Column: #ToneDownForWhat? Sanders campaign should fight on

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. speaks at a campaign stop, Wednesday, March 30, 2016, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

The 2016 Democratic primary between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders has been one of the friendliest contests in most recent political history. Sanders blasted moderators for the obsessive focus on Clinton’s emails in previous debates, citing that “the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails… enough of the emails. Let’s talk about the real issues facing America.” He staunchly refused to run a negative campaign while stating his unwavering support for Hillary in the event she becomes the Democratic presidential nominee, and even encouraged his supporters to do the same.

Yet Clinton’s chief strategist Joel Benenson told The Hill that they would wait to “see the tone of the campaign he wants to run before we get to any other questions.” He vehemently argues that Sanders has broken his first promise of never running a negative campaign ad. However, according to the Clinton campaign, Sanders’ latest ad has cost him the chance to debate with Clinton until further notice.

The ad does not mention Clinton by name, refers to an opponent, or any other democratic candidate. We do see plenty of allusions to Goldman Sachs, speaking fees and financially-influenced politicians. Given Clinton’s history of taking the lower terror-mongering road when running a downright malicious campaign against President Obama in 2008, one would think she could differentiate between a negative ad and a critical one.

But that is in and of itself the core of the issue when it comes to the reason behind Clinton’s slow and painful demise that the media has yet to acknowledge, despite a three-state sweep by Sanders on Saturday.

Hillary Clinton has been colored as self-serving, willing to bend over backwards and pander to all demographics in her quest to achieve presidency. However, being a chameleon on key issues does not sit well with a globally connected, vigilant audience. Videos of her past interviews can be shared to millions of people throughout the world, let alone the country through various means of social media. Her flip-flopping may not be as prominent as Donald Trump’s rather dissociative identity-tinged quote, “There are two Donald Trumps” followed a few minutes later by, “I don’t think there are two Donald Trumps. There’s one Donald Trump.” However, it is still present in a more politically dangerous sense, most recently in cases of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) according to Bloomberg and the New York Times, Iran’s right to enrich uranium according to BBC and the Atlantic, the Keystone XL pipeline according to MSNBC and CNN, and many more.

Sanders has beat to death his anti-establishment policies. We have heard them, read them and labeled him as either a visionary or a socialist. Given his recent success in being progressive, we see Clinton jump onto the progressive bandwagon and it’s not only fair but expected for him to explain exactly why he’s different from the ever-morphing Hillary Clinton. If anything, her personal affront from Bernie’s ad admonishing Wall Street, the establishment and Goldman Sachs (the usual targets to his diatribes) is self-incriminating and emphasizes her involvement in the issues Sanders is fighting against.

Clinton’s resilience is being brought into question. If she can’t handle the tone of a man who has agreed to push all of his support in her favor if she is given the nomination, then how is she to handle the tone of those like Donald Trump or Ted Cruz? The GOP side of the presidential campaign has turned into a perverse version of Mean Girls with nude photos of wives being released to the media as a question of what is First Lady-like and marriages being tested. Women’s rights and their very independence is threatened with every exchange and statement by both the leading GOP candidates. As the only female presidential candidate left in the race, Clinton needs to realize that stunts such as this one should be avoided at all costs. While Bernie Sanders will take the high-road despite Clinton’s wily attempts at garnering sympathy, she will not be shown that kindness or respect from the other side. If the GOP wasn’t too busy self-destructing, she’d be facing a lot more personal attacks with harsher “tone.”

As a reincarnation of the 2008 Obama vs. Clinton campaign, we see Bernie running an economically and socially influenced campaign strategy, while Clinton falls back on her witch hunt to find hypocrisy in her candidates. If 2008 is any indicator for how the campaign will develop, then Hillary Clinton should be worried about the tone her own campaign is taking.


Jesseba Fernando is a staff columnist for The Daily Campus opinion section. She can be reached via email at jesseba.fernando@uconn.edu.