It only takes a few minutes of watching MSNBC or FOX to see that the Democratic Party nominations have gotten to that awkward stage right before matters get ugly. Both candidates recently began tearing at the viability of the other in an escalating Cold War of words. While I’m in favor of sprinting toward the finish line, at what point does the image of the eventual nominee begin to suffer?
For a duo of campaigns that originally served as a contrasting foil to the opposition, the present is bearing a closer resemblance to the 2016 Republican mudslinging party. While Sanders is far off from calling Clinton a “sniveling, low coward”, and Clinton won’t be attaching “Lying” to Sanders nametag anytime soon, both candidates bear risk in allowing the competition to get too out of hand.
At the beginning of his campaign, Sanders refused to comment on key issues that a Republican candidate would no doubt attack her on. This included the former Secretary of State’s handling of the Benghazi conflict, her current federal investigation over the use of a private email server and her husbands documented infidelity. Easy targets, but Sanders wanted none of the low hanging fruit.
This campaign will not run a single negative ad as this is a campaign of the people and about the issues, Sanders is noted for saying in multiple outlets – including several televised town halls and debates. This rhetoric doesn’t seem to extend toward Sanders passionate rally persona, who recently questioned the qualifications of the former New York Congresswoman.
At a recent Philadelphia rally stop, Sanders was quoted as saying the following by the Washington Post, amongst other news outlets:
“ …I don’t believe that she is qualified if she is through her Super PAC taking tens of millions of dollars in special-interest money. 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. I don’t think you are qualified if you’ve supported virtually every disastrous trade agreement which has cost us millions of decent paying jobs”
These sort of inflammatory quotes do nothing but exacerbate the public’s issues with somebody who may be the Democratic Party nominee in a few months. The same party Bernie signed up to support last year.
While those more attuned to Bernie’s philosophy understand that his comments are condemning of the entire campaign finance system in the U.S., these are the sort of headlines that pop back up in a general election. But to be fair to Sanders, these words comes with a caveat. He mistakenly replied to a possible bait comment by Clinton in Politico where she highlighted Sanders apparent misunderstandings of federal law as portrayed by the New York Daily News. If that seems like a lot of He said She said lost in translation, that’s because it is.
For her own part, Hillary hasn’t done much better. Her current smokescreen is largely reminiscent of the allegations of qualification she waged against then Senator Obama. His relative youth and shorter resume was a key attack for her campaign that didn’t end so well for Mrs. Clinton.
While I understand the temptation to get away to the issues and appeal as a populist (Something Sanders does much better than Clinton), more heat in the rivalry between Hillary and Sanders supporters will lead to deeper interparty wounds. Wounds that are supposed to miraculously heal by July, in time for the convention. Some Sanders supporters are already publishing the possibility of splintering the vote and writing in the Democratic Socialists name on the ballot – a fatal move for the fate of the party.
Sanders brings in a more diverse electorate that wouldn’t normally support the DNC or Hillary. The primaries displayed weaknesses in the electorate for both candidates, meaning they can’t win without the others support. The only thing aiding them at this point is the civil war brewing within the opposition party, which won’t last forever. When the dust finally does settle across the aisle, Democrats have to hope they haven’t provided the Republicans with enough fuel to overcome their own organizational issues in a general election.