Dear Bernie Sanders,
My name is Sarah, I’m a millennial who voted for Obama twice, and I see you being railroaded by a media who refuse to acknowledge you as a legitimate Presidential candidate and the only Democrat candidate who can win the general election. I have previously blogged about Hillary Clinton’s lack of electability, and unlike her followers who are literally blind to her flaws, I am not only aware of hers, I see a few of yours as well. And I want you to win the Dem nomination because if you don’t, I feel very strongly that we will be looking at a President Bush or Trump thirteen months from now. Writing an open letter to her would be a waste of time because her greatest flaw is a sense of entitlement that causes her to think in terms of how much she deserves to be president instead of how much work it requires to earn votes. You, on the other hand, know all too well how hard the fight ahead will be. You’ll have to fight tooth and nail, not only against your opponents and the superpacs but against the media itself who have already decided you can’t win. I think you can win by implementing a few specific strategies. But the number one demographic you need to start concentrating on right away is the Millennials.
Here a Millennial, there a Millennial, Everywhere a Millennial
It turns out that there are more Millennials alive than Baby Boomers, (87 million compared to 76 million) and now that we’re all officially old enough to vote, we are the most influential demographic politically (notice that no major news outlets are rushing to announce this). This means that Millennials need to get registered to vote so every time you’re on TV, Senator, don’t waste an opportunity to remind us to if we aren’t already. And, point out that in 31 states and in Washington, DC, people must be either registered *as a democrat* in order to vote for you, Bernie, or they must declare their party affiliation at the polls. (Click here to find out if your state is one of them.) Hey, fellow Millennials, think having to declare loyalty to a political party, in and of itself part of the divide-and-conquer-method, is a load of steaming cow pie? You’re not alone; lots of millennial, gen x-er and Boomer lawyers agree. I have talked to a few and apparently it will take a series of lawsuits against individual secretaries of states (but we have to be careful which states we start with) for infringing on our 1st Amendment right to free speech. The argument will go something like this: if I am prevented from voting for someone on a ballot because I have not registered with my secretary of state as a member of a certain political party, then I am being prevented by that state government from “speaking” my support for a particular candidate. Now if you think that’s a stretch, keep in mind that when Citizens United vs the FEC (federal campaign commission) and McCutcheon vs the FEC were each heard by the Supreme Court regarding whether or not money is speech, those sage robed upholders of our constitutional rights decided that money IS speech! (Obviously, money buys volume or silence, it is not in and of itself a type of expression, for crying out loud.) So if money is speech, voting is definitely speech. And how about our right to privacy also being violated by making us disclose to the secretary of our state which party we intend to vote for? Bernie, those two issues would be a great thing to bring up during the debates.
What’s a democratic socialist?
Do we really need a fly on the wall of HRC’s war room to guess she’s rubbing her hands together and grinning, “Berrrrnie. Sannnnders,” then leaning forward on her throne to command her minions, “Destroy him”? Do we actually need someone to secretly screenshot her whiteboard and tweet the image of the hashtag thereon, #OperationRedSmear? No, we don’t. We just need to acknowledge that it’s probably already begun. By saying that you are a democratic socialist (or, to put it another way, admitting that you are one), Hillary probably sees you walking into a trap of your own making. For example, you say something like, “with a small transaction tax on high frequency stock trades, we could pay for socialized health care, just like in Canada and France, or fund college tuition at all public universities at no charge to students.” She’ll grin into the camera (amused at your ignorance), announce this isn’t Denmark! and then shake her head back and forth condescendingly (pitying your ignorance). Then she’ll pounce and declare: sometimes we need to save capitalism from itself, [everything up to this point she’s already done] conflate socialism with communism, use nasty throwback trigger words like “Marxist” and “the USSR,” and you’re going to lose, sir.
Now, the only day we can go back to is today. So let’s rewrite that chapter right now.
“Senator, what’s democratic socialism?” Here’s where it’s really important to answer the question, directly, before you go off on your trademark soapbox style “Bernie Sanders says NO to Wall Street’s greed” tangent. We love those tangents; we love them because they indicate passion, idealism, and confidence. Those aren’t the problem. You know what a tell is in poker? Well, your unwillingness to just put it out there, what democratic socialism is, tells us that for some reason, you aren’t quite comfortable with your fondness for it, or perhaps the discomfort is with dem-soc itself. Here’s your usual way of answering the question:
That’s right, you tell us what dem-soc means, to you, connotatively, instead of denotatively. Hillary will eat that right up, like butterscotch pudding, Bernie. When you don’t answer a question directly, you look like you’re trying to hide something or that you can’t handle the question. I want you to win; that’s why I want to tell you how I think HRC will turn this hesitation around and use it against you. I think she’ll
interrupt you talk over you say, “Senator Sanders, why don’t you just admit it? It means there’s voting but the means of production are socialized. And we all know that’s a stone’s throw away from communism.” So I want you, as part of a premeditated strategy to appeal to the large number of libertarian millennials whose interest you have already piqued, to be the first to reference the Bill of Rights in your answer. So here is one way you could define democratic socialism in a forthcoming way that does the most damage control:
Democratic Socialism is where you have a democratic political system, where people vote just like we have now, and a socialist economic system. Now, when the economic system is socialized, it doesn’t mean it has to be run by the government – there are probably people out there who belong to a co-op, and if you do, you know the profits are socialized, meaning spread out among all the members, everybody gets a dividend at the end of the year. But it often does mean state-run programs. And the truth is we already have tons of socialized — meaning government run, in this case — programs in our country. The FBI, the CIA, the NSA, the military, our entire Justice System. Do our judges get paid per decision or per trial? Do our FBI agents get paid per case? No, they all get paid on salary so there is no motivation for them to serve anyone’s interests but the American people’s. (Later, you could tie that into why you co-sponsored the Stop Outsourcing Security Act.) And let’s not forget the bailouts; a taxpayer bailout is known as socializing a loss — instead of spreading the profit or benefit around, we spread the loss around. People will tell you we have a capitalist system but not only do we already have a ton of socialized services that benefit everyone, like our national security apparatus, already in effect, the negative effects of the casino capitalism, they don’t trickle down, they flood down. All those bets Wall St made? When they lose, the taxpayer picks up the tab. That 2008 TARP bailout under President Bush? It was $700 billion. Divide that by the population of the US at the time: 309,557,862. That works out to be $2258 for every man woman and child in the country. Now how much did you pay for your health insurance last year? In student loan payments? In credit card payments? Crony capitalism’s gambling losses are always socialized, but when they make a killing on the stock market and we ask them to pay the same tax rate on capital gains as other income, they balk! Now, obviously, we have a constitutional republic (this phrase is a trigger phrase for libertarians) and one democratic socialist president is not going to undue the system of checks and balances designed by the framers of the constitution, and I wouldn’t want to. The Bill of Rights is designed to protect us from a corrupt government. But the income inequality in this country, where 95% of all income gains since 2009 have gone to the top 1%, where only 2% of this country makes more than $250,000 a year, is scandalous. Only 5% of Americans make more than $150,000 a year. The founders wanted the Bill of Rights to protect us from a corrupt government but they could never have imagined we’d need just as much if not more protection from a corrupt Wall Street.
Emphasize that socialism has nothing to do with corrupt fascist regimes. If anyone asks you if you are a Marxist, say, “No, Marx advocated the abolition of private property; that kind of extremist ideology has no place in our country.” If you don’t believe that, start practicing in the mirror now. You will be asked. The GOP is just waiting to accuse you of it. But Hillary will be worse. She will say, “the rich need to pay their fair share” but then refuse to pick an income level or an income tax percentage that corresponds to her vision of “fair.” Instead, she’ll use your desire for high income tax rates on high income as evidence of you being “out of touch.” Point out that during the 1950’s and early 60’s, the top bracket income tax rate was over 90% and the economy boomed.
Thank you for getting totally real on marijuana; more than half of Americans support legalizing marijuana (58% according to Gallup’s Oct 2015 poll) and an overwhelming majority of millennials do. But HRC is going to pounce on this issue because even though more than half of Americans support legalization, they are not the half you can count on to go register to vote in advance or make sure they’ve declared a party affiliation. So, here’s how you could play it. You want marijuana to be legal not only because the drug war is imprisoning young people instead of the banksters (this is deflecting, by the way, and Hillary will hone in on that like a predator drone) but because prohibition doesn’t work. It doesn’t make sense. Did prohibition of alcohol work? No, but a massive campaign against drunk driving and drinking while pregnant have worked. Why not legalize pot and put warnings on the packaging like we have with cigarettes? If growers of organic pesticide-free fair trade marijuana want to sell their plant at the farmer’s market, then we require them to hand out a little warning pamphlet (with side effects on fertility/virility, memory, and citing studies of irreversible IQ point decreases in people under age 25, etc.). In other words, you can and should acknowledge that there are negative side effects of pot use and say, “I want buying and using marijuana to be legal; no one should spend a minute in jail for smoking pot. That doesn’t mean I want you to use it!” The DEA spends boatloads of taxpayer money trying to override people’s free will decision to use drugs, a fool’s errand in this blogger’s mind. Far more logical to regulate their sale and educate people (especially on the horrific side effects of meth and heroin). And, Senator, when the topic of legalizing marijuana comes up, you could also suggest using the sales tax revenue it would generate to fund national health care, including treatment programs for those addicted to alcohol and drugs.
Speaking of Health Care
Lots of people who voted for President Obama blindly supported anything he proposed after he took office because of his star power and magnetism. And you want that demographic to vote for you too (look them up on twitter with #UniteBlue). You need that demographic to vote for you. So start out praising Obamacare, and segue to single payer by pointing out that the best part about the ACA is the provision allowing each state to set up its own single payer system. Besides, as long as there’s going to be a mandate, why not take the middle man/insurance company out of it so that the mandated number of dollars we all pay is even less? And why not put doctors on the federal payroll? Judges are on the federal payroll and get paid from our tax dollars. What is a doctor but a judge of disease? What is a prescription or treatment but a sentence for wayward health? What is a hospital but a jail that doesn’t need bars because the people inside are too sick to get up and walk out of it? (Kidding! It’s way more fun to visit people in the hospital than jail! Unless they’re dying, of course.)
You’ve continued to associate the epidemic of gun violence with our disenfranchising health care system that doesn’t get the mentally ill the treatment they need. HRC may not realize it but “gun control” is a trigger phrase too — and what it triggers is a knee jerk reaction in many Americans to buy more guns. Tread as lightly on this issue as you did in the first debates; emphasize your concern for prevention and national health care. Then after you’ve won the nomination, you can reference the 2nd Amendment specifically to relate to libertarian voters. You’re going to need them in the general election. This is a very difficult issue because clearly something must be done; but in this millennial’s opinion, your suggestion that what must be done is getting people access to doctors to prevent these shootings in the first place is the one that will earn you the most votes in our current electoral college voting system. If presidential elections were a strict popular vote, I’d say push gun control because roughly a third of Americans own guns (not the majority by any means). But you’ll need to win many of the states with a high rate of gun-ownership if you want to win the electoral college, so your emphasis on healthcare is strategically your best bet.
Are you a pacifist? How you can align your conscientious objector past with Daniel Ellsberg & Edward Snowden and appeal to the greatest number of Americans
You said you weren’t a pacifist and you clearly aren’t or you wouldn’t have voted for the AUMF after Sept 11. Use the phrase “just war” sparingly to describe our nation’s right to defend itself if attacked on our own soil; and remind us again and again that you voted against war in Iraq.
Most people won’t doubt the validity of your being a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War. We should never have been there in the first place, as the Boomers who lived through it (or lost loved ones who died for it) well know. Many of them, including over 7 million living Vietnam war vets, explained that to their gen x-er and millennial offspring. If you align yourself with Daniel Ellsberg who blew the whistle on the government’s false narrative of success in Vietnam by releasing the Pentagon Papers, (which is why you objected to it too, right?) you’ll not only tap into our country’s collective regret over the Vietnam War and how it could have been prevented or at least cut short, you’ll simultaneously appeal to the Millennials’ admiration of Snowden (70% of us think he’s a whistleblower) because Daniel Ellsberg has been such a vocal supporter of him. In fact, many younger Millennials had never heard of Daniel Ellsberg before Snowden came along.
You are wise to say Snowden should have a trial in a court of law though, rather than that the Department of Justice should drop the charges against him or that he should be pardoned because this is what the majority of Americans think. But we’re a funny people; the majority of Americans were glad to learn from the Snowden disclosures that our 4th Amendment rights were being violated by the NSA too. So while I get it that you may feel reluctant to say anything beyond, “I think Snowden played a very important role in educating the American people to the degree in which our civil liberties and our constitutional rights are being undermined,” as you said at the first debate, there are 61 million Millennial Americans who more than agree with you. Evoke memories of Ellsberg, and many other civil libertarians and peace activists and unjust war protesters, especially Boomers, are sure to notice too. And remind us again that you voted against the PATRIOT Act.
And be sure to mention that as a contractor, Snowden was not eligible for any whistleblower protections. Not from President Obama’s executive order …
… or from the Whistleblower Protection Act of 2012.
No low blows, just acknowledgement of the systemic corruption of campaign finance and the need for reform
Bernie, it’s so awesome that you haven’t said one bad word about Hillary. Millennials hate — with a PASSION — that bullshit. WE HATE IT. Thank you, Senator, for sticking to the facts! It’s awesome to point out that the % of your donors who are small donors is extremely high compared to the average campaign, and great to point out how much money has gone into the superpacs since the Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions in order to show how flagrant the attempts to buy this election are, and even better to highlight that you aren’t taking a dollar of that superpac money. We know which candidates are in Wall Street’s pocket and that you aren’t one of them.
Politicians pointing out each other’s flaws instead of focusing on solutions to very real problems we would prefer to have solved doesn’t make them look better than their opponents. On the contrary, it reveals their personality weakness. Thanks, Bernie, for being the kind of politician who focuses on society’s flaws, not people’s personality flaws.
Below is a tweet from someone who has the opposite view. And as far as a winning strategy, I couldn’t disagree more. (This was one of the ways HRC embarrassed herself in 2008 — by insulting Obama over and over. It didn’t even faze him!)
Ease off the Revolution Rhetoric
There’s only one thing I’d recommend you completely eliminate or significantly reduce in your campaign, Senator, and that is any reference to a revolution. Especially during this time of recovering from the disappointment of President Obama’s promises of hope and change, the concept of revolution is a bit much. When someone says revolution to me, I think of two things, the Revolutionary War (and that we won it) and then I think of the Beatles’ song, and this line from it: “You say you want a revolution, well, you know, we’d all love to see the plan.” Revolution is a big word, Senator, and it has all kinds of terrible connotations, like no clean running water and the grid going down and rape in the streets. And death and blood and corpses and horrific fighting — and war. Even when you specify a political revolution, it just doesn’t ring true. All revolutions are political revolutions. Yes, “a revolution” has a better ring to it than “Get off your butts and participate; show a little gratitude for your freedom to vote that people died for. Apathy’s not gonna cut it. You actually do have to vote to remind Congress that they work for you and will be fired if they don’t do what you want, and this means voting every 2 years, not every 4.” While apathy-shaming won’t work, I think the concept of revolution in this sense will make people think of a rebellious uprising more than anything else, and that will turn off a very large important demographic (Boomers) and won’t turn on any of the others.
Your campaign is still young and I’m positive there’s a far better slogan to be had, one that will appeal to people of all generations and socioeconomic backgrounds who favor overcoming income equality and seek social justice.
To Do List:
- Don’t miss an opportunity to remind people to get registered to vote, including tweeting reminders that in many states, you must be registered as a Democrat to be able to vote for you
- Define democratic socialism within the context of it already being part of our constitutional republic (saying we live in a democracy is not factually true)
- Use trigger phrases like constitutional republic and democratic republic; explain they are synonyms
- Answer questions directly even if being direct requires a lie; a straightforward lie is always better than a hesitant justification*
- Continue your habit of not intentionally lying
- Use trigger phrases like “the truth is”
- Explain that capitalism is voting with our dollars; then contrast that with our current rigged “capitalist” system using both “casino capitalism” and “crony capitalism” interchangeably to explain how it really works in practice
- Use the 3 phrases “framers of the constitution,” “founding fathers,” “Bill of Rights” and the 3 phrases “Wall St” “income inequality” “the 1%” at a ratio of 1:1 in order to appeal to both liberals and libertarians (also, a lot of people are just plain patriotic and those first 3 words mean something to them)
- Hillary overuses the phrase “the middle class” — don’t make her same mistake! Explain socioeconomic classes as they pertain to income inequality; there are the working poor, then there’s a working class, a lower middle class, a middle class, an upper middle class, the rich and the super rich. Below are 2 videos to help explain the insanity of the ratio of CEO pay to average worker and how much worse the reality of income inequality is compared to what we think it is.
- Acknowledge the working poor in the debates, those who work but can’t get full time hours because their company’s policy is no more than 32 (or however many) hours a week and consequently, they qualify for SNAP and subsidized housing. They don’t vote because no one acknowledges they even exist! And there are millions of them. If you use the phrase, “the working poor,” they’re going to look up at the TV and go, oh, my God, someone’s talking about us! The other reason they don’t vote is because they literally can’t get time off work on election day and are unaware that in many states, employers are legally required to allow workers to take time off to vote. These votes are ripe for the picking, Bernie. Snatch them up with your #15now rhetoric.
I know you’ll make a great president, Senator Sanders!
*Example: Hillary’s concise “no” when Anderson asked her if her flipflopping on issues meant she was changing them based on the demographic (“Will you say anything to get elected?”). She was verifiably lying but it came across as honest.