The Sanders Campaign – From Sea to Shining Sea

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The Sanders Campaign – From Sea to Shining Sea

"The current calls for Sanders to retire from the field," writes Gallagher, "are really just the latest iteration of a theme that has been central to the Clinton candidacy from the start – that we, Sanders and all his supporters, don’t belong in this thing in the first place." (Photo: @BernieSandersCT)

Really, you can’t fault Hillary Clinton’s campaign for trying to get Bernie Sanders out of the race. It’s a campaign – that’s what you do. They want to win the nomination. We on the Sanders side want it too and we’d love to see Clinton out. But we’re also campaigning to change the nation by ending the corporate stranglehold on Washington. And as more and more people come to understand what that's all about, we think we’re winning that campaign.

"While the Clintons and their hard core supporters may never get what the Sanders campaign is all about, we know that there are millions who do – and millions more who will, when the campaign gets to their state."

The current calls for Sanders to retire from the field are really just the latest iteration of a theme that has been central to the Clinton candidacy from the start – that we, Sanders and all his supporters, don’t belong in this thing in the first place. From their point of view, the nomination was always just supposed to go to Clinton. Democratic Party leaders had decided this some time ago and the rest of us were just mucking things up. Back as far as July of last year, former Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank, “a close ally of the Clinton campaign” as the New York Times calls him, argued that no candidate should force Clinton “to spend most of her time and campaign funds between now and next summer proving her ideological purity in an intraparty fight.” Well, it turns out that a lot of people saw it differently and a whole lot of people still see it differently – a whole lot differently.

And it's no secret who constitute the bulk of the voters who do see things differently. While most anything may become a bone of contention in the midst of a presidential campaign, one point that no one argues is that Sanders has electrified the youth vote: Pennsylvania exit polls, for instance, showed him winning 83 percent of under-30 primary voters. Why? Perhaps it's because he has brought the U.S. up to speed with the rest of the world by introducing the idea of democratic socialism into the mainstream political whirl Or maybe it's because of the clarity of his positions: Whether he's advocating the $15 minimum wage; tuition-free public higher education; the need for a single-payer, Medicare-for-all health care system; the legalization of marijuana; the abolition of the death penalty; or his denunciation of the Iraq War as the country's greatest foreign policy disaster of the last forty years, when Sanders finishes talking you know clearly where he stands, something that is often not the case with the opposition.

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One of the reasons for this clarity gap is also itself quite clear. By the time most politicians reach the point of seriously contending for the presidency, they likely face an ongoing conflict between what they or their constituents might think is best and what the big money people, whom they rely on for campaign funding, will let them get away with. But when you actually run a campaign against the politics of the big money interests, as Sanders has, and people support it with unprecedented amounts of small campaign contributions, you simply don't have to go through those contortions.

This contest pits two profoundly different visions for the American future against each other and those of us committed to dismantling the billionaires' rule are naturally committed to taking our case all the way to the convention, win, lose, or draw. Many in the Clinton camp, on the other hand, may have a hard time understanding this determination because they have never really understood what the Sanders campaign is all about. The candidate herself certainly appeared fairly clueless as to what's got us so exercised in this campaign, when she answered a question about why she charged $675,000 for giving speeches to the investment bankers at Goldman Sachs with the memorable words "That’s what they offered.

The Clintons are a “power couple” without precedent in American history – a past president married to a potential future president. As we know, a significant sector of corporate America liked what it saw in them and decided to invest heavily, giving them more than $25 million in speaking fees over a period of 16 months. Hillary Clinton now seems to think that's quite normal and there's probably no particular reason to think that she's being disingenuous when she challenges Sanders to name a vote that she's changed because of any money she's received from these sources. The issue, of course, is not so much any votes she may have changed, but the world view she has adopted. And so far as super PAC money goes, Clinton may well have gone into this race legitimately thinking she had no alternative but to take it – after all, who could have predicted the way the Sanders campaign would revolutionize presidential campaign fundraising?

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While the Clintons and their hard core supporters may never get what the Sanders campaign is all about, we know that there are millions who do – and millions more who will, when the campaign gets to their state. By all signs, the Sanders campaign has yet to reach its full potential: once trailing by fifty points, Sanders has pulled closer to Clinton in national polls in April than in any previous month.

The clock, however, is our enemy and, sooner than we might like, the Philadelphia nominating convention will be upon us, and with it the question of the superdelegates. Obviously the Sanders campaign is not responsible for their existence and there are probably few Sanders supporters who don't wish that there were no such thing as superdelegates, or at the least that there weren't so many of them. Perhaps they will be eliminated or drastically reduced in number for future conventions, but they are with us now and so the campaign must deal with them. There may be little cause for optimism on this score, yet we still need to confront them with the question of whether their best option is to present the voters with a candidate pledged to driving big money out of politics or one who has become wealthy through involvement in politics; a candidate who is a critic of regime change-driven foreign policy, or one who professes admiration for Henry Kissinger.

But between now and then, there are 14 primaries and caucuses, including the biggest of them all in California, and millions of voters to go. So it's on to California – and New Jersey, and Indiana, and ...

Tom Gallagher

Tom Gallagher

Tom Gallagher is a former Massachusetts State Representative and the author of 'The Primary Route: How the 99% Take On the Military Industrial Complex.' He lives in San Francisco.

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