As America crawls, ever so painfully slow, toward another general election, and indeed after the big day, many pundits and politicians alike will be parroting the term, “elections have consequences.” Of course elections are important in a ...and more »
*The following is an opinion column by R Muse *
As America crawls, ever so painfully slow, toward another general election, and indeed after the big day, many pundits and politicians alike will be parroting the term, â€œelections have consequences.â€ Of course elections are important in a representative democracy and without question they are the only way to foster change; if the people come out to vote. Republicans certainly comprehend how important elections are, and except for disaffected emoprogs most Democrats understand that unless they turn out at the ballot box there will never be any changes, much less transformative changes to shift the direction of the nation. However much most Americans and all politicians comprehend the importance of elections, there is one career establishment politicianÂ who doesnâ€™t buy in to the whole â€œelections have consequencesâ€ or are â€œcrucial to changeâ€ mindset.
This week Senator Bernie Sanders, the registered Independent from Vermont, met with House Democrats and told them that â€œwinning elections isnâ€™t the only thing they should focus on.â€ Instead, Sanders said it was â€œfor people to embrace his ideasâ€ of transforming the country. Thatâ€™s right, as one Democratic source said, â€œTo say, as he did, that the goal is not to win elections but for people to embrace his ideas is disconnected from what we are trying to do here;â€ win elections, take back the House and Senate and keep the White House in Democratic control. Then, and only then, will Democrats have an opportunity to address the issues important to Senator Sanders and Democrats.
In what is being labeled as â€œa tense meetingâ€ on Wednesday, and the Democratic convention mere weeks away, House Democrats queried Bernie Sanders on when he would endorse the presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton and help foster party unity. Instead of answering the House Democrats, Sanders complained about how the Democratic Party runs its primaries and specifically how the super-delegate process works, something Sanders knew about before he signed on as a Democrat-in-name only. By now it is fairly common knowledge that one of his campaign advisors, Tad Devine, helped create the current Democratic super-delegate system and process. Bernie knew how the process worked before he â€œsigned onâ€ as a Democratic candidate for president.
The House Democrats were not impressed, or even mildly entertained, by Bernieâ€™s whining and after he told the assembled representatives that â€œThe goal isnâ€™t to win elections, the goal is to transform Americaâ€ according to â€œmultiple lawmakers and aides in the roomâ€ they were â€œstunned.â€ That comment drew a chorus of boos from the shocked gathering and one cannot help but wonder exactly how Bernie Sanders thinks any â€œtransformationâ€ will ever occur if Democrats do not focus on winning elections. All the House Democrats asked of Sanders was how he â€œmight help them win back the House,â€ not how he, Bernie Sanders, would â€œtransform the countryâ€ into his image.
Apparently, rank-and-file House Democrats are flummoxed as to why the Vermont Independent has not yet officially dropped out of the race and thrown his support behind Hillary Clinton. One senior Democrat, speaking anonymously, said, â€œIt was frustrating because heâ€™s squandering the movement he built with a â€˜self-obsessionâ€™ that was totally on display.â€
Sanders delivered his opening statements with his typical stump speech about campaign finance, income inequality, Wall Street reform and trade; all important issues that will never change unless Democrats stay focused on, and actually succeed at, winning elections. Later, Senator Sanders told Wolf Blitzer on CNN that the real problem with Democrats, and why they booed him for saying their focus should be on his transformation agenda, was that â€œwe look at the world a little bit differently.â€ That is likely a very accurate statement; Democrats comprehend that if they donâ€™t stay focused on, and win, elections, Republicans will continue winning and it wonâ€™t matter what kind of transformation DemocratsÂ or Bernie Sanders want to advance.
As if to make the point that he and House Democrats look at the world differently, Sanders said, â€œWhat Iâ€™m trying to do, and the reason I ran for president, is to help transform this country. To deal with income and wealth, inequality, a declining middle class, the fact that so many of the young people are leaving school deeply in debt.â€ Now, for dogâ€™s sake, even Bernie Sanders understands, or at least he should understand, that dealing with the issues important to him and many Americans entails electing Democrats to control the House and the Senate. Despite his prioritizing a one man effort to â€œtransform the countryâ€ over winning elections, nothing is going to change on one manâ€™s crusade. This is America,Â and one manâ€™s â€œvisionâ€ is just not how government works to transform anything; only focusing on winning elections up and down the ballot will begin to accomplish even one of the Senatorâ€™s favorite issues.
The House Democrats, including John Garamendi (CA) and Joyce Beatty (OH) asked specifically when the Senator would get behind Clintonâ€™s candidacy, questions that drew cheers and applause from the other House Democrats. In fact, Representative Gregory Meeks (D-NY) drew applause when he asked, â€œWhen are you going to run as a Democrat? This is the Democratic Caucus.â€
Sanders didnâ€™t give the Dems an answer and repeated that â€œelections are not necessarily about winning.â€Â It is likely the oddest statement ever uttered by a career politician and one he likely would not have made if he were the presumptive nominee looking to unite the Party and win â€œthe bigâ€ election in November.Â Besides, if winning primary elections were not his overarching focus over the past several months, why did he use the Democratic Party and why did he ask for campaign donations, if not to win elections?
According to a Democratic aide in the room, â€œHe had a chance to talk about getting things done and instead talked about prolonging â€˜hisâ€™ process.â€ Now, the things Senator Sanders says he wants to get done, addressing income inequality, Wall Street and banking reform, wages, student debt are exceedingly admirable goals. They arenâ€™t new goals, by any means, but they are admirable. In fact, they are goals Barack Obama campaigned on in 2008 and 2012 and pushed heroically over the past eight years. And, if not for Democratsâ€™ focus on winning a big election in 2008 where they won control of Congress, none of the achievements like financial reform and healthcare reform would have ever been enacted. Transformation in a representative democracy is incumbent on winning elections. Unfortunately too many Democrats fail to comprehend that very simple fact, particularly in the midterms.
Americans who want â€˜transformationâ€™ have to understand that it will never happen if Republicans continue winning elections; because that is their primary focus and only goal. One who follows closely the comments of politicians from both sides of the aisle is, frankly, stunned at Senator Sandersâ€™ remarks. What is apparent is that in his deepest heart of hearts Senator Bernie Sanders certainly understands that focusing on winning elections is of paramount importance for people who want progress and for every politician who has ever run for office.
Any politician who really believes elections arenâ€™t important is in the wrong business because prioritizing â€œtransforming the countryâ€ over winning elections is the quickest way to help the Koch Republicans win more elections. Except for the White House, they have succeeded miraculously in congressional races and state legislatures and are perilously close to transforming the country in the Kochsâ€™ image. Elections have consequences and if they are not Democratsâ€™ only focus from this moment onward, this country will be transformed to fit the Koch vision because Republicans are only focused on winning elections.
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