While CNN published an article headlined "Poll: Clinton's honesty and trustworthy problem extends to swing states," the former secretary of State's main challenger for the Democratic nomination doesn't have a trust problem with voters. The Boston Globe writes that during a campaign visit to Iowa, a former Marine drove six hours to hear Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDrug importation from other countries will save dollars and lives Sanders: Trump a 'pathological liar' Buttigieg endorsed by ex-treasurer in DNC race MORE (I-Vt.) speak and another Iraq War veteran stated, "He's the first politician that I've believed in my life." Sanders is down by only 8 points in New Hampshire, primarily because he's championed progressive causes long before they were popular. The man once stated that he's a "democratic socialist" (very different from the Fox News meaning of socialism), so Americans know that Vermont's junior senator doesn't have a public relations machine vetting his every word.
As a result of his refusal to take a poll-driven and centrist viewpoint on major issues like foreign policy and the economy, Sanders must wage a grass-roots campaign for the White House. NPR reports that his recent total of $15 million came from "250,000 donors making nearly 400,000 contributions of $250 or less." However, Sanders has the trust of the average American, and while Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonFive big Trump narratives to watch NBC: Russia setting up dossier on Trump Chelsea Clinton attends Muslim solidarity rally in NYC MORE has amassed $329 million in her career (three of her top five donors are Citigroup, Goldman and JP Morgan), some things can't be purchased with money. The integrity, honesty and bold stances of Sanders might make him a real threat to Clinton’s campaign and he's earned something that billions in campaign fundraising can't buy: the trust of the average American.
Sanders, on the other hand, is the antithesis of Clinton. When 72 percent of Americans supported the Iraq War in 2003, Sanders not only voted against the invasion, but foreshadowed its unintended consequences and never allowed intelligence reports to influence his decision-making. During the George W. Bush years, he voted against the Patriot Act at a time when Clinton and other Democrats voted for the controversial legislation. In 1996, as a member of the House of Representatives, Sanders voted against the Defense of Marriage Act (which barred federal recognition of gay marriages), even though 68 percent of Americans were against gay marriage. Regarding our fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Sanders says "I'll be damned" if more American soldiers are sent back to the Middle East, despite 62 percent of registered voters willing to send ground troops. While 65 percent of Americans believe that income inequality is a problem that needs to be "addressed now," Sanders has championed this issue his entire life and blasted then-Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan on wealth inequality back in 2003.
Sanders wants to break up the most powerful banks in the country, so he isn't beholden to some of the same interests that have bolstered the Clinton campaign. Instead, his road to the White House is based more on the political currency related to his honesty and progressive value system. A Politico article quotes former California State Sen. Tom Hayden (D) explaining how Sanders raises enough money to be competitive:
"It's no small achievement with all the candidates and money," said Hayden. "He is breaking through because he is credible and has a core of committed supporters. He is perceived as a very straight talker and unlike many campaigns on the left, has credentials that are persuasive. He will probably galvanize enough money to run a credible campaign."
Therefore, Sanders is showing that it's possible to run on an unapologetic belief in progressive values, not simply carefully crafted rhetoric that jettisons core principles. Sanders never had to cater to any interests other than his belief system; something that frightens Wall Street while at the same time endears him to working Americans.
His competition, however, is so close to Wall Street that Politico ran a piece last year headlined "Wall Street Republicans' dark secret: Hillary Clinton 2016." It says something about American democracy when Clinton can vote for the Iraq War, oppose gay marriage up until 2013, push for the Trans-Pacific Partnership 45 times (calling it "the gold standard in trade agreements"), oppose even the decriminalization of marijuana and yet still be viewed as a "progressive" candidate for president. In terms of being a champion for women's rights, the Clinton Foundation received between $10 million to $25 million from Saudi Arabia, a country that doesn't allow women to drive a car or travel without a male chaperone. Regarding the environment, Clinton was "inclined" toward the Keystone XL pipeline as secretary of State and one leading environmental group believes, "If the pipeline goes through, she'll shoulder part of the blame." As secretary of State, she lobbied to arm the Syrian rebels (half of the Syrian rebels are aligned with jihadists or "hardline Islamist" groups), presided over a Libyan civil war exacerbated by her bombing campaign and stored government emails on a personal server.
Clinton ended up deleting 31,830 emails during her latest tenure as a government official (the Clinton campaign proclaims a lack of "smoking gun" emails, yet fails to mention that over 30,000 are deleted), but some experts believe they could still be retrieved from her private server. When asked why she used a private email account for government correspondence, Clinton answered "convenience," yet one Freedom of Information Act expert calls this excuse "laughable." During the uproar, she provided a curiously simply explanation, stating that, "I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my work and for my personal emails instead of two."
Ultimately, because Americans trust Sanders, he won't need billions to win the White House; his value system resonates with a large spectrum of voters throughout the nation. While cynics might say the banks won't let him win, or that he's "too honest" to win, Sanders is proving that integrity is an invaluable form of currency. Clinton, on the other hand, can't use money to answer why she voted for Iraq, just recently evolved on gay marriage and deleted over 30,000 emails. Some things, even in 2015, can't be erased by $2.5 billion.
The differences between both candidates will be evident during the televised Democratic debates (just ask President Nixon about televised debates), when Bernie Sanders will display attributes that money can't buy, and Hillary Clinton won't have the luxury of an expensive campaign apparatus calculating every word. As for precedent, Clinton spent $229.4 million in a losing campaign in 2008, so money still might not be enough in 2016 for her to win the White House. According to OpenSecrets.org, this precedent also left Clinton with $22.5 million in debt, and "at least $11.4 million of which came from her own pocket." Judging by 2016 fundraising estimates, a Clinton loss next year could lead to even more debt, and an even greater amount of money spent on a losing candidate.
Goodman is an author and a journalist.