If Nominated, Bernie Will Win

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt,  speaks during a campaign rally in Springfield, Mass., Saturday
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, speaks during a campaign rally in Springfield, Mass., Saturday, Oct. 3, 2105. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Careful readers of the recent piece in The Hill will question its headline, "Democrats: Sanders Unelectable." The article actually quotes Democrats who are enthusiastic about Bernie's candidacy, and mentions only some Hillary supporters who say he isn't electable.

Time commented that Bernie's candidacy showed the weakness of Hillary's campaign. Wrong again, and with the boast that the House's Benghazi Committee existed only to destroy her candidacy, the Republicans revealed their fear.

Despite MSM hit jobs, both candidates are strong. What Bernie's rapid rise demonstrates is his own strength, flowing from the power of his ideas. Even Stephen Colbert blundered when he raised the specter of Ralph Nader.

Nader's approach was rule or ruin: it was "me or no one -- everyone else is the same." That hubris gave the country eight years of Bush/Cheney. Bernie is no spoiler. He knows what a 2016 Republican victory would bring.

He knows that science should help shape public policy, and that nearly every Republican contender -- even the two who are doctors -- dismisses science when it is inconvenient, or unpopular with their base.

He knows that the country needs The Constitution, and that every Republican contender wants to tear it apart by repealing Amendments they do not like (they either do not know, or do not care, that without the 14th Amendment, the Bill of Rights would immediately cease to protect Americans from their state governments).

He knows that poverty and inequality are a disgrace, and that almost every Republican contender wants to divert more income to the already wealthy.

He knows that women need health care, and should make their own decisions, while every Republican contender wants to defund the largest single source of health care for poor women. He rejects giving the government total control over a woman the instant she becomes pregnant.

So Bernie is no Nader. He is running as a Democrat. If he is nominated, his ideas will bring victory to the Democrats. Nominated or not, his candidacy strengthens the Democratic Party, helping to return it as the party of the people.

Conservatives, of course, say we cannot afford Bernie's program, we cannot provide free college, or accept the Affordable Care Act as a step forward and move beyond it to true universal health care. The Wall Street Journal recently cried hysterically about crushing debt, only to have its figures immediately discredited.

Bernie actually is careful to demonstrate "where the money will come from," when he really should not have to. When the concern is "where do we get the money," nothing gets done -- and that usually is the reason that the issue was raised to begin with.

We need only to remember that Americans once knew just how to do whatever was needed. At the end of World War Two, our national debt was far higher than now. Instead listening to the austerians, Americans did something unprecedented -- and wise. We provided completely free college education to the millions of returning troops, and threw in living expenses. So we know it can be done, and easily.

Instead of "cutting entitlements," as conservatives insist upon, we expanded Social Security to be virtually universal; under Republican President Dwight Eisenhower we even added an expensive new benefit, disability coverage! Simultaneously, we embarked upon the greatest infrastructure program in history, the Interstate Highway System, and all the while we were sending enormous amounts of money abroad to rebuild war-torn areas.

The result was huge prosperity, not the chaos that conservatives predicted. Economic growth was so rapid that it dwarfed the national debt. Most important, what we accomplished was the creation of a true middle-class society. We did this by spending money, and doing so wisely.

Those who oppose Bernie's candidacy sometimes refer to the 1972 presidential race, and the great defeat of my good friend, the late George McGovern. George would be the first to point out that 2016 is far different from 1972. Apart from the well-known Nixon dirty tricks, and the elements of sabotage from within his own camp ("Acid, Amnesty, and Abortion!"), the Republican Party in those days was still a mainstream American political party that believed in cooperating to make policies work well for the good of America. It had not yet become a group dominated by extremist ideologues who would rather see everything crumble than to see a program they oppose, such as the Affordable Care Act, working well.

Another thing should be made clear: Bernie has solid executive experience, and has demonstrated that he can deliver. In 1981, Burlington, Vermont was a mess. There was hardly any affordable housing, sidewalks crumbled, beaches on Lake Champlain were polluted, potholes were everywhere, snow removal was hit or miss. There was a local political machine in which Democrats and Republicans worked together to resist change.

Then came Bernie. He was elected mayor -- winning the first time by fewer than a dozen votes. He was no stealth candidate, and spoke forthrightly, just as he is doing today. Under his new Progressive Coalition, streets were put in good condition, snow removal became prompt and efficient -- and even included sidewalks! A new and modern sewer system cleaned up the pollution from Lake Champlain, and Burlington became one of the few American cities that even treated storm run-off.

Bernie reached outside the traditional "public or private" framework to create non-profit corporations to deal with local problems. A Community Land Trust built low-income housing, sold units at below market value but required that, when sold, they be re-sold to the Trust at a profit rate lower than normal appreciation. The city boomed.

So, can Bernie be elected? To be sure. If elected, could he be effective? Absolutely. Does his candidacy threaten the Democratic Party? Absolutely not; quite the contrary.