Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Daunting Task Sanders Has Faced

The situtation is dire. Recently, it has has gotten better, one candidate (accurately) maintains.

Some people believe the Bernie Sanders campaign, after narrow defeats in the Iowa and Nevada caucuses and an impending substantial defeat in the South Carolina primary, is tanking. Among the reasons noted, one virtually ignored is suggested in the video referred here by a Sanders' upstate New York supporter.

As you can see, Senator Sanders appears with former NAACP head and Sanders surrogate Ben Jealous before a group of adult blacks at a church supper in South Carolina, where he is met with less enthusiasm than a major presidential candidate usually is. After brief remarks drawing upon Martin Luther King's concern about "racism, militarism, and greed," Jealous introduces the Senator, who then criticizes a criminal justice system with a disturbing and disproportionate number of black and Latino inmates.

Sanders then launches into his usual indictment of the economic system.  There is, however, a slightly different emphasis here, one unavoidable when running in a state nearly half of whose Democratic primary voters are black. Sanders maintains "we have an economy today which, thankfully, is a lot better than it was seven years ago, thanks to President Obama."

Following is applause, nearly inevitable speaking to a group of blacks, but also quite likely if speaking to virtually any predominantly Democratic group.   Here is a Democratic president whom congressional Republicans long ago agreed to oppose (even to blocking his constitutionally-mandated responsiblity of nominating someone for a Supreme Court vacancy) being commended for turning an economy around.  Any way it's phrased, it's an applause line.

Do you notice the problem here?  Former US Senator Hillary Clinton is the wife of "the first black President"-  wildly popular among Democrats generally- and served as Secretary of State under the first black President.  (She is typically, by both the media and Sanders, referred to as "Secretary Clinton," reinforcing the understanding she is Obama's choice.) She is, more so than eight years ago, the embodiment of the Democratic establishment. Not only has HRC now served in a Democratic Administration, she is facing a candidate more at odds with that establishment than (notwithstanding clever positioning) Barack Obama ever was.

In the last debate, Clinton's most damning (among Democratic voters) charge against Sanders was " this is not the first time that he has criticized President Obama. In the past he has called him weak. He has called him a disappointment.'

Before that, moreover, Clinton had commended President Obama for having "set a great example" on race relations and lauded the "great effort made by the Obama administration and others to really send a clear message" to refugees from Central and South America. She linked herself at every opportunity to the President. She is "a staunch supporter" of the Affordable Care Act, contending "before it was called Obamacare, it was called Hillarycare." She argued both she and President Obama would "take on any vested interested, whether it's Wall Street, or drug companies, or insurance companies, or frankly, the gun lobby to stand up to do what's best for the American people."   (We're still waiting, but that's beside the point.)

Obviously, Clinton is running to be Obama's successor and stressing that she will continue the legacy of a President who is extremely popular among Democrats. Sanders, on the contrary, has been saying, as he must: the situation is critical but improving. The Vermont senator understands that even after the last seven years of a Democratic presidency, (growing) income inequality, control of the electoral process by corporate interests, and racial inequities in the criminal justice system persist.

Good luck selling that to a Democratic electorate in the primary campaign. Assuming she is nominated, Mrs. Clinton will face the challenge, not insurmountable, of balancing her everything is beautiful in its own way under President Obama theme with the sour, somewhat fearful, and anti-Establishment mood among voters nationwide.  However,she will have gotten betond the nominating stage, far easier than for a candidate who has to argue that the President has put us on the right track while we're headed down the wrong track in the long run.

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