host of potential candidates for the White House on the left do cross the ideological spectrum. The party base seems to be moving further to the left, so it is hard to imagine any type of moderate Democrats coming out of that primary still standing.
This, of course, will be great news for Donald Trump or any potential Republican for that matter. In a two-party system where the moderates determined every President, watching the Democrats run further and further left is only going to cause more timid moderates to prefer the status quo. It drove many never-Trump voters to the right last election who disliked even the far from extreme liberal Hillary Clinton so much, and it will continue to do so in 2020 if an ultraliberal candidate emerges from the primary.
It is not usual for me to see a newspaper from my home state as the headline on Yahoo! News, so this particular story stood out to me. However, it does point towards a larger question that the Democratic Party needs to answer sooner rather than later if they want any hope it the next election.