Criticism of the Sanders Campaign

The 2nd Democratic debate last night revealed some interesting things about the Democratic Party. Each candidate had their own moment, for Sanders it was the quote “I’m not that much of a socialist compared to Eisenhower“, and for O’Malley it was calling Trump an “Immigrant-Bashing carnival barker” and oddly enough for Clinton, it was using 9/11 to justify taking corporate donations. But it was about all that was expected.

Many of the  internet polls after the debate showed Sanders to have won the debate by at least 70%-90%, but many still proclaim for the average viewer that Clinton won the debate. This comes at an unfortunate time, the latest poll shows that in the early voting state of New Hampshire Clinton leads by 21 points, just last months Sanders was leading. The results are similar in Iowa, while Sanders and Clinton were tied at one point, Clinton now leads by over 18 points.

Although the trends are likely to change, it is evident that the Sanders momentum is slowing down. During the scandals with Clinton concerning her email usage, Sanders appealed to many as the honest alternative, but with Biden announcing he isn’t running and Clinton giving an impressive rebuttal during the Benghazi hearing, it appears Clinton is back on track. Perhaps people have restored faith in her. I find this interesting due to a CBS poll that found in the category of honesty, people view Sanders ahead of Clinton by 28 points and in the area of shared value by 2 points. Clinton leads only in the area of leadership. Yet, even Sanders is seemingly more favored by voters, the same poll says Clinton won the debate over Sanders by 23 points.

Bernie Sanders during the 2nd Democratic debate.
Bernie Sanders during the 2nd Democratic debate.

I fear that if the same mistakes in the Sanders campaign continue, any hope of victory will be lost. I understand that when the actual vote comes to, people could change their mind, but that’s only a maybe. The first problem with the campaign is that it is purely economic. Sander’s forte comes with talking about income inequality and the issues that come as a result. But even in the wake of the Paris attacks, Sanders still focused on economics. The #1 issue last night according to twitter was foreign policy, and still with the opening statements supposed to be their views about the attack, Sanders quickly said some remarks and switched to his economic views. I am not the only one that found this awkward.

If Sanders continues to show his weakness in terms of foreign policy, which happens to be Clinton’s strength, it will have serious repercussions on the campaign. I’m not saying that he has to switch his focus of the campaign, quite the contrary, but he simply needs to show he has an apt understanding of it.

The second issue is his unwillingness to go after Clinton. There were moments when Sanders absolutely had the chance to knock her out of the park, yet he didn’t. The first comes to mind when the discussion was about campaign donations. Sander’s remarks were indirectly towards Clinton taking corporate donations. If he had just pressed further he could have put her into a tight spot. Instead he insinuated the message was towards her.

One of the goals is to change the way people view Clinton, and there were many chances last night. If Sanders had emphasized his taking donations only from small contributors and persecuted Clinton for her corporate money, that would have been the big moment of the debate. But he yet it slide. I understand it is part of Sander’s integrity to not say anything bad about his opponent, and I’m not saying he should run negative campaign adds, but simply be more aggressive during the debates. I honestly believe people are tired of establishment politics, and despite Clinton trying to repaint herself as some progressive leader, Sanders needs to shatter the image of her. It would be so easy, yet he doesn’t. Another example of this was during the live tweet question that came for Clinton, the where she explained why she took corporate money and used 9/11 as a justification. Now, already people are fairly upset over that, but if Sanders had called her out that would have won him the debate. But he let it slide.

I believe many people don’t trust Clinton, and it will probably take another scandal or controversy to bring her down. All it takes is for one more and I predict that will be the end of her. Sanders has a good message but the strategies of spreading that message need to be changed a little bit. Hopefully within the next while before the Iowa and New Hampshire votes the excitement for Sanders will pick up more. If he does manage to win the early election states then it will finalize to the whole nation that Sanders is an electable candidate.

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21 thoughts on “Criticism of the Sanders Campaign

  1. When asked about the whole ISIS issue he blamed it on climate change, which makes him sound like he has no clue about national security and foreign policy matters. Climate change is a problem, but there is no connection to terrorist parasites who chop off the heads of Christians. He’s a nice, clean guy but he hasn’t got the ability to be a President when he says things like that.

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  2. Bernie blew the last question of the night when he was asked to talk about a difficult time in his life, political or otherwise, and he began to ramble about all that he had done concerning the VA Hospital mess. I like Bernie Sanders, I agree whole-heartedly with his economic policies concerns BUT he is not as focused as he needs to be, and you are right, he had several opportunities to go after Hillary Clinton but chose not to, and he looked weak because of that, not gentlemanly, which would have been a preferable impression instead of appearing weak. I would love to have a woman President but not Hillary Clinton. I do not trust her, I do believe that she kowtows to too many corporate interests, and I also believe that she would willingly throw anybody under the bus instead of taking complete and total responsibility for any bad decisions she makes. Bernie is the only Democrat left who could take her on but he is blowing too many opportunities to do so. I was very disappointed with his performance last night.

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  3. Let’s see how many disadvantages to Bernie Sanders from a Historical perspective (findings are from characteristics of presidents including Obama and prior to 2012). The public typically wants a male of European descent, middle aged (McCain was the oldest first-time nominee in 2008, of course now broken by Bernie), in addition to being wealthy (Bernie has a net worth of $700,000 one of the lowest of all candidates running), protestant christian (Bernie Sanders is a Jew), Education (Bernie attended Brooklyn College (while a good school, it’s not presidential quality) and University of Chicago), Good Health, Attractiveness (Bernie is 5’8 and while that’s average, it’s not necessary attractive.), Marriage, HAS LEADERSHIP OR MILITARY SKILLS (While being a Senator is great leadership, Hillary has been a First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State), Is from an Important Electoral State (Vermont is a “forgotten” state, I have never even met anyone from Vermont. Sometimes I forget it’s on the map), Debates well (Bernie is the worst debater for Democrats). That along with other factors is why I believe he will not be the democratic nominee nor president. He’s not president material, just a dreamer out of his league.

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  4. As a political scientist who has co-authored a journalist article on political efficacy, I applaud your astute observations. The Sanders campaign would be well served by following your advice. I hope it does. Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. As someone who has run campaigns, here’s a piece of wisdom I learned – when you run against an incumbent (or against a candidate people expects will win the primary) you have to shift the attention to your message and get them to respond to you. No one is responding to Sanders. He’s off in la-la land being nice and talking policy but obviously not aware of the situation that he jumped into a political campaign, not a Senate debate.

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  6. One of the things that has stuck out to me during this election season is just how important personality and appearance are to American presidential elections, independent of policy and content. Just another reason to not view presidential races as a primary means of socio-economic change and political engagement, in my opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I became a follower of Bernie Sanders from his Senate office. Every so often I would receive a statement, policy position and other stuff. That went on for three or four years. But I was expecting Bernie to be honest, personally intellectually honest, like George Orwell was honest about the Left. Bernie was not. I unsubscribed.
    Expect nothing from Bernie other than who he is: a politician of average abilities.

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  8. “The second issue is his unwillingness to go after Clinton. There were moments when Sanders absolutely had the chance to knock her out of the park, yet he didn’t. The first comes to mind when the discussion was about campaign donations. Sander’s remarks were indirectly towards Clinton taking corporate donations. If he had just pressed further he could have put her into a tight spot. Instead he insinuated the message was towards her.”

    And this, so far, is what differentiates the Democratic candidates from the Republican candidates. While the Republicans are happy to take potshots at each other (e.g., about Christie hugging Obama, the “low energy” of Jeb!), the Democrats are largely avoiding direct attacks on each other.

    In the particular exchange you’ve noted, it was all the more telling that Clinton jumped in to complained that Sanders had impugned her integrity—which she then went on to demolish all by herself by invoking 9/11 (a classic Republican move if ever there was one—or at least a Lois Griffin move).

    “Another example of this was during the live tweet question that came for Clinton, the where she explained why she took corporate money and used 9/11 as a justification. Now, already people are fairly upset over that, but if Sanders had called her out that would have won him the debate. But he let it slide.”

    Invoking 9/11 was such a self-incriminating bit of pandering that Sanders didn’t need to call her out. The act spoke for itself.

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  9. I agree, Bernie has to address foreign policy. However, I don’t agree he has to act like a establishment politician like Hillary and go after her. Many, is not all Sanders supporters like him for this quality, no attacking the other guy!

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  10. There is only one way that Bernie can win, and it is the only way by which he wants to win – with a tsunami of support from people who usually don’t go to the polls. There is nothing in his agenda that he could get passed the congress unless this happens. He has said so. He is not running a conventional establishment campaign, and, in my view, he is resisting establishment campaign tactics normally used to win political primary campaigns. If he can’t win the primary by awaking the giant of American populism, he at least want to leave a legacy of having reformed how political campaigns conduct themselves and fund their campaigns in the future.

    If people (like us I think) want Bernie to win, it is the people who have to become the agents of victory. We need to rise up and demand, not just Bernie Sanders for President, but a whole slate of candidates in state and local offices who think like him. He is the spearhead of movement politics that requires organization from the ground up by ordinary citizens.

    My critique of him as leader of this movement is that he isn’t going far enough to incorporate race and gender into his message even though his priorities are exactly what minorities and woman need. That is a shame, because grassroots organizing by these constituencies is what is needed.

    A word about the polls. Mainstream media has long been in the business of telling us how to think and for whom we should vote. When they conduct polling, it is partly to reinforce what it is we should be thinking and partly to judge how effective their messaging is. I don’t trust the polls, and recent spectacular failures of polling to predict winners is evidence that they have lost scientific neutrality. That said, they also poll likely voters who have land lines, mostly. This means they are missing most of the voters that Bernie is hoping to energize. This serves the media’s messaging purposes for now, but I wouldn’t count Bernie out on the basis of current polling.

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  11. I am a supporter of Sanders (I have been long before he announced his candidacy), and I understand and support his unwillingness to engage in negative campaigning. However, at the same time, there is a distinction between being critical of your main oppenent and resorting to mere smear tactics. To illustrate the principle: in writing an essay, using comparison and contrast is a necessary tool in order to convey the ideas you support. Comparison and contrast is what helps to clearly define what you stand for as well as what your opponent stands for. This is an area where Sanders needs to strengthen– otherwise he is campaigning with one arm tied behind his back.

    People who understand the issues don’t need to be convinced. It are the many more who are not informed who need convincing. The corporate media certainly isn’t going to provide them with that information. For those whose source of news is primarily from talking heads and news sources geared toward the least common denominator (Murrow warned about this decades ago), I’m afraid Sanders is still largely unknown or misunderstood.

    The conversations that take place in the ‘real world’ and those that take place on the internet are very different. I think the internet ‘community’ is a much smaller population than of those people who have little or no online exposure. It is convincing THOSE people which is the real task — one in which the media itself is of no help, whose aim is not to inform anyone but to maintain high ratings. This places the burden all the more on Sanders to constrast what his principles are to Clinton, to make his principles be seen in a more concrete light. I know you say that Product A is good, but why should that stop me from buying Product B instead? Show me — or rather, show all those who as yet remain unconvinced, or even know that Product A even exists!

    And this is what I find troubling about the whole format of these so-called ‘debates’ — the aren’t ‘debates’ because there is no actual debating going on between the candidates — its as if each of the Democratic candidates exist in parallel universes where their opponents don’t even exist. This can only work in favour of Clinton, especially in light of the 824th Benghazi hearing.

    If Sanders wants to show himself as an alternative to the conservativism of Clinton (which she in fact is, just as Obama is a conservative), then he is going to have to be more aggressive than this, as unpleasant as that may be. This can be done with a fair critique, which is to be distinguished from ‘negative campaigning’.

    In the words of Vergil: Audentes fortuna juvat — ‘Fortune sides with him who dares.’ Sanders needs to take it up a few more notches.

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  12. Very good post. I agree that Bernie continues to focus on economic issues–and I agree with him on the issue of economic inequality–but sounds weak on foreign policy. Just one of the reasons that I remain a Hillary supporter. If Bernie turns some things around and makes himself look and sound more electable, I might change my mind…I’ll keep watching. Still a lot of time left until the election.

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  13. I don’t think Bernie has any genuine interest in foreign policy. He seems to be convinced throwing bricks at Hillary over Iraq is sufficient. That may work with ‘Code Pink’ Democrats, but he’ll have to do better than that if he gets the nomination.

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