By Bob Gaydos
Thank god for Bernie Sanders.
You can make that an uppercase God if you prefer. Or keep it lowercase. You can take that sentiment ecumenically, evangelically, spiritually, atheistically, or any manner of religiously. But know this, wherever you place your faith, you must take that sentiment seriously.
Bernie Sanders is the saving grace in what has to be the most embarrassing, humiliating, disheartening and frightening presidential campaign, possibly in our nation’s history.
Quite simply, Sanders is the only candidate in either party who is genuine. When he speaks, I believe him. Millions believe him, because he has no hidden agenda, he is beholden to no one, he has a long history of caring and working for people to whom life has not been kind and for challenging those who have always wanted more than their fair share. A mensch.
In comparison, the Republican campaign has featured a collection of liars, misfits, religious zealots, bigots, charlatans, incompetents and people who cannot spell, much less demonstrate, compassion. It has culminated in Donald Trump, one of the most dangerous, embarrassing figures to emerge in American politics. He is a fascist, racist, misogynist, bully, lawyer, buffoon, and con man. A reality TV show star with no idea how government works, but plenty of experience in driving businesses into bankruptcy. He is probably a certifiable narcissist. And apparently, there is no one in his life who has the guts to say any of this to his face.
His candidacy has allowed all the ugly elements in American society, many of whom reside in the Republican Party, to feel free to voice their hate publicly, to assault and threaten those they fear or those who disagree with them, and, incredibly, to believe that their candidate has any respect for them and their needs. Trump, who makes it up as he goes along, has admitted his supporters come from the least-informed element of society. His campaign, in fact, represents the culmination of decades of cynical posturing by and catering to this element, and now appears to be the demise of, the Republican Party as a responsible political party. It is long overdue.
Not one of the Republican candidates — still standing or fallen by the wayside — can hold a candle to Sanders and not one of them deserves a vote to be president of the United States of America. They are, in toto, a disgrace.
However, the real challenge to Sanders comes not from the Republicans, but from within his own party. The Democratic establishment long ago decided that Hillary Clinton should be its candidate for president this time and has done everything within its power to try to make that happen. This includes setting up a ridiculously limited and unattainable schedule of debates and lining up hundreds of superdelegates to announce their support for her even before a primary was held. This was undoubtedly done to try to overcome Clinton’s well-known handicaps: 1) The fact that she is a lousy campaigner; 2) The reality that a lot of people don’t trust her; and 3) The Clinton history of being very cozy with the people responsible for nearly ruining the nation’s economy.
Forget that, her supporters say. She gets things done. What it is she’s gotten done is never mentioned.
Still, the fact is she leads Sanders in delegates won in the primaries so far and, even with her faults, she is still head and shoulders above any of the Republicans in the race. This means, however much I respect and prefer Sanders as a presidential candidate, if Clinton is the Democratic Party nominee, I personally have to vote for her against any Republican. It also means I cannot write in a vote for Sanders or anyone else as a protest, because I honestly fear that taking votes away from a Democratic candidate could lead to something as disastrous as a Trump presidency or a Ted Cruz presidency or anyone-else-the-Republican-Party-settles-on presidency. I fear what will happen to this country if a Republican wins the presidency this year and I think the only way to get that message across to a party that has been in denial for decades is to thoroughly defeat it in November. Then let it figure out where to go from there.
It’s not a total sellout. Mitigating my vote for Clinton would be the fact that she actually knows how government works and, as president, she would have a working, viable, responsible political party behind her, a party still on working terms with compassion and science and equality and still dedicated to governing, not merely winning. And that party would have a Bernie Sanders and an Elizabeth Warren and plenty of others in Congress reminding a President Clinton of the promises she made during her campaign to convince all those young, disaffected voters that she could deliver what Bernie Sanders was promising.
Thankfully, though, this campaign is far from over. There are many primaries in northern and western and big states where Sanders has considerable support and could easily win enough delegates to capture the nomination. Bill Clinton did it. Barack Obama did it. Bernie Sanders can do it.
But he’s got another major challenge to overcome in addition to that from within his own party. That is the disrespect shown him by much of the major news media. Despite the tens of thousands who have attended his rallies and donated to his no-Pacs campaign, many news organizations have treated him as an afterthought and a Clinton campaign for president as a foregone conclusion.
That same media also gave Trump free rein to spew his vile hatred and nonsense for months before finally wising up to him. (And it’s not just Fox News that was guilty of this.) The media will have some soul-searching to do after this campaign as well.
So, I look forward to Sanders winning some big states (Hello, California!). And I expect Trump to continue to behave as Frank Bruni put it in the New York Times recently — like an addict who only wants more and more and more attention and will do or say anything to get it. That was my impression of Trump a while back, but Bruni beat me to it in putting it in writing. I agree wholeheartedly with him.
Indeed, I think of Trump as the guy sitting next to you in a bar who turns to you and says, “Hold my beer. Watch this.” He then proceeds to wreck the joint and bloody every person in the place. He exits with a triumphant grin, claiming it was the other guy’s fault.
Clinton, of course, wouldn’t be caught dead in a bar, much less drinking beer. She would be found sipping wine or martinis in an Upper East Side penthouse with some Wall Street types who are funding her campaign. They’re talking about how to get the vote of the common folk.
Sanders? He walks into a bar and says, “Hey, let me buy you a beer. Let’s sit down. What can I do for you?”
If I were a drinking man, that’s the guy I would want in the White House.