During a Sunday interview on CNN, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) discussed the issues he will be championing during his 2016 presidential campaign. Significantly, the Vermont Senator also revealed that he plans to run a positive campaign, by praising rather than trashing his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. During the interview, Sanders stated:
I’ve never run a negative political ad in my life…I believe in serious debates on serious issues. I’ve known Hillary Clinton for 25 years. Maybe I shouldn’t say this. I like Hillary Clinton. I respect Hillary Clinton.
Will the media, among others, allow us to have a civil debate on civil issues? Or is the only way you get media attention by ripping apart somebody else?
Although Senator Sanders disagrees strongly with Hillary Clinton on a number of important issues, he has set a positive tone for his campaign. He is more concerned with addressing the substantive issues than in tearing down his opponent.
Sanders’ political strategy contrasts with the conventional approach to modern campaigning, where negative attacks against one’s opponents are often a core part of a winning strategy. Sanders is also charting a very different course than that adopted by other recent left-wing insurgent candidates for president.
For example, although Sanders is an Independent Senator, he chose to run in the Democratic primary rather than in the general election as a third-party candidate. This strategic decision ensures that, unlike Ralph Nader in 2000, Sanders will not be running as “a spoiler” candidate, who can enable a Republican to win by siphoning votes away from the Democratic candidate. Ralph Nader’s Green Party presidential bid in 2000 arguably cost Democrat Al Gore the states of Florida and New Hampshire, making it possible for George W. Bush to eke his way into the White House.
Nader, whom Bernie Sanders once called “one of the heroes of contemporary American society”, not only played spoiler, but during the 2000 campaign, he also expended the bulk of his energy attacking Al Gore, the Democratic candidate. In the final days before the election, Nader campaigned vigorously in crucial swing states. His intent appeared designed to inflict maximum damage on Al Gore’s presidential chances, even if that meant giving George W. Bush an easier path to victory.
By shunning the negative tactics of so many modern candidates, Bernie Sanders is running a refreshingly atypical campaign. In addition, Sanders is attempting to debate the issues, by challenging Hillary Clinton from the left while also acknowledging that she is a strong candidate who he respects and admires. This is a wise strategy because Sanders recognizes that if he does not secure the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton will make a much better president than any of the GOP candidates. Sanders is running an honorable campaign, and more importantly, he is running a campaign that isn’t committing political suicide for the progressive left.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.