Guest Commentary: Let’s Talk about Bernie Anxiety

by Scott Steward

At the coffee counter of life, sometimes you sit next to someone who looks a bit beat up and haggard and your just not sure you want to go there.  Turns out you do talk and connect about a lot of things. That’s Bernie Sanders for a lot of us who have come to support him recently.

Bernie personifies the struggling working American. His campaign springs from his east coast labor roots.  Here in the west, labor culture has not been as prominent. Organizing, collective bargaining, union halls, small D democracy in the work place haven’t been a large part of the upwardly mobile experience.  It sounds unfamiliar and a bit jarring – like a Brooklyn accent.

Accent aside, is this Bernie anxiety rational?  It is about as rational as our perception that presidents control domestic policy. As Steve Chapman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist, observes “Though Mr. Sanders may champion “Medicare for All” and punitive wealth taxes, he can’t bring them about without persuading Congress…”  The same observation is made by Annie Lowery of the Atlantic.

For me Chapman’s cynicism is premature. Bernie is not punitive. Bernie’s campaign asks you to consider giving up what has become a lethal distance between human circumstances.  His “Not me, Us” campaign looks hard at the half of Americans with vastly inadequate income, housing and healthcare and chooses to empower those people.  Far from a social gift, the campaign and the presidency only work if everyday people take responsibility to make it work.

As Bernie is clearly the front runner, it would be best for everyone to concede that the Democratic party needs to take heed – people want bold progress.  Let’s hope DNC power brokers like Tom Perez (DNC Chair) and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo (currently Bloomberg’s California campaign co-chair) can learn to work constructively with Bernie’s Campaign.  A contested convention would greatly diminish the chances for a Democratic presidential victory and hurt the Democrats generally.

With or without the DNC regulars, America is showing more confidence in Bernie’s campaign.  The Midwest: Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ohio (key States) show Bernie holding with his 2016 voters and mostly gaining ground.  In California Bernie is solidly ahead. Nationally polls show Bernie values are shared with the most voters and that he holds the largest margin to defeat Trump.

John Kass, Chicago Tribune columnist, “The real reason establishment Democrats are in hysterics over Sanders is this: If he wins, he won’t let them control things.” Kass’s article attributes fear of Bernie to the hope for Mike Bloomberg.  Mike Bloomberg’s campaign website, pays Bernie a lot of compliments in that it emulates just about every Bernie policy (Mike’s site has 31 “positions” Bernie’s 32)  – with notable exceptions such as the absence of strong labor laws and workers equity.  Every Democratic candidate is for taxing the wealthy – a Bernie carryover from 2016.

In just 79,826 words the Bernie Campaign describes 32 positions from taxing wealth to medical debt relief to funding historically black colleges. Bernie starts with decriminalizing people at and beyond our borders, Medicare for All and the Green New Deal (Bernie’s GND plan is 14,000 words – fair warning).  The scale of his Green New Deal and his unapologetic regulatory agenda are signature Bernie campaign positions , but most of Bernie’s campaign positions are similar to those of other Democratic contenders.

Bernie Sanders campaign takes Americans as they are and most of them are proud and in pain.  Bernie wants to give opportunity to all Americans to participate in their future.  If this future is going to be equitable and just it’s going to require redistribution of economic fortunes.  We are going to come to appreciate that a wealth tax and regular employee negotiations is what shared prosperity looks like.

“Not me, Us” asks those of us in suburban economic stability to recognize that we’ve all left America when we don’t work to help all of America.  Not doing so has gone badly.  Most voters know the old Democratic Party line and they won’t settle for less than Bernie.  So let us take a seat at America’s counter with Bernie and demonstrate that the party can dig in and build a system of shared prosperity for all of us.

Scott Steward is a longtime Davis resident and activist

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. Ron Glick

    You missed the reason for my Bernie anxiety, that he will lose the middle, and, it will be like the idealism of McGovern against the corrupt Nixon all over again.

    You talk about Sanders as the front runner in California but that might be because California moved up its primary to an early date where the field hasn’t narrowed. A plurality in a 10 person race may not be a compelling win.

    Also California isn’t where the election will be won or lost. The Democratic nominee will likely win California but what about in the swing states? Iowa, North Carolina, Nevada, Colorado, Virginia, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Arizona are the states where this election will be won or lost. How does Bernie win in those places?

    Trump will red bait Bernie from the day he wins the nomination and it will work in the minds of many. I have had several people that don’t like Trump tell me that they would vote for any Democrat but Bernie. Its sad, its anecdotal and its true.

    Your attempt at providing a Bernie anxiety balm focuses on policy but my anxiety about Bernie isn’t about policy its about electability.

      1. Ron Glick

        Depends on how you define the middle. Call them what you will, Boomers or whatever, but there are people out there who tell me they won’t vote for Bernie. They probably won’t vote for Trump but they will likely stay home dooming the Senate to Moscow Mitch as well.

        1. David Greenwald

          The key will be if Sanders theory of the electorate is correct and he can bring people who do not normally participate to vote and they are in sufficient number to compensate for the loss of those in the middle.

        2. Bill Marshall

          My theory is come November, folk will still come out to vote, but will leave the “president” blank, or cast a ‘protest vote’ (as I did in 2016)…

          I’ll do so again if the demos’ nominee is Sanders or Warren… and it won’t matter… neither Sanders nor Warren have a chance of winning enough states to prevail in the Electoral College…


  2. Scott Ragsdale

    There were several references to political analysis that shows Bernie is being reasonably well received in those key mid-west states.  The “anybody but Bernie” mindset could look at the reality that he would be bringing a good deal of positive momentum for younger people to take the reins – and we need that.  Also the article attempts to show people who are willing to read about how his campaign is being received by the Bernie faithful and the Bernie begrudging supporters – there is a coalition.  Hopefully the DNC establishment brings down the “anti-burnie” firewall and Bernie’s camp is able to step away from a defensive posture to address the whole electorate in a positive way.   We can’t run a campaign or a country in response to anything Trump does.  I’d hope that those who have been convinced that  rhetoric outweighs substance come around.

    1. Mark West

      How effective will Bernie be in office with the Senate remaining in the control of the Republican party? What part of his agenda will he be able to implement?

        1. Mark West

          I would say that the current administration has done quite well getting its agenda implemented, especially with the effort to make the courts more conservative. The repercussions will be felt for generations.

          For the most part, Bernie has been an ineffective Senator in terms of getting his ideas enacted into law. He will be even less so as President.

        2. Don Shor

          How effective has anyone been in office over the last 20 years?


          It would be easy to list several major accomplishments of the Obama administration. It’s very curious to me that the left wing of today’s Democratic party seems to think nothing happened then. The Affordable Care Act alone was a huge accomplishment, achieved at considerable political cost.

        3. Mark West

          “Except almost none of his success is legislative.”

          The results with the courts are entirely ‘legislative’ as they required the direct support of the Senate Majority Leader. Trump doesn’t need to pass new legislation if he is able to get the Courts to invalidate the laws that he and his supporters don’t like.

          Do you believe Bernie will get the same support from McConnell? I have not seen a single prediction that having Bernie at the top of the ticket will have a positive impact on the Democratic numbers in Congress. Most that I have seen say just the opposite.

        4. Bill Marshall

          “effective” is a subjective term… there are positive effects, and negative effects… on the latter side, I opine that Mr Trump has been highly effective…

          1. David Greenwald

            My comment was: “Except almost none of his success is legislative.”

            That’s not a subjective assessment. How many pieces of legislation has he actually signed? I think that number is historically low.

  3. Ron Glick

    “The key will be if Sanders theory of the electorate is correct and he can bring people who do not normally participate to vote and they are in sufficient number to compensate for the loss of those in the middle.”
    Where is the evidence for that, not in Iowa where turnout was lower than 4 years ago. If that were true where is the surge in turn out?


  4. Eric Gelber

    Most voters know the old Democratic Party line and they won’t settle for less than Bernie.

    Really? What is the basis for asserting that > 50% of voters won’t settle for less than Bernie? (And, of course, “less than” implies that any other candidate would be inferior, which does not seem to be the judgement of a majority of Democratic voters who, thus far, have supported other candidates.)

  5. Bill Marshall

    It may be time to start talking about “tickets”…

    A Bloomberg/Klobuchar, or a Buttigieg/Klobuchar ticket might get moderates, and some who have been “on the sidelines” voting… and might win in November… despite some residual biases…

    A Sanders/Warren ticket would result in a day, next January, when Trump is sworn in for the second time… “to record crowds” (according to future tweet)…

    Copying someone else, “trust me on this”…

  6. Ron Oertel

    It’s not “Bernie anxiety”.

    It’s “Democrat anxiety”.

    I suspect Trump will win regardless of which Democratic candidate is selected.  Unless the economy crashes before the election.

    Then again, my predictions (along with everyone else’s) are “0 for 1”, regarding Trump (so far).

    Of the current “crop of candidates”, no one is better-positioned than Hillary Clinton was. I never understood the criticism of her, except that she didn’t have a “politician’s personality”.

    And incumbents are more difficult to dislodge, when the economy is doing well.

    If I’m not mistaken, recent polling shows that support for Trump is as high as it ever was.

    1. Bill Marshall

      we are doomed to violent bloody revolution.

      Am thinking hyperbole, and the US has only had two, and one was before the US was the US… but, would not surprise me is there will be two “booths”… like there was in 1864-5… one in November 1864, the other in April, 1865…

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