by Brad Benson
The “Bern” is due to fall, fail and fade unless he makes serious changes to his campaign right now. I say this with no joy, since I have already voted for him in the Florida Primary and continue to foolishly send him money. However, after attending a Bernie Rally in Tampa the other night, my previous impression that he cannot win the Democratic Nomination on his present course was sadly reconfirmed.
The pieces are all in place. He has the money and contributions continue to pour in. Tulsi Gabbard, the dynamic Congresswoman and Veteran of two warzone deployments, has joined his campaign and brought Hillary’s Wars into the discussion. He’s drawing large, enthusiastic audiences and the people on all sides of the American Equation are clamoring for some real change.
Further, when one considers that his key opponents are an establishment Neo-Liberal Interventionist War Criminal and a wild-card real estate oligarch, the path to the nomination, if not to the Presidency, should be clear. However, Bernie has refused to seize a number of “carpe diem” moments, whether offered up during the debates in the form of a rare foreign policy question, or within the confines of one of his own rallies in which he can define his own narrative. My experience the other night was typical.
The crowd arrived early and there were long lines, which moved well once the doors opened. As people trickled in to an auditorium with terrible acoustics, a one violin-one guitar duo was playing their hearts out on a side stage with great old sixties songs like The Beatles’ “I’ve Just Seen a Face” and the old protest song “Signs” by The Five Man Electrical Band.
An authentic cover of Charlie Daniels’ “The Devil went Down to Georgia” by the young lady on the fiddle also seemed to go largely unnoticed. However, in fairness, the crowd was clearly psyched for the “Rock Star” on the card. Perhaps some, like me, had also come to see the new “Rising Star”, Tulsi Gabbard, introduce the candidate with a much needed anti-war message that has been missing from the campaign thus far.
One other thing became abundantly clear prior to the candidate even taking the stage. This was the fact that Bernie’s support, at least here in Florida, seems to be predominantly white.
Not only were there very few black people, my girlfriend observed that she might be the only Latino—in a crowd that was initially announced at more than 8,000 and later amended to roughly 10,000. This was definitely not a good sign here in Florida and cannot portend well for the Sanders Campaign going forward.
Not surprisingly, this problem was addressed for the TV Cameras present, since the bleachers immediately behind Bernie’s Rostrum, previously held empty, were individually assigned to hand-picked people from the crowd! These were brought on stage in a long line and placed, one by one, in specific seats by the Sanders Campaign Staff.
Presto! Change-o! A salt and pepper audience, duly outfitted with signs, appears like magic directly behind the candidate to demonstrate the diversity that every professional political campaign has to fake.
Meanwhile, as the musical chairs scenario in the background proceeds, there are a few opening remarks from the Sanders State Campaign Director and a local Islamic Civil Rights Lawyer, whose five-year-old is afraid to go to school because he is being called a terrorist.
Now comes the moment for which I have been waiting, Tulsi Gabbard is introduced to deliver the anti-war message that is so much needed in this campaign—especially against a primary opponent like Hillary Clinton. Gabbard is much taller than expected and she forms a very striking appearance in a bright orange “Ike” Jacket over a black turtleneck sweater with matching, military creased slacks.
Unfortunately, perhaps because it is the third such event in a very large state and they are all tired, Gabbard lacks the fire that she has previously shown in her interviews with the media, especially those following her defection from the Democratic Committee. In fact, my own impression was that her message seems to have been somewhat muted by comparison to some of the things she said in the previous week.
Whatever the reason, her introduction is shorter than anticipated and she is then forced to “introduce the man that will introduce the candidate”. Once again, feigned diversity and politically correct strategies “trump” the Sanders Campaign’s opportunity to show Gabbard, the anti-war Veteran, awaiting the candidate and embracing him before the wall of TV Cameras in the back of the room.
It may be nice that this State Democratic Hack speaks a little Spanish and thus connects with my girlfriend, who is the only other Latino in the room, but this is absolutely a stupid move in Florida. The State is full of retired Veterans dating back to World War II and active military people representing all of the services. Tulsi Gabbard reaches them!
Why couldn’t the campaign have let this guy introduce Tulsi Gabbard instead of the other way around? When I see this, I begin to suspect a campaign that really isn’t serious about beating a very beatable opponent.
But I digress! After a lackluster introduction, a tired Bernie trundles up the few steps to the stage to be greeted by someone that everyone has already forgotten. He stands on the stage in his rumpled, brown Socialist-Suit and blue “no-power, please like me” tie and waves to the adoring crowd.
Although it’s a small stage, the candidate looks alone and I’m again irritated that the dynamic Gabbard isn’t up there to whip up the crowd and welcome him. For that matter, why not bring up his wife Jane and be embraced by both of these dynamic women? What better contrast could be presented to Hillary’s phony feminism and war-loving bloodlust than two women who are the antithesis of everything for which she stands?
Bernie’s Speech is no different than anything that we see on TV, but despite his obvious fatigue, he gets the crowd going a few times. Sometimes I notice that they do not appear to be listening either, since some of the things that Bernie is saying are clearly not applause lines. Nevertheless, each pause brings Pavlovian Applause even when Bernie says things like, “The top one percent of the people owns more than the bottom 90%!” (Crowd roars!)
In the end, the crowd files out with nearly the same silence as was present in the line as we were waiting to get into the event. This is not the way people should react when leaving such an event, but I suspect that many were hoping that he would go after Hillary’s real weaknesses and it just didn’t happen.
Instead, throughout his speech, as in the debates, Bernie would go right up to the obvious Hillary-slaying punch-line and then pull the punch! Each time he did this, I could hear the energy building in the crowd and then deflating like a balloon as Sanders moved on to some tired non sequitur or an attack on Donald Trump, who is not his opponent in this election.
I will continue to support Bernie until such time as I become convinced that he isn’t really trying to win. As long as he is attacking Trump and not going after Hillary’s Record, he is not trying to win. Today again, he and Hillary are sounding like the Bobbsey Twins in their attacks on Trump for his violent rhetoric.
While Bernie has to respond to this rhetoric, especially when Hillary responds, he must now return his focus to Hillary in this key part of the campaign. If we start to see less of Tulsi Gabbard, we will know that Sanders is either not serious or that his campaign is being sabotaged from within.
Without immediate changes, Sanders cannot win.