* As Bernie Sanders well knows, labels matter. Exhibit A: “Socialist.” And in this politically polarized era, “socialist” makes it too easy for the Trump base and their cult leader to mischaracterize and mislead. But Bernie is Bernie; he wants to be the Democratic nominee without actually being a card-carrying “Democrat.” He’s a socialist-Democrat–in that order. And he’s the guy to stick it to the one-percent greed heads.
But that works better in the partisan abstract than in the alternate-facts reality we’re living with. A universe that equates “socialism” with Communism and “free stuff” for the “lazy.”
At some point, Sanders will have to present himself as something other than a Larry David-like socialist messiah that the other side can too easily demean to a too-easily seduced base. America, lest we forget, is still largely a center-left nation.
At some point, Sanders needs to look into a debate camera and say: “When I say ‘socialist,’ I mean somebody who prioritizes the common good. That’s all of us. Nobody is left behind. Because I will defend and protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and improve the Affordable Care Act, doesn’t mean that I favor nationalizing our major industries or replacing markets with central planning. I’m neither stupid nor a Communist. I’m all about a customized capitalistic–yes, I actually just used that term–demand economy. Not a command economy. But it needs safety nets. All societies do. I like the Denmark model, if you will, not the North Korean, Cuban or Venezuelan models my Republican opponents disingenuously try to associate me with. That’s an insult–as well as a lie.
“If this were Europe, I’d be called a social democrat. But this is America, and I call myself a Democratic socialist–in that order. I’m proud to be a Democrat, and I would be proud to be the nominee of a party that puts common good before not uncommon political self interest. We deserve better. All of us.”
* “The world has changed, and my views have changed.” That’s Bernie Sanders candidly acknowledging that he’s no longer against most gun-control legislation. In fact, he’s no longer opposed to the Brady Bill. Yeah, he once was. Vermont can be like that. It’s a reminder that every presidential candidate has some back-in-the-day, constituent-influenced positions that don’t resonate a generation later.
Like Barack Obama on gay marriage, it’s best to acknowledge–and underscore–that you’ve changed your mind without any parsed equivocation. It’s also a sign that you’re open to changing times and, ultimately, what matters most is getting it right, whatever the timing.
* “We know some of the same people in NY. Behind your back they laugh at you & call you a carnival barking clown. They know you inherited a fortune & squandered it with stupid deals and incompetence. I have the record & the resources to defeat you. And I will.”–Michael Bloomberg’s response to Trump’s “Mini Mike” tweets.
* Speaking of the former NYC mayor, it’s not surprising that implausible reports that Bloomberg was considering Hillary Clinton as a possible running mate came from the Drudge Report. Just surprising that Breitbart or Rush Limbaugh didn’t get it out first. Should Bloomberg get the nomination, hardly assured, and be in requisite need of ticket balance, he’ll not be option challenged. That would include Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, California Sen. Kamala Harris and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
* It’s telling that Joe Biden, the former consensus favorite, has had less money to spend than most of his rivals. Name recognition opens check books; a precipitous drop from front-runner status can close a lot of them.
* Biden could have gotten by with competitive showings–shy of victory–in Iowa and New Hampshire. That didn’t happen. Now he has to win. A non-win in South Carolina, where black voters make up about 60 percent of the Democratic electorate, would be devastating–or worse.
* Pete Buttigieg has gone from one media-forum extreme to another. He was recently on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” as well as a Fox News town hall hosted by Chris Wallace. He showed well. He also showed that those running to be president of all the American people should take their message–and their principles and rhetorical skills–to diverse forums, including the de facto opposition. The best candidates know they can’t just preach to the converted and then glibly pivot for the general election.
* The Florida Democratic Party has launched a “Democrats of Faith” outreach throughout Florida. It is promoting voter registration before the Florida primary and speaking to core Democratic values and policies that are in stark contrast to the personal actions and policies embraced by Trump and the Trump-groveling Republican Party. The outreach smartly is aimed at all denominations.
Everything helps, of course, including a possible outreach to cult-leader averse agnostics, whose skepticism likely includes everything that has been unconscionably unfolding during the Trump Administration.