Who’s afraid of Berniementum?

By Rod Haxton, editor

There’s a movement taking place in this country that’s spreading panic through the ranks of Democrats. Berniementum has been coined for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders who is drawing enthusiastic crowds that are even larger than the ones that Donald Trump has been able to buy.

Sanders is bringing tens of thousands of progressives out of the closet - even in red states such as Louisiana and Montana. When Sanders held a recent rally in Kenner, La., there were more than 4,500 supporters in attendance. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal announced his candidacy for president in the same Pontchartrain Center and had barely 1,000 supporters.

One would think that Democrats would be excited to see what Sanders is doing, particularly in these conservative strongholds. But Democrats, in their typical circular firing squad strategy, are worried that Sanders is reminding people of what the Democratic party once was and should still be standing for.

Many Democratic politicians fear that Sanders will have the same impact on their party that the Tea Party has had on Republicans - with one voting base pulling its party farther to the left just as the other has pulled its party far to the right.

That thinking is based on a time when most Democrat - or one could even say Populist - thinking was just to the left of center, which is no longer the case. Today’s political landscape has tilted so far to the extreme right that anything to the left of the Tea Party is seen as one step away from Communism.

For example, there isn’t anyone who knows anything about politics who would consider former President Richard Nixon anything but a conservative. Yet, during his presidency, he offered a national health care plan that was more liberal than Obamacare.

This wasn’t seen as a Republican or a Democrat issue, but an issue that would benefit Americans, the same as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Every reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act - in 1970, 1975, 1982 and 2006 - was signed by a Republican president and supported by an overwhelming number of Republicans in Congress. These days it’s seen as a liberal policy with Republicans in Congress almost unanimous in their efforts to restrict voting rights.

What became of justice and democracy?

This is Sanders’ question. He’s trying to remind not only Democrats, but all Americans, of our long-standing commitment to taking care of those less fortunate, of fair play and that corporations are corporations and people are people.

You won’t hear that from the Republican field of presidential candidates. Even Hillary tries to carefully dance around those topics which would make her appear “too liberal.”

Former Kansas legislator and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis is among those fearful of how Sanders will impact voters in red states.

“The national Democratic Party’s brand makes it challenging for Democrats in red states oftentimes and I hope that going forward, the leaders at the national level will be mindful of that . . . they can’t govern the country without Democrats being able to win races in red states,” said Davis, who narrowly failed to unseat Republican Gov. Sam Brownback last year.

When you sort through that slightly convoluted statement, what Davis is trying to say is that Democrats can’t appear too much like Democrats if they want to get elected in states like Kansas.

 

Obviously, that strategy worked wonderfully for Davis who failed to win election against a governor whose disastrous tax policy was crumbling around him, who was very unpopular within Kansas educators and who had alienated most of the moderate wing within the Republican Party.

Whether or not Davis was enjoying a lap dance against his will was not the deciding factor in the governor’s race. That race was decided by Davis’ lack of commitment to take a stand other than to remind people, “I’m not Sam Brownback.”

Trying to pass yourself off as Republican-lite wasn’t a winning strategy for Davis. And it won’t work for the next Democratic gubernatorial hopeful in Kansas in 2016 or beyond.

The majority of voters want leaders who speak to the issues that are important to them - affordable and quality education for their children, health care that’s affordable and accessible, good paying jobs, good highways, and a tax system that’s fair, just to name a few.

These aren’t issues which are important to the Tea Party and those Republicans who kneel before the Koch brothers. Tea Party politics in Kansas is failing on all these issues which affect our quality of life and which once made Kansas a great place to live.

The exodus of teachers from Kansas public schools in this state is no accident. It’s a reflection of Brownback politics and the Tea Party’s influence.

Berniementum reminds us of a time when government - even with its imperfections - was there to help those less fortunate, protect our individual rights and assure that everyone enjoyed an equal opportunity at success.

Despite the claims of the Tea Party and Koch brothers disciples, government has a responsibility to protect us from banks that are too big to fail, corporations who have little concern for the environment and from those - such as Kris Kobach - who are trying to deny people a voice in our democracy.

The only ones who have to fear Berniementum - Republicans or Democrats - are those who have forgotten that our democracy doesn’t go to the highest bidder and that standing up for what’s right is more important than standing with the rich and powerful in this country.

At least Sanders is willing to fight that fight.

Rod Haxton can be reached at editor@screcord.com

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