I just got back from the New Hampshire Democratic Convention. Rest assured if nothing else, Bernie Sanders is driving the 2016 Democratic platform. It was evident in Debbie Wasserman Shultz’s address as well as Hillary Clinton’s. Clinton gave an excellent speech, and already the media is saying it was her best performance so far of this campaign. I think that is because this was the largest and most enthusiastic audience she has faced so far. I think that that is probably because it consisted of mostly Sanders supporters. Bernie was a rock star. I did not think that it was possible for me to love him more, but after today I do.
Of course the day started with a word from Wasserman Shultz, the Democratic chair, who was shouted down by O’Malley and Sanders supporters pleading for more debates. “What’s more important, drawing a contrast with Republicans, or arguing about debates?” She questioned. We responded with more shouts. While the Republicans are debating and dominating the media coverage, candidates Like O’Malley, Sanders, Chaffee and Webb, who do not have the name recognition that having been First Lady and Secretary of State has given Clinton, go without the exposure that would introduce them to the voters.
Some would argue that Bernie Sanders has gained enough traction that he, at least, has gotten his name out there. After all, this week alone, he gave a ground-breaking speech at Liberty University, appeared on several talk shows, including The Late Show with Steven Colbert, and he appeared on the cover of Time. And yet, when polled, 50% of South Carolinian Democrats say they do not know enough about Sanders. So, why does Wasserman Shultz insist on limiting the debates? A lot of people think that it is because she and the Democratic establishment favor Clinton as the nominee.
The Sanders supporters in the crowd seemed to be out flanked by the Clinton staff. They had the largest faction outside the stadium. There were more of them handing out rally signs than any other campaign, and when she appeared at the podium they made a lot of noise. She addressed the crowd mid-day, gave a lengthy, rousing speech. She appeared presidential and she put forth many initiatives that she would take up as president. But what occurred to me while she spoke was that I had heard a lot of what she was saying from Bernie Sanders first.
For example, Clinton spoke about her New College Compact, and sure, she rolled that out earlier this summer. But, Bernie Sanders was the first to bring the subject of college affordability to the fore. She also brought up the concept of paid family leave, which of course is one of Sanders Scandinavia-inspired initiatives. And finally she said that as president she would over-turn “Citizens United”, the Supreme Court decision that gave billionaires and corporations unlimited financial influence over our elections. It is doubtful that she would be making this claim if it were not for Sanders prominence in this cycle. It is difficult to believe that someone who is benefitting from that decision by accepting support from large super-pacs would follow through with that promise, however.
After Clinton spoke, the contingent who had rallied outside the venue, passed out rally signs to everyone who would accept one, and cheered enthusiastically while she spoke headed for the door. What was left was a larger contingent who now held up their “Bernie” signs unobstructed. By my estimation about 20% of the crowd had dissipated.
Martin O’Malley was the next candidate to speak. O’Malley, the driving force behind the cry for additional debates, also appeared presidential. It was easy to see how earlier, more frequent debates would bolster his campaign. His best line was, in fact, “Over the last four weeks, we have witnessed not one, but two, unanswered rounds of nationally televised Republican presidential debates led by that racist, anti-immigrant, carnival barker, Donald Trump.”
Between the candidates appearances there were presentations by several local and state figures. One of them was Senator Jeanne Shaheen. At one point she mentioned our anticipation of hearing the remaining candidates to which we responded with chants of “Bernie, Bernie”. Shaheen in turn replied to us that although she loves Bernie and O’Malley “and the other candidates” she, of course, is supporting Hillary Clinton. It has not escaped some of us that she came out pretty early in her endorsement of Clinton. She did it even though several months still remain before the first Democratic debate. And yet we are to believe that the party establishment, of which she is a part, is not trying to influence this primary season in any one particular candidate’s direction.
Finally, the moment that most of us who still remained had been waiting for arrived and Senator Sanders came to the podium to chants of his name. As I listen to the address that by this time I pretty much know by heart, something stirred in deep down inside of me. While Bernie spoke again about taking on the special interest groups, banks and corporations, the “abysmal” voter turnout during the mid-term elections, and the “grotesque” level of income inequality, it occurred to me again that he is the only possible candidate that I can vote for.
Any one of the candidates I saw today could, if elected, tackle the long list of Bernie’s initiatives that the party appears to be adopting, but there are a few things that separate him from all the candidates in either party. Bernie Sanders is not influenced by big money donations. That is important because we can believe him when he tells us what he intends to do. We know that if he is elected, he will not owe favors to anyone which, as Donald Trump so brazenly pointed out in the first Republican debate, is the way things currently work. We also know that Sanders will not take part in negative campaigning.
One may ask, as some already have, “How can Bernie stand up to the Republican machine without negative campaigning?” It is easy, once you get to see how it is done. Despite multiple attempts by the mainstream media to coerce Sanders into saying something negative about Hillary Clinton, Sanders has resisted. The result has been that Clinton, in turn, cannot say anything negative about Sanders. If she does she is doomed and she knows it. It has been up to her surrogates and super-pacs to go on the attack. That is what happened last week when a Clinton affiliated Pac send out an email attacking Sanders. He responded by emailing his supporters pointing out that that attack was a prime example of what we are fighting against. He took the issue straight to the people that the attack was designed to sway. He told us his side, debunked what was said, and asked us for a three dollar donation to help keep our political revolution going. And within 48 hours his campaign raised $1.2 million.
Bernie also demonstrated in his email that big money interests are scared of the revolution that he and we, his supporters, are waging. He says that this attack is evidence of that. Stopping the influence that the powerful, wealthy corporations have on our politics, government and economy has got to be our next number one priority. If we do not stop this influence then our democracy will be destroyed and there will be no avenue for all the other goals to be achieved.