You Gotta Love Bernie!

By Chris Carlson

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders appears to be on the cusp of sinking the vaunted, well-financed and well-staffed Clinton election machine. It’s a notion that the vast majority of the political punditry class, and the political cognoscenti (especially those inside the beltway) thought to be absolutely unimaginable.

One could hear it anywhere — some version of the “Democrats will never nominate one who calls himself a “progressive socialist.” Well, Bernie just may surprise.

Listening to Bernie and Hillary, the differences become more clear each time they debate or share a platform. One speaks with an undeniable sincerity, the other sounds like an automaton — a flat-sounding almost plaintive voice.

It reminds one of that great scene in the classic movie “2001” when the onboard computer has tried to kill Dave, the astronaut who has gone outside the spacecraft to make a repair. The computer, named Hal, is trying to reason with Dave.

“Dave, listen to me. I suppose you are upset with me. And you have a right to be. But the mission must go on. Dave, talk to me Dave,” Hal pleads.

Just as many Democratic voters in New Hampshire, as well as across the nation, have stopped listening to Hillary Clinton’s plea to support her historic quest to be the first woman elected president, Dave does not listen. He relentlessly goes into the computer’s “brain” and turns Hal off. Hal’s credibility and trustworthiness is gone—as is Hillary’s.

Bernie clearly speaks with more passion than Hillary. He has stayed on message relentlessly while Hillary has bounced between various messages. He’s following the KISS formula and its resonating. He is absolutely correct in pointing out that the top 1/10th of 1 percent, the wealthiest, are subsidized by the middle class.

What’s worst, they brag about their status.

There are numerous stories of extraordinarily wealthy individuals boasting about paying no taxes.

Readers are invited to read New York Times tax writer’s David Cay Johnston’s fine books that document in painful detail the many ways the average American subsidizes the wealthy. Read “Perfectly Legal” or “No Free Lunch” or “Read the Fine Print.” If you’ve got a pulse, you’re spitting mad.

When Bernie makes it clear he has no SuperPAC, nor received any money from Wall Street, like the $17.2 million Hillary has received, more and more voters know what he is saying.

The great irony is that the oldest person in the race has so galvanized the nation’s under 45 years of age crowd, and especially those in college, that his plausibility of winning the nomination and the November election grows with each passing day.

National polls have him almost dead even with Hillary, within the margin of error. His campaign team thinks Bernie did actually win the total vote count in Iowa and also point to six Iowa precincts which supposedly were dead even where Hillary won the coin flip each time.

Conventional wisdom is that Bernie will clobber Hillary in New Hampshire, so watch for the spinmeisters and biased media to play down a Sanders’ victory. Candidly, many media scribes engage in the “expectation” game and then breathlessly proclaim how their pre-vote speculation did indeed happen. Of course there’s no one engaging in self-fulfilling prophecy.

Conventional wisdom says that South Carolina is Hillary’s firewall that will offset the midships blow she took in Iowa and the possibly 2:1 loss in New Hampshire. Much is made of the commanding lead she has among African-American voters there.

Bernie, however, is countering with the endorsement of one of the most influential NAACP leaders in modern times — Ben Jealous. Bernie has another gambit in his favor the media is ignoring — there are many white Democratic voters who are strong supporters of gun rights.

Bernie voted against the Brady Bill five times and he’s never been a big anti-gun senator in part because there are several major gun manufacturers in his state. Like rural states and rural areas across the nation, there are many gun owners. Thus, Bernie is not anathema to the National Rifle Association, though his rating is now an “F” because the NRA perceives a major shift to the left and support for more gun controls. If Bernie pulls off the upset, however, and beats Hillary in South Carolina, his momentum may be unstoppable.

As Bernie’s national surge continues, look for Hillary to attack more and harder. If she gets too nasty, look for Bernie to play the Wal-Mart card.

It could unfold as follows: “Madame secretary, you say you will be a fighter for the average working person. However, you served on the Wal-Mart board for six years, from 1986 to 1992.

“During that time did you ever fight for an increase in the minimum wage? The answer is no, isn’t it? Did you ever argue for equal pay for equal work? The answer is no, isn’t it? Did you ever argue for health benefits to be extended to the thousands of part-time Walmart workers? The answer is no, isn’t it? Did you ever in the confines of the board room argue for the right of Wal-Mart employees to form a union? The answer is no, isn’t it?

“You tell folks to look at your record. Well I have, Mrs. Clinton, and the record belies your claims.”

Game, set, match. It’s all over.

A native of Kellogg, journalist Chris Carlson pens his column from his retirement home near Medimont in Northern Idaho. He is a former teacher and was press secretary to former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus.