An Apology To Bernie Sanders
Hardly a week goes by without some demand for an apology populating my inbox. I have never apologized for two reasons: The usual one is that I’m not sorry. The other is that calls for an apology have become an irritating tactic in American political discourse, a kind of bullying.
That doesn’t mean I haven’t regretted things I’ve said or the tone used. I have. So here’s a compromise: I will issue one apology a year.
And the winner for 2015 is … Bernie Sanders.
Why Bernie? Some liberal friends complain that I’ve been overly dismissive of the senator from Vermont’s candidacy. They have cause.
I was especially rough in pointing out the cracks in Bernie’s self-portrait of a national force for civil rights. Perhaps I overdid it.
But the fact remains that he fled the troubled New York of the ’60s for the whitest state in the nation. It baffles that he shares his campaign stage with Cornel West, a black academic who condemns Barack Obama in nasty racial terms.
On advancing civil rights, Bernie’s been totally on board. Still, one can see why ordinary African-Americans seem to relate better to Hillary Clinton.
Bernie, you’re really good on most concerns: Reining in Wall Street’s power. Expanding Medicare to all Americans.
You also rise over conventional liberal stances, opposing gun control measures that come off as more anti-gun than pro-control. You’ve clearly been talking to hunters in your rural state.
Your views on immigration are well-nuanced. You support a path to citizenship for otherwise law-abiding undocumented people. But you oppose calls for massive temporary-worker programs that would replace American workers — and not just farmworkers — with lower-cost substitutes.
The Democratic debates have shown you at your best. On Saturday, you graciously offered … an apology … over your campaign’s breach of Clinton’s proprietary data. (Hillary responded in kind, saying it was time to move on.) That was quite noble of you in light of the Democratic National Committee’s decision to temporarily cut your campaign’s access to its voter database. The DNC has not treated you fairly.
You’ve been taking the high road in this campaign, sticking to issues and even occasionally praising Hillary. Your dismissal of the right wing’s obsessive harping over Clinton’s use of private email while secretary of state will not be forgotten.
Bernie, the poll numbers show you slipping further behind Hillary among Democratic voters. That alone is not reason enough to downplay your quest for the presidency. Candidates have come roaring back, and Hillary’s performance over the years has not been flawless.
But there’s a big question besides “can you win?” That is, What would happen if you did? For all your solid thinking, you’ve never been able to work with others in Washington, and we’re not just talking about Republicans. You often can’t get along with liberal Democrats.
Your “holier than thou” attitude, as former Rep. Barney Frank put it, has kept you from actively participating in the formation of laws. That bill you negotiated with conservatives to improve veterans’ health care doesn’t count. Helping veterans is not a hard sell.
But let’s end the criticism here. I’m glad you’re running. Without you, hardly any attention would have been paid to the Democratic side. The other remaining challenger, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, simply isn’t original enough. (Sorry, Martin. This year’s apology has just been used up.)
Finally, I never tire of hearing you describe your smart liberal ideas with force and conviction. I still don’t think you’re going to be IT. But if I ever came off as not respecting you, Bernie, I apologize.
Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2015 CREATORS.COM
Democratic U.S. presidential candidates Senator Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talk during a commercial break at the Democratic presidential candidates debate at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire December 19, 2015. REUTERS/Brian Snyder