Column: Why Clinton's camp should ‘Feel the Bern’

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during a rally at the Greensboro Coliseum Special Events Center in Greensboro, North Carolina, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015. (Rob Brown/AP)

As of last week, hopeful Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders officially surpassed former Secretary Hillary Clinton among likely Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa. While she and many in the mainstream political media like to turn the other cheek, it’s time to start “feeling the Bern,” as many Sanders supporters would say.

For those who have yet to hear Sanders’ message, many will recognize him as the “Democratic socialist” with trademark crazy white hair. While his portrayal by the mainstream media has not been consistently serious, even by supposedly left-leaning news organization such as MSNBC, Sanders’ policy plans are lighting a fire in the hearts of the American people, especially progressive democrats.

Unlike Clinton, Sanders adamantly supports a Medicare for all system, a $15 per hour living wage, breaking up big banks, expanding Social Security and decriminalizing cannabis. Sanders also voted against the Iraq War and the Patriot Act, which Clinton supported. As a matter of fact, Clinton hasn’t even opposed the Keystone Pipeline.

The Independent senator from Vermont has also stood strongly against big money and super PACs in the American political system. Even so, a July filing showed his campaign has raised over $15.2 million with the average donation being around $31.

Clinton, on the other hand, has raised around $50 million, with some of her biggest donors being big banks and corporations. Again, to highlight the differences between the two, most of Sanders’ biggest donors have been labor unions.

“We will be greatly outspent, yes, but we will raise enough money to wage a winning campaign,” Sanders said recently, according to the New York Times. An article by Albert Hunt for the Bloomberg View predicted that Clinton and Bush, if they received their parties’ nominations respectively, could spend more than $2 billion each on campaign efforts, twice as much as Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in the 2012 elections.

With the first Democratic primary debate coming up Oct. 13, voters will soon hear Sanders and Clinton on the same stage. But with Clinton’s lead continuing to shrink due to tired back-and-forth explanations and apologies over her personal e-mail servers, Sanders’ strength on the issues is sure to pack a punch.

While polls continue to show even more Democratic voters seeing Clinton as “dishonest” by the day, Sanders still hasn’t made a single attack ad or negative comment about his primary opponents. 

According to Quinnipiac University polls, Sanders trailed Clinton by around 20 percentage points just two months ago in Iowa and New Hampshire, but now leads Clinton 41 percent to 40 percent in Iowa.

With a sizeable group still waiting for an unlikely candidacy announcement from Vice President Joe Biden, the numbers are anything but clear. Biden continues to talk strongly about income inequality, however, which has been one of Sanders’ biggest strengths on the campaign trail. His current supporters may be wary of embracing Clinton. 

With his unapologetic progressive stance on the issues, including his refusal to receive Super PAC money for his campaign, Sanders’ rise on the national campaign stage has been anything but expected. Despite his surge in the polls,

Sanders still finds himself having to voice his policies and opinions in response to other candidates, though he does so eloquently. When not being compared to others, Sanders also has to fend off those who dismiss his candidacy with the “socialist” buzzword. Somehow, Sanders consistently does it well.

Republican primary candidates seem to be reaching further and further right every day, and so Democrats might just be looking for a progressive, left-leaning candidate to call their own. While Clinton told an Ohio crowd just last week that she’s more of a moderate, Sanders came out soon after, unabashedly saying, “I am a proud progressive.”

When it comes to drawing out Democrats for a primary vote, it’s hard to see the moderate candidate being the most exciting, viable option.

With any luck, former Secretary Clinton will find a way to hold on to the voting block she still has, but with Sanders supporters forming grassroots movements across the country, it doesn’t seem likely.


Bennett Cognato is a contributor to The Daily Campus opinion section. He can be reached via email at bennett.cognato@uconn.edu.