Saturday, February 13, 2016
I was hoping Hillary would sit this election cycle out and we would see some new faces in the Democratic primaries. Instead, we end up with a 74-year old activist as the voice of the young people in the Democratic Party, polling 84% among Millennials and consistently destroying Hillary in social media polls. In fact, Bernie outpolls Hillary in all the demographic groups except Baby Boomers.
2016 has been a weird election year and it just got weirder with Team Hillary now challenging Bernie's Civil Rights creds. They called on the Democratic Black Caucus, John Lewis, in particular, to question if Bernie was even there back in 1963 when they all were walking the walk. Lewis claims he never saw Bernie at any Civil Rights Rally. Of course, the March on Washington, which Bernie attended, was a very large affair so it isn't surprising that they didn't brush shoulders. However, John made it sound like Bernie's involvement in the Civil Rights movement was minimal at best.
Hillary Clinton was still a young teen between 1960 and 63. She started college at Wellesley in 1965, where the self-described "Goldwater Girl" joined the Young Republicans. It was only after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968 that she began to take an active interest in the Civil Rights movement. John Lewis was quick to vouch for her involvement during his endorsement speech, but by this point just about everyone who had any conscience was standing up for civil rights.
Nothing wrong with switching allegiances, but you really have to wonder about this strategy of going after Bernie's Civil Rights record. There have already been questions raised about Bernie's involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. Last November, Some unnamed University of Chicago alumni doubted whether it was Bernie in a photo Rachel Maddow presented on her show, claiming it was Bruce Rappaport, apparently Bernie's doppleganger.
Mother Jones came to Bernie's rescue, offering plenty of evidence to show that the future Vermont senator was part of the movement in Chicago and participated in national rallies as well. Bernie was active between 1960-63 before the Civil Rights Act was passed, but had to step back when his grades slid at the University of Chicago. Keith Ellison used more colorful language to support Bernie, saying "no matter how good your eyesight is -- if you are standing in Alabama, you can't see people in Chicago."
There really was no reason to drag the Civil Rights movement into the primaries, but it appears that Hillary is worried that Bernie might cut into her overwhelming lead in South Carolina, where black voters make a big difference. Bernie started running an ad that showed his support for Eric Garner's daughter, which hits very close to the heart of the Black Lives Matter movement. It is going to make a big impact on voters, especially young black voters, who are leaning toward him. It's simple really, Bernie's message from the get-go has been about inclusion, and he keeps expanding that message, which is making Team Hillary very, very nervous.
Now come the Civil Rights heavy hitters, all backing Hillary. Well not all. Harry Belafonte and Cornell West have chosen to support Bernie, as have other prominent figures like Danny Glover and Ta-Nahesi Coates. breaking down Hillary's firewall that she is counting on to stop Bernie spreading his message in the South.
Even the DNC is rewriting the Democratic playbook to give Hillary more financial support, as Bernie has been tapping into the same level of grassroots funding that Obama had in 2008. Once a bright young star in the Democratic party, Debbie Wasserman Schultz is now largely seen as a villain trying to undermine Bernie's campaign.
This is what happens when your number one candidate has no message. From the start, Hillary has been promoting herself. There is little in her campaign that inspires the base of the Democratic Party. Worse, she carries all this baggage, notably Bill Clinton, who has been firing broadsides at Bernie as well. Last time Bill got involved, he pretty much cost his wife the election. Here he is again sticking his big foot in his mouth.
Hillary needs to hone her message, not launch into a smear campaign aimed at undermining Bernie's Sanders' legitimacy. But then, she did the same thing with Obama back in 2008, when she saw her nomination slipping away. Spurious charges concerning his legitimacy began to surface, and the Clinton camp did nothing to tamp them down. Instead, her campaign team allowed them to grow, and later tried to say they had no part in spreading them. This time, her campaign is being more upfront, using surrogates like John Lewis to question's Bernie's Civil Rights record. Lewis should know better, but it seems all's fair in politics.