Davis: Two cheers for Bernie Sanders

Davis: Two cheers for Bernie Sanders
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Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies Clip shows Larry David and Bernie Sanders reacting after discovering they're related For now, Trump dossier creates more questions than answers MORE has earned two cheers for the presidential campaign he has run. But the third one isn’t there yet.

I am hoping that the question is when, not whether, he will earn that third cheer, by focusing on the issues as he promised he would and not saying anything that might be used by Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump pens op-ed on kindergartners learning tech Bharara, Yates tamp down expectations Mueller will bring criminal charges Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open MORE in the general election campaign.

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The first cheer for Sanders is because at critical moments in his campaign he stuck to the issues the American people care about and refused to engage in personal attacks on Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies DNC, RNC step up cyber protections Gun proposal picks up GOP support MORE, opposite from the vile anonymous Internet posters who call themselves “Bernie bros.” One of the senator’s Iowa campaign leaders publicly repudiated these disgusting haters, cowards who hide behind anonymity. Sanders himself should be more explicit in denouncing them. 

I will never forget the moment in the first debate, when Sanders was asked to address the issue of Clinton’s State emails, an obsession of the most partisan Republicans. He said, “I’m sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.” This statement was not only gracious, it was smart politics. It was followed by an ovation from the audience, from both his supporters and Clinton’s. According to most polls, almost eight out of ten Democrats agreed with Sanders then — and still do now.

Instead of personal attacks, for the most part, the Vermont Independent has focused on the two major issues that have become the themes of his White House campaign: the need to address the huge disparities in income and privileges between the super wealthy and most Americans, as well as to curb Wall Street firm abuses, and the need for major campaign finance reforms and the corrupting influence of big money in our political system. And the fact is, there is very little substantive difference on these issues between Sanders and Clinton. Sanders’s narrow victory in Indiana on Tuesday night won’t significantly close the gap in Clinton’s huge lead in popular votes and delegates. But it shows his message continues to resonate among many Democrats. The fact that he and Clinton share similar progressive positions and values portends well for party unity after the convention.

The second cheer that he deserves is due to his amazing ability to energize young people. Sanders has done what Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaAll five living former presidents to attend hurricane relief concert Overnight Health Care: Schumer calls for tying ObamaCare fix to children's health insurance | Puerto Rico's water woes worsen | Dems plead for nursing home residents' right to sue Interior moves to delay Obama’s methane leak rule MORE historically did in his 2008 campaign and, I hope, with the same positive impact on the November general elections.

In 2008, I experienced the pleasure/pain sensation of my son calling me and saying, “Dad, I love Hillary and Bill ClintonBill ClintonAll five living former presidents to attend hurricane relief concert The Hill's 12:30 Report The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE, but Barack Obama speaks to my generation and I am supporting him.” Later, when I was asked by a reporter how I could explain my own son being for Obama despite my long years of friendship with Bill and Hillary Clinton, I answered: “I always told my son he should reach his own political opinions, independent of his father. I just didn’t think he would take me literally!” Personal footnote: Today that same son is one of the most ardent Hillary supporters I know.

But Sanders hasn’t earned the third cheer yet because of his recent decision to attack Hillary Clinton personally. Worse, his attacks are based on pure innuendo, not facts. When asked to name a single issue where the former secretary of State was influenced in her position or vote because of big bank donations, he was unable to do so. He also forgets to mention that Obama received similar donations and was similarly unaffected in his positions on the issues.

It is no coincidence that just about the time Sanders turned personally negative, he started to lose major primary states, such as New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Missouri, Texas and Florida. The super-partisans in his campaign who urged him to go negative — urged on by the ratings obsessed media — have proven to be wrong.

Sen. Sanders: You are behind Hillary Clinton in the popular vote by over 3 million votes nationwide and more than 300 elected delegates. How can you ask superdelegates to vote for you in defiance of the will of the people? If you were ahead of Clinton by 3 million votes, wouldn’t you be calling on superdelegates to support you for that very reason?

As for me, I predict Sanders will be a mensch and return to what he does best — supporting the progressive programs that have exemplified his candidacy from the beginning.

Sanders is entitled to campaign all the way through the convention and to fight for a progressive platform. That won’t hurt — it will help — the Democratic Party. He should follow the path that Clinton pursued in her 2008 bid: She kept campaigning but did nothing to help the Republican candidate in November.

One thing Sanders and Clinton agree on 100 percent: Donald Trump is a dangerous demagogue who recklessly insults and lies about his opponents shamelessly and should never come close to being the president of the United States. We Democrats have seen that for a long time. We can’t say it any better than Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzWhatever you think the Alabama special election means, you’re probably wrong This week: Congress gets ball rolling on tax reform Week ahead: Senators work toward deal to fix ObamaCare markets MORE did on Tuesday.

 

Davis served as special counsel to former President Clinton. He is co-founder of the law firm of Davis Goldberg & Galper PLLC and co-founder of the public relations firm Trident DMG, and author of “Crisis Tales: Five Rules for Coping with Crises in Business, Politics, and Life.”