Sanders takes on ‘billionaire class’ in launching 2016 bid against Clinton

1 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Bernie Sanders launches his presidential campaign: ‘We’re in this race to win’.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Day-old presidential contender Bernie Sanders said Thursday that questions about the Clinton Foundation’s activities are fair game in the race for the Democratic nomination, and noted that Hillary Rodham Clinton has yet to take a position on contentious trade legislation and the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline. The big story here is that an avowed socialist who voted with the Democratic Party in the Senate, but wouldn’t join it, now feels comfortable seeking its presidential nomination. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who supports socialist policies, lifted off his long-shot bid Thursday for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination by declaring war on the “billionaire class” that he contends runs the political system.

Though hardly a conservative, her record puts her to the right of a Democratic Party that has been gradually taken over by its left wing in the 20-plus years since a centrist Bill Clinton, accompanied by then-first lady Hillary, first gained the White House, as former Clinton White House political strategist Doug Sosnik argued in an influential 2014 article for Politico Magazine. And he lambasted the growing influence that major donors like Charles and David Koch on the right and Tom Steyer on the left now have on the political process. “The real question is, can any candidate in this country who represents working families, who is not a billionaire, who is not beholden to big corporations — in this day and age, can that candidate win an election?” Sanders said. How does it happen that the top 1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent?” he told reporters. “My conclusion is, that that type of economics is not only immoral, it is not only wrong, it is unsustainable.” The self-described socialist, known for his blunt style, enters the race as a progressive favorite eager to push presumed Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton to the left. Clinton voted for — highlighted why she will most likely need to treat him with deference. “She has to deal with him very respectfully, because otherwise she returns to this aura of giving off inevitability,” said Bob Shrum, a Democratic consultant who was a top adviser to John Kerry in 2004. In 2014, a Pew Research Center survey found that rank-and-file Democrats were almost twice as likely to describe themselves as “mostly or consistently liberal” as they were in 1994 (56 percent in 2014 vs. 30 percent in 1994).

It says, “A political revolution is coming,” and has a disclaimer that it is “paid for by Bernie 2016, not the billionaires.” Sanders said he remains a political independent, but drew a tweeted welcome to the race from Florida Rep. The party’s activists and leaders are even more left-leaning, with 70 percent of them pronouncing themselves consistent liberals in 2014, as opposed to 35 percent in 1994. There is little question that no matter what Clinton says or does as a candidate, there will always be a segment of the Democratic base who does not a) trust her or b) believe that she means what she says on things like income inequality. Sosnik identified the improved funding and organization of left-wing groups, as well as the electorate’s increasing demographic diversity and leftward drift on cultural issues, as factors favouring the liberal Democratic ascent. He is the first major challenger to enter the race against Clinton, who launched her own bid for president earlier this month and is the heavily favored, early front-runner in the Democratic contest.

To that list of factors should be added the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the financial crisis, which damaged public confidence in U.S. foreign policy and U.S. capitalism, respectively. His main rhetorical targets were David and Charles Koch, industrialist brothers who have become political bogeymen for liberals because of their vast political spending. He will function as Clinton’s liberal conscience in this race — always pushing and prodding her to go further, to say more that will please the left. (Sidenote: While there is some unrest among liberals regarding Clinton’s commitment to their issues, it’s not widespread.

Alas for Hillary, the record of her husband’s administration — and even her own record as a senator and as a secretary of state sympathetic to the use of force abroad — reflected the lessons of older events — specifically, the defeat of Michael Dukakis by George H.W. If he ran as an independent, he would not be able to engage with the national Democratic infrastructure or act as a direct foil to Clinton in the early primaries and caucuses. A March Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that 77 percent of liberals had a favorable view of Clinton, including 50 percent who were “strongly” favorable.) 2. The event was as unusual as Sanders, 73, with flowing white hair that evokes an image more in line with a New England professor than a presidential contender.

Sanders spoke Thursday about several key progressive issues that will frame his campaign, including income inequality and unemployment, campaign finance reform, education reform and climate change. “I believe that in a democracy what elections are about are serious debates over serious issues — not political gossip, not making campaigns into soap offices. He never said that he was running for president in a five-minute speech that was rambling at times, never asked for anyone to vote for him and began his remarks with a “whoa” as the microphone had a slight backfire.

Sanders on Saturday will head to New Hampshire, which host’s the nation’s first presidential primary, where he will attend a house party with supporters and address an AFL-CIO convention. The contrast between Sanders and Clinton is stark, and his candidacy — especially his presence in the expected primary debates this fall — threatens to remind base Democrats why they may have pause supporting Clinton. Hillary figured in conservative demonology as the radical power behind her husband’s throne and got blamed for the failure of an allegedly overly liberal Clinton administration health insurance proposal; so she remade herself as a centrist.

The comparisons are plenty: Sanders’s authenticity and hot, unvarnished rhetoric to Clinton’s careful script; his unabashedly liberal agenda to her years of triangulation; his grass-roots, small-donor campaign to her paid army of staffers and super PAC allies. On Wednesday, Clinton offered criminal justice reforms that implicitly repudiate tough federal sentencing laws that her husband signed, and she lavishly praised David Dinkins — the one-term Democratic mayor of New York whose perceived failures to control crime paved the way to his election defeat by Republican Rudy Giuliani in 1993. And so, at some point in mid-November, is it possible that Clinton looks slightly less impressive than Democrats had hoped — or the media gets bored writing the Clinton juggernaut story — and there’s a turning to Sanders?

Meanwhile, she has almost been silenced on President Barack Obama’s proposed free-trade agreement with 11 Pacific Rim nations — itself possibly a last vestige of Democratic pro-business centrism. He also said he is helping lead opposition to legislation that would strengthen President Barack Obama’s hand in future trade talks, including a proposed 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership. Yet labor and other liberal interest groups are trying to establish opposition to free trade as the post-Obama party line — it’s a key issue for Sanders. Clinton has supported previous trade deals, and the issue emerged as a key point of contention eight years ago when she and Obama both sought the presidency.

The danger for Clinton is that, because of her dominance at the outset of the race, any surge by Sanders or another challenger in the polls could be interpreted as a sign of her weakness and establish a narrative that she is no longer the immutable, presumptive nominee. Add it all up and you see why the Clinton folks could actually have a conversation sometime late this fall that starts: “How do you want to handle this Bernie Sanders problem?” Now, Sanders going from ignored to irritant is a different thing than Sanders going from ignored to elected. She’s expressed skepticism recently about the emerging Pacific agreement, saying it must protect U.S. workers, but has not taken a firm position on the deal and spoke in its favor when in Obama’s Cabinet. Sanders is a self-described “socialist,” some of her supporters believes she’ll appear more center-left by contrast, which could only benefit her in a general election, even as her language is increasingly being compared to that of Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts. “I don’t think” that’s possible, he said.

She enjoys the backing of a vast network of elected officials, donors and hangers-on; the chance to elect the first female president will induce many Democrats to swallow their ideological misgivings. Sanders, for instance, is strongly against the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which has faced withering criticism from the left. “The entry of another candidate into the Democratic primary actually provides Hillary Clinton a great opportunity — to show that she’s being tested and working for the nomination — and that given a choice, Democrats overwhelming chose her,” he said.

The likely effect — and intent — of a Sanders challenge is to push both Clinton’s campaign and her administration, if there is one, further left, thus consolidating liberal control of the party. Sanders’s advisers see similarities between Iowa and Vermont: Both are relatively rural states with long traditions of grass-roots political organizing. The risk, for Clinton and the Democrats generally, is that they over-interpret the country’s mood, which is increasingly culturally liberal — but still deeply skeptical of federal competence and trustworthiness. “Democratic activists will need to reconcile the public’s desire for smaller government with their own progressive impulses,” Sosnik warned. Democrats in both states also have a populist streak and are motivated by issues such as economic fairness and war and peace, two areas where Sanders has begun drawing contrasts with Clinton. His strategy is to play aggressively in caucus states, where Clinton performed poorly in 2008 and where they believe his grass-roots organizing could pay off, including Colorado and Minnesota.

But Sanders hopes to use his absence of a super PAC to his advantage, making the Citizens United court decision — which made it easier to spend unlimited funds on elections — a centerpiece of his populist message. This could be potent, especially in Iowa and New Hampshire, where voters were turned off by super PAC spending in the 2014 midterms and where presidential super PACs on the Republican and Democratic side are expected to overload the airwaves with television advertising over the next year. For now, the efforts are being run in part by Devine and his business partner Mark Longabaugh, who each have decades of experience working on presidential campaigns.

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