No candidate, just as no person is without flaws, but understanding Sanders’ potential flaws begins to comprehend a future roadmap for the campaign. As often as not campaigns and races become about the flaws and weaknesses of the various candidates. Walter Mondale found that out while running against Ronald Reagan in 1984. Mondale became the establishment choice for the democrats after rebuffing a serious challenge from Sen. Gary Hart (D-Co.), and lesser challenges by Rev. Jessie Jackson and former astronaut and Senator from Ohio, John Glenn. Hart, who won the New Hampshire and Ohio primaries, had positioned himself as younger and more appealing to younger voters, a claim sanders can arguably claim in the 2016 race. Behind Reagan in the polls, Mondale chose the scandal-ridden Geraldine Ferraro for his VP choice, a decision that did not resonate with voters over accusations of pandering and populism over substance. Instead, Reagan dominated populism without seeming populist, hammering the unpopular and not terribly likeable Mondale almost 60% of the popular vote.
In 1988 Maryland Governor Michael Dukakis took on Reagan VP George Bush, winning the nomination over a pallid, relatively unknown and inexperienced candidates including Paul Simon, Dick Gephardt, Al Gore and Joe Biden. The Dukakis campaign stumbled and stalled from the start, falling victim to Republican strategist Lee Atwater’s dirty tricks and to Dukakis’ own gaffs.
Atwater spread rumors that Dukakis was concealing mental illness, rumors that were only compounded by the candidate’s refusal to release his medical records. He was hammered by the Bush campaign with ads describing him as weak on crime after a convicted murderer, Willie Horton, committed a rape after being released in a Maryland prisoner furlough program. The final straw came with a photo showing an awkward looking Dukakis, described by the Bush campaign as weak on defense, riding a tank. The election was more about Dukakis than about substance.
Dan Quayle sought to describe himself in terms of the late John F. Kennedy in a 1988 vice presidential debate and was famously swatted down in the famous reply from then vice presidential candidate, Senator Lloyd Benston, “I knew Jack Kennedy. Senator , you’re no Jack Kennedy.” It was the only bright spot in the Dukakis campaign.
The election of 1992 might have turned out very differently had Texas Billionaire not helped feed perceptions that as an independent he wasn’t a crackpot. Perot vehemently opposed NAFTA and marshaled a vast grassroots network that succeeded in getting him on the ballot in all 50 states. He was soon leading in the polls, well ahead of Bush and Clinton but then suddenly dropped out of the race unexpectedly, claiming mysterious Republican operatives were stalking his daughter. Perot’s running mate, retired Vice Admiral, medal of honor recipient and former Vietnam prisoner of war was mocked mercilessly as a doddering old fool after beginning a debate by saying, “Who am I? Why am I here?”
Clinton took the nomination amid a scandal involving an extramarital affair with Gennifer Flowers. Neither Bush nor Clinton inspired any great amount of passion, as voter turn out revealed. Elections in the US were becoming less and less about substance and issues and more about personality and mud-slinging, as the 1992 election showed. Media consolidation, started under Reagan would continue apace under Bill Clinton. The winner would be corporate interests, who cultivated populist propagandists like Michael Savage and Rush Limbaugh, with decidedly and unabashedly pro business, pro-rich and pro-rightwing programming. What remained of presidential elections in any way about substance was a thing of the past.
Sanders will and is facing that environment. Media consolidation has polarized the nation’s television, radio and newspapers predominantly to the right, or to a status quo position which tacitly supports and protects rightwing social, political and economic structures and paradigm. Otherwise innocuous vulnerabilities, or simply the appearance of a vulnerability, will be exploited to perversely obscene lengths, as the birther issue against Obama, former Illinois rep. Joe Walsh’s mockery of Tammy Duckworth’s grievous combat wounds and hyperbolic questions about Hillary Clinton’s marriage prove.
Did Bernie Sanders ever smoke marijuana as a student? His arrest in 1963 during a protest for fair housing, a sign of legitimacy on the Left will become a pejorative for the Right. What of his age and health: Foreign policy, Lack of a military record, Socialist, Independent, Second amendment and a call for more responsible gun control? America has never had a Jewish President.
It was scandalous that JFK was a Roman Catholic when he ran in 1960.
Most recently an essay he wrote in 1972 for the alternative newspaper the Vermont Freeman. The essays, covering a period from the late 1960s through the early 1970s are the explorations of social, moral and gender constructs. Asked about them on “Meet the Press”, Sander’s dismissed the writings as “fiction.” (http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/07/bernie-sanders-vermont-freeman-sexual-freedom-fluoride) What it illustrates is that nothing and no part of Sanders’ life, or that of any other candidate is safe from scrutiny, hyperbole and innuendo. Sanders’ success has made him a target, more so by the Clinton campaign since a recent Gallop Poll showed that the Clinton camp expects Sanders to win the primaries in both Iowa and New Hampshire.
Barring a terrorist attack or an unforeseen foreign conflict, the 2016 election is angling strongly towards domestic issues and the economy. Sanders is outspoken regarding the substantial disparity between middle class and poor families and the so called 1%. In a period in which congress and the senate are increasingly predominated by millionaires, Bernie Sanders ranks 84 out of 100 in the senate for wealth. In 2004, according to Ballotpedia.org, his aver age net worth was just over $140 thousand dollars. In 2012 his wealth had grown 228% to more than $460 thousand. Could that become an issue, considering the average American saw a decline in their annual net worth of about 1% annually? Considering that his likely key adversaries are likely to be Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton (Separately, her husband is worth an estimated $80 million), both worth roughly $20 million each, that seems unlikely. In fact, all of the candidates on the Republican side are millionaires or billionaires, positioning Sanders far more closer to the middle class than another current candidate.
How deeply Sanders resonates with the activist Left is drawn strongly through a small number of issues, as we found out recently on our radio program (Saturdays 11-1pm CST AM1680 www.que4.org). the environment and the economy are chief among them, but a hot button issue we found caring strong negative reaction against Sanders had to do with his Jewish faith. Not necessarily that he was Jewish, but that he may be too close to an issue many on the Left have strong opinions about. How could Sanders, they argue, be impartial when he is part of the apparatus supplying the Israeli defense Forces, IDF, with $3billion Dollars annually, or more than 11% of Israel’s $23 billion Dollar annual budget, much of which goes to ostensibly killing civilians and maintaining an apartheid system? In the view of a sizable minority on the Left, that makes the US complicit in what many feel is a long slow genocide against Palestinians.
In truth, those critics scoff at Sanders when his name is uttered excitedly by fellow Leftists and progressives, but the criticism is truly one of the entire electoral system and governance in general. And while that minority is unlikely to vote for any candidate, espousing a belief that voting is hopelessly corrupt and ineffectual, many of those same views are held to some degree or another across the spectrum of anticipated voters on the Left. There is broad consensus, at the very least, that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and their patrons and surrogates, has not been dealt with by the US government judicially or humanely, neither has it been reported in the US media accurately.
There is tremendous pressure and propaganda guiding US foreign policy in the Mideast by any accurate accounting. The Press is played like a violin to the American people and to congress to spin and propagandize by the various parties to the conflict. Lobbying to congress has become a monumental business. Businesses like Lobbyit are for hire on virtually any issue as long as the checks clear. Among their services, ranging between $995 per month to almost $5000 Lobbyit offers help on activating “nation-wide networks of citizens/employees/members, and how to leverage their support,” and “Drafting of any specific legislative or regulatory language .”
There are currently 26 lobbyists for every congressman and woman in Washington. Since 1990, according to Center for Responsive Politics, pro-Israel lobbying groups gave more than $79 million to federal candidates and party committees. From 1990 to 2006, by contrast, pro-Arab and Muslim groups gave less than a million Dollars. The most prominent pro-Israeli lobbying group is American Israel Public Affairs Committee , AIPAC. In 1980, AIPAC had just 24 employees and an annual budget of $1.4 million. It now reports 160 employees with a budget of some $15 million, while its membership has grown from 8000 to 55000.
That translates to a lot of pressure on congresspersons and senators like Bernie Sanders. When it comes to Israel, however, Sanders is not so easily cajoled. His record is a bit mixed, at least by appearances, but Sanders’ is hardly a supporter of Israel’s policies toward Gaza and the Palestinians. He is against Palestinian statehood, as it is proposed, silent on Israeli settlements in Gaza and the West Bank and critical of Israeli aggression against Palestinians. It offers all of his critics on every side of the argument plenty of fodder for attacks.
Sanders does have ties to AIPAC linked activists, but neither Sanders nor his Vermont colleague, Senator Patrick Leahy supports or subscribes to their positions. Quoted in a June 17th post at theuglytruth.com, one pro-Israeli lobbyist said that the senator is “one of the few offices that, when we try to get an appointment to come and talk to him, we just can’t get in…I don’t think he’s antagonistic or anything like that.”
For some the Left there is no sliding scale when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. It is quite simply about Human Rights, and a view that Israel, backed by the United States, with a record of bias and antagonism against Muslims, is the bully. They see the Palestinians as victims to a long program of genocidal polices, or apartheid polices at the very least. When so little attention is given to the plight of civilians in Gaza and the West Bank, from lack of movement to the constant specter of bombings, mass imprisonment and lack of due process, many on the Left believe they are the balance to Israel and the US government’s oppressive policies with regards to the Palestinians.
“The electoral system in this country,” said the guest on our radio show, “merely supports that system of oppression. Bernie Sanders is part of that system.”
However, while Clinton has shifted to the right by asserting that she is a true friend of Israel, whatever that means, Sanders condemned Israel’s attacks in 2014, which left 72 Israeli’s (mostly soldiers) and 2300 Palestinians (primarily civilians) and “disproportionate” and “completely unacceptable.” Furthermore, Sanders also supported the assertions of the United Nations’ top human rights official Navi Pillay who said that there was a “strong possibility” that Hamas and Israel have committed war crimes with their indiscriminate attacks on civilian.
That mirrors an open letter published in Tikkun Daily, August 23rd, 2014, by 40 Holocaust survivors who condemned the attacks on Gaza, describing “Israel’s ongoing occupation, and the troubling rise of systemic racism” (sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/newswatch/0722414). That statement is extremely significant in treating the warring factions as equally culpable in the conflict, a monumental split from current US foreign policy.
That, however is unlikely to satisfy the non-voting constituency far Left. While not a voting black, they still are a driver on many key issues, including the Black Lives Matter, Keystone XL Pipeline and the TPP. And they can still point to a July 7, 2014 Senate resolution supporting “the state of Israel as it defends itself from unprovoked rocket attacks from the Hamas terror organization.” The assumption that Hamas was behind the attacks was incorrect on July 7th, according to sources close to the Israeli military. Between January and June Palestinians fired 181 rockets and 16 mortars into or at Israel. One person was killed in March, a Palestinian militant, Mosaab Zaaneen, as he attempted to launch a crude rocket. Throughout that period the attacks failed to even damage property (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Palestinian_rocket_attacks_on_Israel,_2014).
According to the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Hamas did not participate in any of the earlier attacks, but instead retaliated on July 7th for the deaths of 6 Hamas members killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza. The Jerusalem Post reported as early as May 2013 that Hamas was, in fact, working to stop Gaza rocket attacks against Israel.
The conflict was not about rockets and mortars however, but ostensibly in retaliation for the kidnapping and murders of three Israeli teenagers on June 12th. It also came at the end of a ceasefire, which Hamas had honored despite a continuing blockade on food fuel and medical supplies that wreaked a terrible dividend in suffering ion the people made all but prisoners on the West Bank and Gaza. It also came at a time of mounting Israeli settlements which politically rendered many of the Palestinian’s desires for a two-state solution mute. While one Hamas militant was convicted after confessing under “heavy torture,” and two others killed in a gun battle, it seems likely that this was an excuse rather than a reason. Though the truth may never been known now, The murders of two unarmed Palestinian teenagers by Israeli snipers on May 15th may have contributed to the events that followed.
The Senate resolution passed by a unanimous consent agreement. That meant that no senators, including Sanders opposed the resolution. While Sanders and 20 other senators did not openly support the resolution it is true that none of them opposed it either. Overall it reveals a bipartisan ignorance about the Palestinian-Israeli issue, as well as the Middle East overall. When the resolution passed a increase in the numbers of rocket attacks coincided with Israeli military incursions into Palestinian territory, result in the deaths of 11 Palestinians with another 50 wounded. The rocket and mortar attacks did not commence in earnest until after the resolution had passed, at which time both sides w ere engaged in combat operations.
Former Secretary of State Clinton has also shifted rhetoric about an impending Iran deal over its Nuclear capabilities, sounding more like a FOX News pundit than a progressive or Liberal. That could be because she believes Senator Sanders’ is weaker or less experienced on defense and foreign policy. She may also be courting what she views as a pro-defense, pro-Israel, anti-Palestinian sentiment with Moderate dems and republicans. It also presupposes the specter of more war in the region. She has been relatively ambiguous on true economic reform, holding banks accountable and reigning in Wall Street, conceding those issues to Sanders. Is Clinton’s shift to the right on Israel and Iran an effort to sway the election from domestic and economic issues towards foreign policy?