How Bernie Might Have Done Even Better

May 1, 2016

In Letters To Finkelstein News

​[From an email correspondent:​]
Hi Norman,

I have a few reasons why I think Bernie has not done better. Of course it is easy to be an armchair quarterback however I think they are valid reasons.

I do not see Bernie actually winning at this point. He is well behind in votes and delegates. Super-delegates already strongly favor Hillary Clinton. It is not foreseeable that these super-delegates will switch to Sanders given he is behind anyway. The only way they would switch is if Clinton is indicted or something extreme like that.

I think Bernie has lost for a couple of reasons. The first is he was too far behind too early. He had to raise a national profile and convince people to vote for him within a very short period of time basically several months. He did not have the Barack Obama advantage of having the media make a lot of noise about him all the time. Hillary Clinton was already a well established candidate and Bernie needed to distinguish himself more. I did not like him saying things like “I have enormous respect for Secretary Clinton”. He needs to distinguish himself and say why he is better and more suitable. He sounded like he was apologizing for opposing her too much. Of course basic respect should be a given. Then when later in the contest when he did become more aggressive it looked contrived. He should have questioned her judgment on the emails which is not getting personal if it requires an FBI investigation.

The second reason is he could not quite get enough of the people he wanted to vote for him to vote. Turnout looks to be lower than in 2008. One of the things that has happened is that many Blacks voted for Clinton instead of Sanders especially in the South. Of course some argue those are all just Republican states anyway however you still need them to win the nomination. The Clinton machine was pandering to Blacks a lot and Bernie needed a different way to establish himself. Bernie has tried to out-pander Hillary on these issues. This approach is not how he should have gone about it. Bernie had a strong message regarding universal fairness and the idea of a government which actually works for people. He could have tied the concerns of African-Americans to his broader message. By having to run basically 3 separate campaigns with one for Whites and one for Blacks and basically one for Hispanics he got diverted from his more universal message.

To me this shows the folly of getting too invested in identity politics. A lot of working class people both White and Black or whatever are not politically radical. Some are quite conservative politically. If you are working class your main concern is jobs and I am not sure Bernie made that quite clear enough. I am not saying raising the minimum wage is a bad idea however it is not the main issue. The problem is not that Walmart is underpaying people. Walmart and McDonald’s jobs have always been low paid even when the economy was good. You cannot improve the economy by simply increasing the minimum wage a bit. You need to create better paying jobs and allow people to move beyond these jobs. The minimum wage has become the maximum wage for some people.

The third reason is that Sanders never changed or adapted his message. He talked a lot about breaking up the banks however not much context was given as to why this was a good idea. Universal health care was a big selling point and he has done well to bring it up as an issue. He however allowed the people who say it is not possible too much leeway. He needed to be very clear how this could be paid for and where the money would come from. This would have attracted more support. Furthermore free college is fine if we can pay for it. The bigger problem is that the economy is poor and things are tough because college is heavily saturated and all fields are oversubscribed. Just sending more people to college is not going to solve that many problems.
I am saying he raised a lot of good issues. He has created a movement no doubt. This is not to malign him it is just my thoughts. I hope the energy he has raised continues.

​James Line​