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June 8, 2016 4:46 pm

Advice to Clinton: Don’t Try to Placate Sanders’ Hard Left Voters

avatar by Alan Dershowitz

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Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton won the Democratic primary in California. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton won the Democratic primary in California. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Even following Hillary Clinton’s historic victory in the primaries, there are some among the most radical Bernie Sanders supporters—let’s call them Sanderistas—who would actually like to see Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in the general election. Their “logic” is as follows:  If Clinton wins, Sanders becomes just another loser. The Sanderistas become marginalized. And their leader’s quest for a political revolution ends with the election of yet another centrist, “establishment” Democrat. 

However, if Trump beats Clinton, Sanders will claim to become the titular leader of the Democrat party, pointing to early polls showing that he would have beaten Trump, though these polls signify little about how he would have done in an actual head to head contest. (In my opinion, he would have suffered a devastating defeat comparable to those suffered by other left-wing candidates such as Mondale and Dukakis, though nothing is predictable with Trump as the Republican nominee). Moreover, were Clinton to lose, Sanders’ influence would increase within the party—and around the country—because the Sanderistas will take credit for Clinton’s defeat and insist that without them the Democrats can’t win a general election. 

Other Sanderistas have put forward a more destructive rationale. As one of Sanders’ most prominent surrogates, the actress Susan Sarandon explained “[S]ome people feel that Donald Trump will bring the revolution immediately if he gets in, things will really explode.” Sarandon, who made the same case for Ralph Nader in the 2000 presidential election (and look how that turned out), is not the only Sanders supporter who feels that a Trump presidency could be the catalyst for the leftist political revolution promised by Sanders and his surrogates.

These hard left radicals, just like their anti-establishment counterparts on the extreme right, believe that the nomination system is rigged if they do not get their way. Ultimately, it’s unsurprising that Trump has seized on that sentiment and invited them to join forces in the quest for a revolution: “To all of those Bernie Sanders voters who have been left out in the cold by a rigged system of super delegates, we welcome you with open arms.”

As she struggles to unify the Democratic Party, however, Clinton should be wary: any effort to embrace the Sanderistas will backfire. They won’t vote for her anyway, unless she goes so far left as to fall off the political cliff. As CNN recently reported, “Sanders has inspired a movement, but it’s unclear whether he can control it. Or if he wants to… [M]any [of his supporters] insist they will not fall into line behind Hillary Clinton… They are taking seriously Sanders’ call for a political revolution, complicating any hope for quick unity with Clinton.” One such Sanderista is quoted as saying, “You can’t expose the corruption of the political system and then expect us to get behind that same political system.” Another threatens that “[i]f Bernie Sanders does not walk out of that thing as the nominee, we can guarantee you from that point on we’ll start the de-registration of the Democratic Party. They have a choice to make.”

Even if some Sanderistas were to rally to Clinton, their votes in swing states would not be enough to have a meaningful impact on the general election, especially in comparison to the support she would lose in the political center, which has little appetite for revolution. Moreover any appeasement of the far left will be welcomed by the Republican Party, who now fear that its centrist wing will defect in large numbers, and vote for Clinton, because they regard Trump as something of a kook. If Clinton embraces the Sanderistas, these voters will view the election as a contest between the kooky right and the equally kooky left. Given that choice, they will prefer their right wing kook to the left wing kook.

This is not to say that Clinton should not consider supporting reasonable programs just because they were advocated by Sanders.  She already has, and should continue, to talk about reducing the gap between the rich and the poor, raising the minimum wage, rethinking trade agreements, holding Wall Street accountable, making college more affordable and other domestic economic fixes.  She staked out that territory in her speech on Tuesday night and she should continue to try to appeal to reasonable Sanders voters, especially among the young.

However, there are two particular areas where the Sanders program would endanger Clinton’s electoral prospects. The first is domestic: she should not adopt Sanders economics of spending more that a reasonable budget would permit. Adopting some pie in the sky proposals that would add trillions of dollars to the budget and dramatically increase our national debt would be a gift to Trump. Americans don’t want to be debtors who mortgage their children’s future. We want reasonable spending that we can afford.

The second gift to Trump would be in the area of foreign policy, particularly with regard to the Middle East. Were Clinton to move away from support for Israel, it could hurt her electoral chances in several swing states. Americans in general admire and support Israel. They don’t want a president who would parrot the views of radical anti-Israel haters such as Cornel West and James Zogby, who falsely accuse Israel of being an apartheid state that sets up concentration camps and aims to annihilate Palestinians. Even many of Sanders’ young supporters, some of whom are critical of certain Israeli policies – especially with regard to the settlements – do not want the U.S. to adopt the West-Zogby anti-Israel approach. Sanders received his support from young people for his domestic policy, not his foreign policy (about which he knows little). He wandered into the morass of Mideast politics only to satisfy his hard left supporters who think in absurd packages: if you support the environment and higher minimum wages, then you must oppose Israel. That’s not the way centrist and independent voters think, and Clinton must reject that kind of radical “intersectional” thinking if she is to beat Trump in the fall.

So let Hillary be Hillary and not become Bernie. Let her look for guidance to the successful centrist politics of Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, rather than the failed revolutionary screeds of Bernie Sanders, Cornel West and Susan Sarandon. We are a centrist nation that has thrived without the turmoil that extremes– both left and right– bring to politics and governance. We don’t want to emulate Europe and South America, which often alternate between socialist and nationalist regimes– between the Red and the Brown. If she gets too close to the hard left politics of Sanders most extreme “Bernie or bust” zealots, she may get burned in the general election – and so will our nation.  

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  • Because Hillary Clinton is unlikely to survive until November 8th, Alan Dershowitz could have spared himself this political analysis and also his lively concern for the social radicalism and anti-Israel directions of the Sanders camp. If Dershowitz had stuck to his legal expertise, he would be predicting that the Democratic Party and the country are likely now on the cusp of a great political crisis. Namely, there will likely be real shock and deep fear when Hillary implodes from either plea bargain or indictment. The probability is that Hillary is coming down due to her growing legal problems, either before or shortly after the Democratic National Convention (July 25-28). If the Justice Department catches up with Hillary before the Convention, the current ruling troika of Valerie Jarrett, Barack and Michelle would probably continue its current efforts to use Hillary’s delegates and super-delegates to block Bernie Sanders — and then, at the Convention, respond to the national crisis perhaps by nominating Michelle, maybe with Joe Biden as her VP running mate. If nominee Hillary is nuked just after the Convention, the troika would certainly follow the rules set out in the Charter of the Democratic Party. In the eye of the hurricane, they would turn to the Democratic National Committee to fill the holes in the Democratic ticket, perhaps with Michelle for President and maybe Joe Biden for VP. The emergency contingency of a Michelle Obama candidacy presents the greatest threat to the Jewish People and Israel. If Valerie Jarrett, Barack and Michelle stay in the White House for another four to eight years after January 20, 2017, we can anticipate that they would greatly intensify the anti-Israel and pro-Iranian drift of current USA foreign policy. The New York Times has more than once confirmed that Barack Obama is planning to actively fight the 2016 campaign. We are meant to believe that he will be going “all out” to get Hillary elected, but ultimately it could be his proxy Michelle who is the victorious presidential candidate.

  • Clinton will be no better for Israel than Obama, but may be worse. She’s not to be trusted. Trump may be an unknown quantity but he’ll probably be better than Clinton.

  • If Mrs. Clinton wins in November, she’ll be another left-wing ideologue like President Obama. The neo-liberals influencing the Democratic Party are increasingly left-wing and Anti-Israel. And the U.S. will emulate Europe and South America because of ill-advised policies.

  • MrAlf

    Let them go home and not vote. Last year Bernie was not a Democrat and most of his supporters did not vote Democratic or just did not vote. I am as pretty far left, BUT I am still a Democrat. I resent the Bernie Zealots wanting to change OUR party with their far-far-far left ideology. This is America so I am glad they had the chance to express their views democratically. Now that they lost go create another party but do not bring us down with that radical socialist and hateful thinking. Most of America is closer to the middle. The radical left supporting Bernie Sanders is as much of a hate filled lynch mob as the radical right supporting trump.
    This lynch mob mentality is embodied by the neo-nazis supporting Trump and the SJP/BDS supporting Sanders.

    Good bye to them

  • Jonah

    Centrist? With the Iranian nuke deal. I know your heart is in the right place but you have your blinders on. Did you write any articles touting the genius of Obama and insinuate he would be a friend of Israel? The Clinton money machine will sell Israel like slaves on the Clinton foundation block. Humus will be auctioneering for the highest bids and if you think otherwise you have been deluded by the left wing koolade. Hillary, Bill and Obama have triangulated the demise of Israel and the only thing between Israel and their well laid plans is God and Israels will to survive. God is finished with America and its left wingers who are always throwing spears at Israel. Look at Jimmey Carter he is worse than the Ku Klux clan. Trump will put and end to those forces raised by Hillaary and Obama to destroy Israel. Hillary will take their money and pave the way for them to complete the job.