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Bernie's Bandwagon Has Shaky Wheels

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 19/02/2016 Daniel R. DePetris

2016-02-17-1455734412-9628302-bernie31024x795.jpg © Provided by The Huffington Post 2016-02-17-1455734412-9628302-bernie31024x795.jpg REUTERS/Stephen Lam
If you happened to follow the coverage of the presidential primary season over the past week, you would have thought that the once inevitable frontrunner Hillary Clinton was on her way to another disappointing defeat for the Democratic nomination. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the democratic socialist candidate from Vermont, won the state of New Hampshire on February 9 over a former a candidate who won that very same primary against then-Sen. Barack Obama eight years earlier. There's no way to sugarcoat it: Sanders' 22-point win against Hillary Clinton was a "thumpin'." If there was ever a state in the primary contest that Sanders could win, it was New Hampshire.
But the story in many ways ends there. Political reporters who are stalking the candidates across the country and writing their stories from the campaign trail are turning Bernie's New Hampshire win into something far more significant: a dramatic shift in the race for a man who was over 50-points behind when he first announced his candidacy.
Amidst the stories about panicking Democratic operatives, rumors of the Clinton campaign retooling their messaging and staff, and the clips on Morning Joe practically rooting for a Bernie Sanders win, lies a reality that is far less sexy on the television screen: Bernie Sanders is not out of the woods yet. He has a lot to answer for. And, yes, the electability question remains a major problem for the senator from Vermont.
1 - Counting the delegates: According to a count from RealClearPolitics, Hillary Clinton has 32 delegates under her belt compared to Sanders' 36 -- a number that was no doubt helped by his win in New Hampshire. But in many ways, these numbers are a terrible baseline to use as predictions going forward. A Democratic candidate needs to reach 2,382 delegates to win the party's nomination, meaning that just over 2% of the delegates have been counted thus far. To argue the point another way, reporters and commentators covering the Democratic race are in effect wildly jumping to the conclusion of a Hillary meltdown based on a delegate count that has literally just gotten started. To be blunt: everyone needs to calm down and stop leaping to an unsubstantiated conclusion. Speculation is not the same thing as fact.
2 - Why Sanders Wants a "Political Revolution:" You have to give the man credit: Bernie has captured the imaginations of a significant amount of young Democratic primary voters, many of whom look at the 74-year old democratic socialist and see a man who understands the plight of student debt, a rigged campaign finance system, and income inequality that in many cases impacts young people as soon as they graduate from college. His call for a "political revolution" is exciting for voters who want an unconventional candidate. And who is more unconventional than Bernie Sanders?
Yet voters won't hear one of the prime reasons why Bernie is calling for a political revolution in the first place: he would need it in order to govern. Without that revolution, most of his proposals for free public college tuition and a single payer healthcare system would be immediately smacked down by a House of Representatives that is very likely to stay in the hands of the Republicans after November. If you thought the budgetary fights between President Barack Obama and the GOP Congress are bad today, just imagine what they would be like when Speaker Paul Ryan and President Bernie Sanders are doing the negotiating. Americans like inspiration, but they also like productivity and results -- two words that will be in short supply if a Sanders administration will be forced to deal with a legislative branch either exclusively or partly controlled by conservative Republicans. For Sanders, better to argue for a complete overhaul of the political system than confront the reality of divided government.
3 - Where is Sanders on Foreign Policy? It's a very important question that the media is finally starting to ask. And as of now, Americans don't really know the answer.
During television appearances on the Sunday shows and during the various presidential debates, Sanders has largely talked about foreign policy in over-broad terms -- focusing specifically on what he would not do rather than what he would. We all know the basics: he supports how the Obama administration is conducting the war against the Islamic State, but wants America's allies in the Arab world to step up resources and personnel. He does not want U.S. troops in the middle of civil wars. He doesn't believe in nation-building. And he thought the invasion of Iraq was the most colossal foreign policy blunder in the contemporary history of the United States. Other than that, Americans don't know how he would tackle Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea; whether he would support secondary sanctions on North Korea's coal exports in response to Pyongyang's ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs; whether he would authorize the use of military force without U.N. Security Council approval to protect and defend the security of the United States; how he would confront Russian President Vladimir Putin and ensure that NATO remains a bedrock of a Europe whole, free, and at peace; and whether he believes that the crime of genocide is serious enough to warrant humanitarian intervention.
Indeed, voters don't even know who is advising Sanders on foreign policy and national security matters. His name-drop of Larry Korb, a respected defense analyst at the Center for American Progress and a former Reagan administration official, would have been a good start if it weren't for the fact that Korb has only talked to Sanders once. He could have used one of his appearances on NBC's Meet the Press to delve deeper into this question, but chose instead to talk in generalities: "I've been meeting with a whole lot of people," Sanders told Chuck Todd. "But let me reassure the American people... that it goes without saying that a President must be well-versed in foreign policy, must have a strong foreign policy position and I will, of course, do that."
Bernie is not only running for Economist-in-Chief, Middle Class-Defender-in-Chef, and Wall Street-Attacker-in-Chief, but also Commander-in-Chief. The fact that foreign policy remains a second-tier issue to him and his campaign should be concerning for Americans given how confusing, dangerous, and complex the world can be.
So before the pundits in the media start jumping on the Bernie bandwagon, remember this: the primary race has just started. And Sanders has a lot to answer for.


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