I have written before about being a supporter of Bernie Sanders for president because his views align most closely with mine, especially on environmental protection, economics, health care, military spending and campaign finance reform. As a native New Englander, I have known about him and followed his career for decades and appreciate his consistent stance on equality for all without regard to gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation. I am not averse to Hillary Clinton; I just happen to favor Senator Sanders’ positions.
I am also an independent and would like to offer Secretary Clinton some advice to keep her campaign from alienating Senator Sanders supporters and the many independents in the country. Because neither major party commands the majority of the electorate, any candidate who aspires to the presidency must be able to draw support from independent voters.
1.) Don’t criticize Senator Sanders for not being a Democrat. He did you an enormous favor by running for the Democratic nomination instead of mounting a campaign as an independent. He has been able to generate huge grassroots support and funds from small donors without having any superPACs. One of the things that appeals to many of his supporters is that he is an independent who is not beholden to a party machine or to corporate campaign dollars. Which leads to the next point…
2.) Stop pretending that you are not part of the establishment. Seriously. You and your campaign sound totally ridiculous when you make the claim of being an outsider. Being a woman does not disqualify you from being part of the establishment. Is former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi not part of the Democratic establishment? Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz is chair of the Democratic National Committee, which is definitely an Establishment position. You spent eight years in the White House as part of what you and President Clinton billed as “two for the price of one” public servants. I voted for you to be Senator of New York, but Wall Street, also your constituent, made out a lot better than my upstate town during your time as Senator. You served in President Obama’s cabinet, which is certainly admirable service and valuable experience, but it is definitely part of the establishment. All of the superdelegates, who are part of the establishment in their home states, are lining up for you because you are part of the Democratic establishment and Senator Sanders is not. (Point of information for my non-US readers: While Sanders has caucused with the Democrats throughout his years in Congress, he has never been a member of the Democratic party. He describes himself as a democratic socialist, which is a familiar term to Europeans who usually have a party with that philosophy in their countries.)
3.) Don’t criticize women who support Senator Sanders. I am a feminist and, like you, a proud graduate of a Seven Sisters college. I would very much like to see a woman president. But my wish to see a woman president does not blind me to the fact that I agree with Senator Sanders’ views more than with yours. It’s insulting for your surrogates to condemn me to hell for not yet supporting your campaign; it doesn’t give me a feeling that you appreciate my intelligence and opinions. It’s even more insulting to the young women who are in the Sanders’ camp. My 20-something daughters and their friends have graduated from school into a horrible job market. When they can find jobs, they are often underpaid. Many of them are struggling with student debt. A federal living wage means a lot to them. Single payer health care would give tremendous peace of mind, especially for those who live in states that did not expand Medicaid, creating large groups of people without access to affordable insurance. People who support Bernie Sanders are supporting a feminist, too, as well as a long-time champion of civil rights.
4.) Remember that the votes of independents are crucial. In many states, people who are not enrolled in a political party can choose to vote in either primary on election day. Even in closed primary states, such as New York, voters are listening to how you are campaigning and will remember when the general election comes in November. Independents are turned off by overly partisan arguments and are reminded of the gridlock that has been so destructive in recent years.
5.) Clearly lay out your position on issues and your history. You and your campaign need to do this without mischaracterizing Senator Sanders’ positions, history, and experience. I have heard you and your campaign do this over and over. It makes you look weak. It’s much better to draw distinctions against the Republican candidates and the actions of the Republicans in Congress when you give speeches and interviews. That will also help all the Democrats running for office. You also need to explain which of your positions are your own and which you adopted because they were President Clinton’s positions or the Democratic party’s positions or President Obama’s positions. If your position on an issue has evolved, say so and tell us why. We need to know.
As I am finishing this, I am watching the first return for Super Tuesday primaries. Yes, Clinton will win most of the states today, but Sanders will garner hundreds of delegates as well. The campaign will be continuing. Let’s make it as positive and illuminating as possible.