Bernie Sanders and the Barack Obama Effect

We all remember with great fondness the “Hope & Change!” rhetoric that swept through America back in 2008. And by fondness I mean disgust. Those of us on this side of the aisle spent much time eye-rolling at the absurdity of it all. Barack Obama’s slogan was catchy, looked good on anything, and captured a little something in the voter: the idea that there could be change, and that there was always hope. Except it was all nonsense. I like those two words as much as everyone else, but the following years have shown the change he promised to be of the negative variety, and the hope all but shattered.

If there is one thing this election cycle has proven again, it is that tapping into a specific part of the electorate can propel unlikely people onto the stage, and in the running for the most powerful elected office in the land. That the emotion of it all can far outweigh any substance and any policy stance, or lack thereof. That the celebrity of it all blinds voters from looking elsewhere, because they’re too starstruck by the theater.

This round we see the unexpected popularity of some beginning (and continuing) to eclipse others. Self-described Socialist Bernie Sanders is the curmudgeonly candidate that is gaining on Hillary Clinton. In a season that should finally be the female’s turn, according to some, it’s increasingly being threatened by that which the Left usually detests – the old white guy. Well, at least they detest that among those on the Right. Apparently the diversity they prize so much isn’t necessary among their ranks. But Bernie isn’t drawing just a handful of people to his events, he is recording staggering attendance. His largest audience yet was on Sunday night in Portland. There he spoke in front of a crowd of about 28,000, the alternative to the worn out name of Clinton. If you’ve not noticed, a large portion of the journalistic reactions to his events recount in full detail the numbers and venues, but not the message. It’s amusing, the old white guy who is kind of a political rock star. Not surprisingly, some that love him and don’t like Clinton can’t articulate the reason for that opinion. As reported in the Washington Post:

Gloria Rios, from Eagle Rock, Calif., said she joined Sanders’s e-mail list a month ago. “I feel very strongly about him,” she said, adding that she has concerns about Clinton.
What are those concerns? She paused. For a really long time.
“There’s — too much conflict around her,” Rios said. “I’m the kind of person who feels that what you say and do has to match up.”
Sanders, she added, “resonates more closely to me.”

Inability to describe even a few concerns about any contender is a sign that you are probably swayed most by the superficial. I mean, there’s a grab bag of Hillary issues at the ready. Benghazi? Email scandal? Clinton Foundation? Her time as Secretary of State?

Another Sanders supporter shared this concern:

 “I would like to have a planet that’s habitable for future generations.”

I wouldn’t expect anything less from Bernie’s people.

Regardless of their out-there perspectives, the size of these crowds is growing, and they are increasing the popularity of the 73 year old Sanders. Even the young, black, California rapper “Lil B” is excited for Bernie, recently discussing why he moved his support from Clinton to Sanders:

“As much as I want to have a woman leading the USA, right now it’s all about Bernie … he’s the real he loves us.”

“No one’s really been saying anything about Hillary Clinton besides that she’s a woman and running for office,” Lil B said. “To me, it’s kind of like the same thing when Obama was running, but the difference is Obama seemed to have a more down-to-earth personality.”

But among the feels and the “charm” exists a candidate who:

– received a 100% rating from NARAL, and who voted “no” on banning partial birth abortions
– wants to raise the minimum wage up to $15
– would like to make tuition free in public centers of higher learning

reportedly would “seek to curtail defense spending to a level that would make Republicans and moderate Democrats very nervous”

And that’s just a few.

Bernie Sanders sure isn’t a fresh face, but while he seems like such a departure from the previous obsession, he is anything but that. He is just 2016’s Democratic candidate who is using his own version of the Barack Obama Effect. And as you are more than aware, our side has a candidate like that as well. Both are bathed in popularity for standing out, but not necessarily in a substantive way. Securing the nomination is a long way off for both, but should that occur, let’s remind ourselves of these last disastrous six years, and how those hollow seeds were sown along the campaign trail as well.