Editorial: Bernie is not wrong
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is right about the shortcomings of Joe Biden’s campaign for president against Donald Trump. He not focusing enough on what he will do differently to help Americans regain their economic footing.
“We … have to give people a reason to vote for Joe Biden,” Sanders (I-Vt.) said late last week. “And Joe has some pretty strong positions on the economy, and I think we should be talking about that more than we have.”
Biden is, in short, making the same mistake Hillary Clinton did in 2016. Like her, Biden is being too conservative to excite his base the same way that Trump excites his. Biden needs to make his best pitch to Latino voters to convince them he, not Trump, will better their lives. He needs to do the same for industrial workers in Pennsylvania and the Upper Midwest. He needs to hammer home to coal workers that Trump’s promises were more lies, and that he and fellow Democrats will lift them up by providing the resources needed to transition to other jobs.
He needs to hammer Trump even harder on his environmental record and his rolling back of measures to reduce climate change, and he needs explain how disruptive and catastrophic — economically and socially — the consequences will be if America and the world don’t reduce carbon dioxide emissions. As Sen. Sanders might have done, Biden needs to summon a fire-and-brimstone speech, complete with fist pounding, that makes American voters understand that likely reality. And, among other things, he needs to press Trump on his suspicious Russian connections, and all the Trump insiders who have turned against him with accurate accounts of what they witnessed while serving under his rule. There’s ample evidence from insiders’ books and revelations and they are all aimed at helping Americans understand the treasonous depravity of the Trump administration.
Comments from former Lt. Colonel Alexander Vinman, who was wounded as an American infantryman in the Iraq War and rose through the ranks to serve as Trump’s National Security Council director for European affairs, stand out. In an exposé in The Atlantic this week by Jeffrey Goldberg, Vindman summed up Trump’s role with Russia:
“President Trump should be considered to be a useful idiot and a fellow traveler, which makes him an unwitting agent of Putin,” Vindman told Goldberg, who added that “useful idiot is a term commonly used to describe dupes of authoritarian regimes; fellow traveler, in Vindman’s description, is a person who shares Putin’s loathing for democratic norms.”
“But do you think Russia is blackmailing Trump?” asked Goldberg.
“They may or may not have dirt on him, but they don’t have to use it,” Vindman replied. “They have more effective and less risky ways to employ him. He has aspirations to be the kind of leader that Putin is, and so he admires him. He likes authoritarian strongmen who act with impunity, without checks and balances. So he’ll try to please Putin…. In the Army we call this ‘free chicken,’ something you don’t have to work for — it just comes to you. This is what the Russians have in Trump: free chicken.”
This is but one example of damning material against Trump from his former officials who have bolted and are speaking out because they fear that Trump’s actions, and his possible re-election, could spell the end of America’s democracy.
Biden needs to hammer on those points relentlessly, and show not only how Trump has sullied America’s once-heralded status in the world, but how he will do better.
We get that part of Biden’s charm is that he’s a nice guy; that he’s calm and thoughtful. But that doesn’t play well against a crass narcissist who is willing to lie, distort and misinform American voters at every turn. Biden and his team must do two things: 1) more effectively counter the foul nonsense Trump spews daily in a way that’s portrays Trump for the idiot he is; and 2) lay out a progressive agenda that gives Americans hope in his vision.
Part of how you do that is by demanding more and more TV time and by being out there on the campaign trail making headlines, instead of tucked in a room wearing a mask and talking to a camera you’re holding.
Bernie is not wrong. Biden and his team need to be more aggressive, they need to motivate and excite their supporters, and they need to do it now.