The GOP Establishment knew it, too. It’s why they were more than willing to put John McCain at the top of the ticket against Obama. McCain had always been an Establishment outsider. It’s also why they were giddy to foist Sarah Palin, an unqualified goof for V.P., on their sure-to-lose nominee and the American electorate.
Big Money knew the American people would elect a Democrat as their President in ’08. They needed one they could control. Hillary Clinton was a tough-talking former First Lady. Obama was a smooth-talking community organizer. After the first debate Obama passed the TV test. He just looked and sounded like a much better choice. Big Money poured in from sources that in the past would never have given to a Democrat, much less a political novice.
Since then, Obama has been painted as a socialist by the same folks who gave him money and the less-politically astute have bought it hook, line, and sinker. The financial industry and Wall Street have made out like bandits during this Presidency. The uber-rich have gotten uber-richer while the middle class continues to shrink. Obama’s signature healthcare plan – in which he gave lip service to universal care and quickly caved – was designed by Republicans to prop up a nervous health insurance industry. In the meantime, prices for medical care continue to skyrocket.
Even when Mitt Romney ran against Obama in 2012, Big Money hedged its bets. Romney may have had more of it, but Obama was hot on his heels. Why do you think Obama has been pushing so hard for a Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement? If you listen to him talk about the TPP, you get the very real sense he’s speaking for someone else. This secret trade agreement would further strengthen the power of Big Money, who believe the best way to compete with the despotic power that is the People’s Republic of China, is to behave more like them.
Big Money has always played a role in politics but it has absolutely controlled the system since the 1980’s. The Citizens United ruling served only to codify the greater value of the corporate dollar compared to your measly individual political contribution. In his retirement, former Senator John Stennis often lamented that corporate money in politics would be the ruination of our nation’s principles and representative government. Now prepare as we throw billions of dollars at Presidential campaigns that are more concerned about corporate interests than the current and future lives of everyday citizens.
We are certainly going to hear plenty of bemoaning of Wall Street excess during the campaign. Most all of it will be hollow. Republican hopefuls are falling all over themselves to bash Wall Street. You’d think Elizabeth Warren was writing their campaign speeches.
Since her failed ’08 nomination, the Democrat’s Hillary Clinton has made sure to coddle up to Big Money. Look at her top donors – Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan. You need them to win and she looks poised to keep the Democrats in the White House for another 8 years.
Enter the Dragon. Bernie Sanders from the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. Actually Bernie is from Burlington, but that’s not all that far from the Northeast Kingdom as the crow flies. Bernie calls himself a socialist, a champion of the poor and middle class, and an enemy of the corrupting influence of Big Money in politics. His campaign is gaining momentum and his poll numbers look good. One poll has him at 32% of the primary vote and rising as opposed to Hillary’s 44% and dropping.
Hillary may be who the Democrats need in order to win in November. Bernie may be what the nation needs. He will pull voters who, while weary of his economics, are desperate to see things done differently in Washington. He has the old hippie and dying hipster vote, but he is quickly gaining among the disillusioned yuppie and the progressive-minded yuccie vote. People who won’t vote for Bernie are those fearing the specter of socialism or the commie boogeyman. Then there are those Americans in the top one percent who view themselves as temporarily embarrassed billionaires and, of course, “the oligarchs,” as Bernie calls them – that one-tenth of the top one percent – who have their hooks in every other candidate in the Presidential race, including Hillary.
Hillary with the help of the DNC has limited her primary debates against Bernie. It’s a smart move on her part. Just as Obama seared himself into the national spotlight during his debates with a weak sounding Clinton, Bernie will burn Hillary beyond recognition. The mean, old white man from Vermont will have her seeing red. She may be tempted to paint herself as blue as Mel Gibson in Braveheart to get the nomination. Just last week, in yet another big campaign kickoff announcement, Clinton stole Bernie’s anti-oligarch rhetoric without saying the word “oligarch.” Bernie, by contrast, throws it around freely and with genuine aplomb.
Hillary’s rhetoric against the influence of Big Money in politics is as empty as that of the great gaggle of Republican presidential hopefuls. But she, like they, recognizes the real fear among the American electorate. Most Americans have seen more foreign products on their shelves, fewer good jobs, and declining living standards for all but the wealthiest. It’s why the unpaid-for crowds that Bernie draws to events has far exceeded all of the other Presidential candidates. Americans are learning the ugly truth about their government and are looking for someone willing to speak truth to the power of Big Money. It’s why Bernie is not going away anytime soon and Hillary’s best chance to take him out will be to double down with more Big Money.
Still, expect Bernie to stay in the race until the Mississippi primary on March 8, 2016. Mississippians will vote for him. Most will be protest against Hillary. Others will vote for Bernie because they will understand his platform is in the best interest of the majority of people in this state. And Bernie really loves guns. Just check his voting record. He is the real deal anti-establishment candidate.
Hillary supporters are rightfully worried many folks on the Sanders Bandwagon will stay home in November if Hillary ends up with the Democratic nomination. There’s no question about it, even if Bernie implores them to support Hillary. Hillary cannot expect those who are truly fed up with uncontrolled political spending and politics as usual to vote for her.
If Bernie is the nominee, one can only imagine the ridiculously absurd amounts of money rushed to the Republican nominee. Now here’s a good question: When Bernie wins the nomination outright, will Hillary be willing to be a good soldier and true democrat, putting her Super PAC money behind Bernie Sanders? Here’s a better question: Would Bernie take it?
» David Dallas is a political writer. He worked for former U.S. Sen. John Stennis and authored Barking Dawgs and A Gentleman from Mississippi.