Home 2016 elections Why Bernie Should Draw Right-Wing Fire Now

Why Bernie Should Draw Right-Wing Fire Now


I agree with those who say that Democrats choosing between Bernie and Hillary should give the matter of electability top priority. That is particularly true with Donald Trump the likely GOP nominee (and hardly less true if it were to be Ted Cruz.)

Given the delegate math, Bernie would apparently need for the superdelegates to conclude – by the time the convention rolls around – that it is he, not Hillary, who is the best bet for keeping Donald Trump away from the Oval Office and the nuclear football.

How can Bernie make a persuasive case that he is the more electable candidate?

“Momentum” is not going to suffice. Nor is the intensity of the enthusiasm of his supporters, which has led to so many lopsided Sanders victories in the states that hold caucuses instead of primaries. The general election is an even broader electorate than the primaries, and lukewarm votes count as much as those cast passionately.

But there is a case that can be made, and made before the Democrats convene in July.

I have previously argued that Bernie should shift the focus of his campaign onto attacking Trump and the Republicans generally. This strategy, in addition to fostering greater Democratic unity for the fall (regardless of who the nominee is), would enable Bernie “to prove himself the ideal political warrior to stand up to Trump and bring him down.”

But there’s another important reason why Bernie should work now to provoke fights with Trump and the right-wing.

To make the case for his superior electability, Bernie and his supporters point to polls showing him beating all the Republicans by larger margins than Hillary does. But whenever anyone makes that argument, I have observed, there comes the entirely plausible counterargument:  the reason the national polls favor Bernie now is because he has never had to withstand the kinds of attacks from the right that Hillary has endured for years.

If Bernie got the nomination, this argument goes, the right-wing attacks on Bernie would be unleashed and down would go his numbers in the polls.  Hillary’s numbers, by contrast, already show the impact of decades of right-wing smears. So she is the safer bet.

If the question of how vulnerable Bernie is to right-wing attacks is still hanging out there, unanswered, at the time of the Democratic convention, how likely is it that the risk-averse superdelegates will choose to go with Bernie?

That’s why Bernie should do all he can to remove such uncertainties before the convention. This he can do by drawing fire from the right, now.

He has nearly four months between now and the convention to get under the skin of Trump and all the other powers on the right and provoke them to attack him in their predictably low-blow ways. (Already, in the context of his efforts to blame Sanders supporters for disturbances at a campaign rally, Trump referred to Bernie as “our communist friend.”)

If Bernie can draw such fire from the right-wing now, and if he can demonstrate before the convention that he can withstand such assaults and even turn them to his advantage — maintaining or even boosting his standing in those national match-up polls — he can help clear the way for superdelegates to switch their support to him.

So Bernie has two good reasons for going after Trump and the GOP now, ahead of the convention. If he can best them in rhetorical combat now, he can show the delegates his greater strength — with the blows he lands (on Trump, or whomever) — as a standard bearer for the general election. And if he can demonstrate skill in parrying their attacks on him, he can reduce his apparent vulnerability for the fall contest.

  • Why would the right wing open fire on Bernie? So far, they have focused on Hillary because they think she: a) will be the Dem nominee; b) apparently see her as the strongest Dem nominee. I’m confident that if the Republicans really saw Bernie as a threat, they’d have been pounding him relentlessly. But they don’t, apparently (rightly or wrongly) and they haven’t been. So why would they start now?

    • Andy Schmookler

      Why would they start now, you ask? If Bernie’s attacks on them were such that they felt compelled to respond. Do you think it would be impossible for Bernie to deliver such attacks?

      I believe it would not be impossible. (And Trump, in particular, seems especially unable to refuse a challenge, if it gets under his skin.)

      And what if you’re right, and it did prove impossible? then Bernie would have an opportunity to pound them powerfully (yet also honestly and appropriately) — and presumably in terms that could command media attention — and have those attacks sit there in the public sphere unanswered.

      That would be of value in itself– of value for Bernie’s standing, but of value for the Democrats regardless of who is the nominee.

      • “If Bernie’s attacks on them were such that they felt compelled to respond. Do you think it would be impossible for Bernie to deliver such attacks?”

        1) Still not clear why Republicans would be “compelled to respond.”
        2) Of course, Bernie can and SHOULD deliver strong attacks on these @#$@#ers.

      • Quizzical

        After thinking this over, what Bernie is saying is directly contrary to everything the Republicans have been saying for the last 40 years. Bernie wants to raise taxes on the .1 %, but the Republicans want to cut taxes for the “job creators.” Bernie wants Medicare for all, but the Republicans are against socialized medicine and want to repeal Obamacare. Bernie wants to overrule Citizens United, and the Republicans want another Scalia on the Supreme Court to prevent that. The list goes on.

        What else would he have to do to draw fire from Republicans? I can’t see what, other than making personal attacks. I have to assume that the Republicans are for the most part holding fire because they don’t want to damage Bernie when it would benefit Hillary, and they don’t want to further energize Bernie’s supporters. Meanwhile, they are quietly labeling Bernie a Marxist, e.g. See the Mark Levin podcast above.

        • Andy Schmookler

          Quizzical, you say, ” Bernie is saying is directly contrary to everything the Republicans have been saying for the last 40 years… What else would he have to do to draw fire from Republicans? I can’t see what, other than making personal attacks.”

          Saying things contrary to the Republicans is surely insufficient. But it depends what you mean by “personal attacks.” Personal attacks usually mean attacking people in personal ways: “Little Marco,” :”low energy,” “sniveling coward.”

          But how about personally targeted attacks? Where Bernie speaks directly to specific Republicans, preferably by name. To illustrate:

          Consider the difference between “the Republicans have been suppressing the vote, and that is contrary to our American ideals.” And then this, which is a quote from what Bernie said Saturday evening in Madison: “I say to Governor Walker and all of the other cowardly Republican
          governors, if you cannot participate in a free and fair election where
          everybody votes, get out of politics–get another job!”

          Walker isn’t likely to respond, because he’s not in the contest. But a targeted attack could be, for example:

          “Mr. Trump. You claim that you’re trying to help the little guy get a fair deal. But then you propose a tax plan that will give billionaires like you a yuge tax break, and on the back of working families. I dare you to explain that to the people who are looking to you to improve their lives.”

          “Senator Cruz, you say such and such about climate change. How can you justify that in view of …. What kind of justification can there be for sacrificing our children and grandchildren for the sake of your rich oil-company backers?”

          Challenge, Dare. Critique. Prod. Provoke. And always speak the truth about what they are up to, exposing their lies.

  • Quizzical

    Mark Levin periodically attacks Bernie. Here is a sample.

  • Quizzical

    Kos threw some cold water on the argument that pledged super delegates should switch to Bernie

    • S1AMER

      Super delegates are mostly elected national, state, and local officials and some party officials with two aims: (1) They want the person at the top of the ticket who will be best for electing Democrats all the way down the ticket. (2) They also want someone at the top of the ticket who has worked hard to raise money and support for state and local parties and candidates.

      In other words: (1) + (2) = Hillary Clinton.

      • Andy Schmookler

        The superdelegates are probably inclined to back Hillary because, unlike Bernie, she and her husband have long been densely interwoven with the Democratic Party structure. But as for whether she would be better for your numbers 1 and 2, that is not so certain.

        How good was Bill Clinton at taking care of the down-ticket Democrats? My impression was that his triangulations were not always useful for building the power of the Party at all levels.

  • S1AMER

    Instead of using the word “electability,” I’d use the phrase “save the country.”

  • kathleen

    Yeah, and besides that he would lay off Hillary, thus enabling her to win the rest of the primaries. Wonderful strategy!