In the beginning Bernie Sanders promised to run an issue oriented positive campaign for president. That is as rare a thing as the sighting of a white water buffalo in the jaded world of national politics. To prove his point in the first televised democratic debate he proudly shouted to the audience and to his opponent Secretary Hillary Clinton “Let me say something that may not be great politics. The American people are sick and tired about hearing about your damn emails”. In response Hillary Clinton nearly split herself in two grinning.
Fast forward to last week and the release of the State Department Inspector General report on Secretary Clinton’s email and personal server abuse. Sen. Sanders on Face the Nation said “The Inspector General just came out with a report, it was not a good report for Secretary Clinton. That is something that the American people, Democrats and delegates are going to have to take a hard look at”. Wherever she was I don’t think Hillary cracked a smile.
How did this transformation occur? How did Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders go from innocence and issues to character judgements and hardball? The simple answer – he was seduced.
It was the crowds.
It was the siren’s call of tens of thousands of supporters at rallies across the country that broke through the altruistic haze of the positive campaign strategy. It was the realization that he might get more out of this campaign than just advertising for his progressive platform. That maybe, just maybe he could win.
It was a slow gentle seduction in the beginning. The mention of Hillary’s Wall Street connections and exorbitant speaking fees during town halls and interviews. Then came the demand for the transcripts of those speeches and the snide references that they must be akin to Shakespeare to be worth so much money. Hillary did not like his tone. The crowds hooped and hollered.
Bernie was emboldened but still trying to stick to his campaign pledge of eschewing any real negativity. But then Hillary made a mistake. She intimated that Bernie was not qualified to be president in an interview on MSNBC. Bernie responded in kind. In Philadelphia at another massive rally Bernie turned the table on Hillary shouting “I don’t believe that she is qualified if she is, through her super PAC, taking tens of millions of dollars in special interest funds. I don’t think that you are qualified if you get $15 million from Wall Street through your Super PAC. I don’t think you are qualified if you have voted for the disastrous war in Iraq”. The crowd applauded like thunder.
He has since railed against her campaign being funded by fossil fuel contributions which caused Hillary to snap at a Greenpeace activist, referred to the partisan chair of the DNC as in the bag for Hillary, dubbed her sarcastically “the anointed one” and stated publicly that Hillary is getting nervous. The crowds all cheered.
Bernie is riding the wave of grassroots approbation all the way to the floor of the democratic convention leaving in his wake the detritus from the broken promise to avoid campaign vitriol. The current goal is to change the hearts and minds of the Clinton Super delegates and install himself as the party’s nominee. A goal he never thought was achievable a year ago when he first made his announcement outside the Capitol building that he was running for president. For when he first made his presidential bid he had not yet heard, seen or felt the love of the hundreds of thousands of people who support him and show up at his rallies and campaign stops.
But he has met them now and they have seduced him. Now he says he is in the race until the last ballot is counted and Hillary is arrogant to think she is the nominee.
And the crowd is going wild.