Bernie Sanders Isn’t Barack Obama, But It May Not Matter

Alternate Headline: “It’s 2008 all over again” and not just because Hillary Clinton is losing to someone who, by all sane theories, shouldn’t be winning.

Some time back I wrote about Sanders’ Candidate appeal. I stand by most everything I’ve written there. (typos and all damn it!) I would however like to add an appendix to what I wrote. I’m watching my friends, the same friends who voted for Obama in 2008 (but in 2012 suddenly won’t talk about their votes) and I’m seeing a lot of similarities. The biggest one that jumps out though is the desire to be a part of a movement. Sanders, for all his stupidity, represents a movement for these people. I don’t give the guy much, but I’ll give him this: he comes across as authentic. (Although that authenticity is belied by actual facts. Or maybe he really is authentically socialist: Me first, plebs second.)

In any case, if you were easily suckered in by “Hope and Change” in 2008, and you’re young, and you didn’t learn your lesson (which most young naive people didn’t) you’ll be suckered in again by “No SuperPACs!” and “Break up the Big Banks!” and “Free Healthcare*” (*taxes not included.)

It’s sad, but I suppose if one thinks about it in light of my original post (linked above) it’s a similar set of circumstances: the economy sucks, the likelihood you’re going to leave a mark on the world is infinitesimal and getting smaller, the desire to belong to something grows.

This poses a problem for Hillary, who really can’t capitalize on the “movement feeling.” Certainly a dynasty candidate can’t run on being “revolutionary” either (another overlap between the Obama and Sanders campaign ideas.) That the former head of the NAACP is endorsing Sanders may be just enough to set Hillary’s so-called “firewall” aflame. Her hope at this point may be the super delegates, who will be more likely to throw the 75 year old white guy under the bus, than they were the young black one.

This may also pose a bit of a problem for Republicans. What Sander’s is proposing is in fact revolutionary from an American perspective (also equally likely to start a revolution, but that’s another post.) We’ve flirted with socialism before, enacted quasi-socialist policies like Social Security, but never before will we have gone all in the way he’s talking. (I will set aside for a moment the reality that it’ll never make it through the House, much less into law.)

The GOP simply cannot offer anything so revolutionary and have it sit well with voters. Ultimately the most revolutionary thing would be a Rand Paul style libertarianism. Here’s the thing though, individual responsibility does not sell very well. Like the kid learning to ride a bike, we’ve been held onto for so long, we simply don’t want government to let go. The difference here is instead of a kind parent letting go to give her kid the accomplishment, government longs to control us so it holds on ever tighter.

Still even if we could convince power mad politicians to let go, how would that conversation look? My guess is something like this:

GOP: We’re going to scale back government to give you more freedom to make your own choices.

Voter: And when I choose wrong?

GOP: You’ll have to live with your choices.

Voter: What’s in this for me?

GOP: The chance to go higher than you’ve ever been before.

Voter: Yeah, I’m comfortable here, thanks.

Heck we can’t even explain to voters why a healthy business environment (not to be conflated with “Big Business”) is good for wage owners too. (I offer Ace’s post as evidence of our failure to explain that well.)

The players may have changed, but we’re playing the exact same game for arguably bigger stakes this time. And frankly, unless the scene changes, we might lose in the exact same way. (FWIW, my hope is that unlike Obama’s nebulous “Hope, and Spare Change!” that Sander’s in your face socialism is unpalatable enough to cause blow back against those who aren’t young and stupid.)